The Philadelphia Outward Bound School (POBS) will launch a three-year exploration of character for approximately 1,000 seventh and eighth graders in Strawberry Mansion and nearby neighborhoods. Drawing on POBS’s 30-year history of building character through outdoor experiential education programs, which have reached over 100,000 young people in the region, we seek to answer the question: can a shared character-building experience expand the horizon of possibilities of students attending different schools in the neighborhood?
To answer this, we will engage the majority of 7th graders from 7 participating schools in a day program, will lead 5-day, small-group expeditions for 8th graders from every school, and will work together with teachers and staff to deepen our shared understanding of character strengths by creating a community of practice. This project is urgently needed due to the fragmentation of students' experiences due to numerous issues facing the neighborhoods, including the COVID-19 pandemic and heightened levels of violence. These overlapping factors have induced trauma and anxiety in many students and made it difficult to draw on “protective factors” or community resilience to combat existing barriers to student achievement and well-being.
In addition to the 1,000 participating students, the project will also impact the teachers and administrators who support them, creating a space where they develop a common language and goals, as well as building peer support systems among school faculty and staff.