Outward Bound California partnered with One Room School House (ORSH) in fall 2012. ORSH is a small, intensive “school within a school” at Independence High School in the San Francisco Unified School District. The school offers an alternative for at risk students who have not been able to succeed in a more traditional school setting due to any number of psychological, emotional and social factors.
When Heather Savard took on the job of teaching at ORSH, she knew she wanted to bring in an experiential learning component—a component that would help the teens in this group build a stronger sense of self and a stronger sense of community.
She thought right away of Outward Bound, as she had seen our urban programs in action in a previous job and felt confident that the program would help pave the way for students’ success. Outward Bound California’s staff were thrilled to initiate a partnership because they knew that Heather’s personal support and the One Room School House’s educational model would provide a rich environment for Outward Bound style experiential learning.
From September 2012 to March 2013, Outward Bound instructors Cori Ciocca and Lawrence Schuessler joined Heather and her students for 90-minute classroom sessions every Monday.
As Cori and Lawrence drew her students into trust-building and problem-solving challenges, Heather saw her students begin to admit their vulnerabilities to one-another and become stronger both individually and as a group. There were moments of deep poignancy as students made discoveries about themselves and about one another.
“Outward Bound taught me that reaching new heights is not impossible.” – Adam
Heather explains that new self-awareness and confidence the students gained from working with Outward Bound then transferred back into their school work, “Outward Bound has helped the kids build emotional intelligence and a stronger sense of self, and this in turn has been a catalyst for academic achievement.” Self-discovery in the classroom was only the beginning.
OBCA instructors Cori and Lawrence also guided the students through several Insight days hiking in the Marin Headlands and rock climbing at Castle Rock State Park. These Insight days stretched the students’ notions of what was possible, as many had never even crossed the Golden Gate Bridge or been in a state park, much less conquered a hike or climb!
“I did not know any of my classmates on a personal level before beginning Outward Bound. We have metamorphosed from several solitary students into a cohesive, understanding and compassionate group.” – Deirdre
Heather, Cori and Lawrence saw dramatic improvement with one particular student, who we will call “Rachel”, who struggled with social anxiety and depression. “I can’t believe how much she has grown! She says good morning and makes eye contact.” Rachel herself speaks to the new sense of hope she’s found this year, sharing with her instructors and classmates, “Outward Bound saved my life.”
Next school year, this cohort of One Room School House students will transition back into mainstream classes at Independence High, while a new cohort of students cycles in to experience the one-of-a-kind community created through One Room School House and Outward Bound.
“Every time I work with Outward Bound I learn something new. I have learned that you should not hold on to everything that has affected you in the past, that you should never be afraid to speak your mind, and that there are a lot of different opportunities and experience out there for everyone.” – Alejandra
In the meantime, this year’s cohort of students are working to complete a service project that they planned with Lawrence, Cori and Heather—transforming the concrete courtyard of their school into a green, peaceful space for themselves and future generations of students to enjoy. It’s a great way to conclude the journey of challenge and discovery they have shared.