School & Group Courses FAQ
WHAT will we learn? What are the programs like?
Our curriculum and the way we teach supports three main categories of outcomes for students. These are social-emotional learning, environmental leadership, and personal resilience. We encourage educators or group leaders to share with us your desired outcomes as we build your OBC expedition. Other examples are below.
Self-Care in the Wild: During a Group expedition, participants learn the basics of wilderness survival, such as clothing layering systems (staying warm and dry) and how to stay nourished and hydrated. They also learn and practice how to manage energy and comfort levels, and how to advocate for themselves if or when things get tough.
Community and Interpersonal Skills: Together with the group, participants learn and practice how to take care of their own needs and those of others. Participants have the opportunity to develop their leadership and communication skills; recognise and process emotions; and learn conflict resolution strategies. Overall, they strive to strengthen their independence and self-reliance.
In every Outward Bound program, participants learn by doing. They’re challenged as individuals and become effective team members. We allow participants to try new things in an inclusive and supportive environment. Participants are never forced to do anything they don’t want to do, but we’ll give them small steps to take to make progress toward new rewards and experiences – regardless of where they’re starting from.
Your instructors will inform and inspire your group; as the course progresses, the responsibility for tasks shifts from the instructors to the participants (called “Transference”). This is when the technical and decision-making skills of the group develops, grows, and ultimately is owned by participants. Instructors also facilitate the gap between the skills learned on course, and situations at home and in the school community where these skills can be applied.
WHAT IS OBCs POLICY REGARDING WILDFIRE RISK?
We take a conservative approach to wildfire risk. The wellbeing of our participants is foremost in our planning. We will relocate a group to an alternate area if the risk is deemed too high. If a course is in a concerning position regarding wildfire or smoke, we will communicate directly with the parents/guardians of students on that course. If no suitable alternate area is available, we may cancel or reschedule the program.
See this page for more information about what we monitor on a daily basis to mitigate the risk of wildfire and wildfire smoke on our courses.
How does OBC track and evaluate Air Quality for its participants, related to wildfires?
We monitor the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) throughout the program. If the AQHI is forecast to be at 10 or above (Very High Risk) for three consecutive days we will strongly consider cancelling or rescheduling the program. In 2023 we are running a pilot system of having instructors carry portable air quality measurement devices on our Rocky Mountain courses.
We encourage potential students with pre-existing lung conditions (i.e., asthma, cardiovascular conditions, or lung damage due to COVID-19) to speak with their doctor about participation in the course.
How do instructors in the backcountry communicate with Outward Bound support staff?
Each group that travels in the backcountry has two modes of communication: A satellite phone and an In Reach device (2-way satellite texting and tracking device).
These devices allow us to track the exact location of each program and share relevant updates with them. Instructors check in with our in-town support staff at least twice per day via these systems.
WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING PAcking list?
Outward Bound Canada supplies all of the technical gear you need! This includes canoes, kayaks, paddles, life jackets/PFDs, tents, first-aid equipment, sleeping pads, cooking and eating utensils, stoves, helmets, ropes, harnesses and tarps. OBC also provides the tripping packs appropriate for each course. Participants are only responsible for bringing their own personal clothing and footwear and a headlamp! You can pack everything in luggage that is suitable for traveling. We will provide you with a Clothing List, which outlines the items you should pack. We expect participants to do their best with bringing their own clothing, as it is always more comfortable to wear your own. If you have questions or get stuck, we can help you find tricky items or come up with an alternative. We have an inventory of supplies that participants can borrow if they do not have the ability to acquire some things on their own. During Duffle Shuffle, the instructors will ensure all participants are well equipped for the trip before heading out.
WHAT KIND OF FOOD DO WE GET ON THE PROGRAM?
Depending on the length of your School and Group program, a detailed menu would be planned and shared before each course. Each menu is subject to change based on a number of factors. Participants will receive sufficient calories in reflection of their physical output on the course.
We can accommodate many dietary needs (vegetarian, Halal, gluten-free) and some food allergies. Please encourage your students to share their dietary restrictions or allergies on their Confidential Medical History Form in as much detail as possible. We may request follow up information in order to plan adequately. Some dietary restrictions are complicated and quite difficult to plan for – we will reach out to include you in this process if needed. Bringing your own food/snacks on course is not required or encouraged.
Breakfast: hashbrowns and eggs; oatmeal and fruit.
Lunch: crackers, hummus, black bean dip, veggies
Snacks: fresh and dried fruit
Dinner: baked cornbread and chili.
WHAT IS YOUR ALCOHOL, SMOKING, VAPING AND SUBSTANCE USE POLICY?
The possession and/or use of non-prescription drugs, alcohol, tobacco products, cannabis or illegal substances during the course is strictly prohibited. This includes the misuse of prescription medications, and products containing THC or CBD. If someone in your group wishes to use tobacco for ceremonial purposes, please speak to your instructor upon arrival to your program.
During the admission process, participants are asked to sign a Code of Conduct & Assumption of Risk form confirming that they understand this policy. Any participant who brings these substances to the course will be sent home. Any additional and direct costs incurred by OBC to support this early departure may be passed onto the school or organization who may then pass it on directly to the participant’s family.
WHAT WILL THE SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS BE?
OBC wants to support you in feeling comfortable and confident on your School and Group expedition.
We have several types of accommodation depending on the type of trip, season and location it takes place in. Most expeditions use a combination of group tents, single tents or shelters for the duration of the trip. If you have any questions about the tenting/sleeping arrangements on your trip specifically, please contact your admissions coordinator or email email@example.com. We are happy to help!
CAN students BRING their CELL PHONEs?
No, thanks! And they won’t need their phones anyway – the course is a holiday from technology! Phone and other personal items (i.e., purses, wallets) will be kept safe in our office nearby while your Group is on course.
Once the course starts, participants won’t be able to contact anyone at home. However, your instructor team has a plan and the devices to regularly contact our office and to receive communication from base too. You will also be able to reach the course in the wilderness via the administrative team at OBC.
If there is technology that is supporting a child/youth as a coping mechanism for a clinically diagnosed condition we are absolutely willing to make a plan for this (or similar) strategy to be implemented. There is a space to indicate this on the registration forms.
how can i help prepare my students for outward bound?
Outward Bound is about ‘ordinary people doing extraordinary things’.
It’s true that our courses are physically, mentally and socially demanding. This is what makes them so impactful. Participants with a wide range of skills and abilities have thrived in our programs and successfully completed our courses.
Our expeditions are aimed at people who are motivated, have an understanding of and curiosity about their physical and mental health, and are learning and developing strategies for managing stress and overcoming challenges in a new environment.
Please complete the Confidential Medical History form in full and answer all questions honestly and in as much detail as possible so that we can help you prepare.
can you tell me more about the solo experience?
The solo experience, called “Solo”, is a key moment in a multi-night OBC expedition, designed to give you important time to yourself to recharge and reflect. We encourage participants to journal about this experience, writing themselves letters that OBC posts to their home after the course. Participants often report they were initially intimidated by the thought of the Solo, but welcomed it heartily when the time came on course.
You’ll have the opportunity to set up your own solo space, take care of your physical and mental needs, and enjoy your independence. You’ll never be more than a whistle away from your instructors, who will check on you regularly. It’s important to know that the solo isn’t a survival exercise: you’ll have the proper gear, food, water and other essentials with you – not to mention the acquired skills to manage very capably.
The Solo is often described as the most transformative part of the OBC experience. It gives participants the opportunity to reflect on coaching they’ve received, gain important insights about themselves, and leave behind anything that won’t be of use to them in the future.The Solo varies in length depending on course duration.
WHAT’S YOUR PARTICIPANT CONDUCT POLICY, SO I CAN SHARE WITH MY PARTICIPANTS?
Outward Bound Canada offers participants a powerful and challenging experience where success is directly linked to their motivation and commitment to the course.
We expect all students to participate voluntarily; be willing to do their best and try new activities; work as part of a group; and follow instructions. Participants who put themselves or others at risk through misconduct or unsafe practices may be asked to leave the course.
Participants should note that the possession and/or use of non-prescription drugs, alcohol, tobacco and non-prescription cannabis products or illegal substances during the course is prohibited and will result in early departure from the course without refund. Participants may also be asked to leave the course if they misuse prescribed medication.
Exclusive and intimate relationships between participants (regardless of age) are not permitted, due to the emotional and social impact on individuals and the group, as well as our commitment to creating a supportive learning community.
It’s a policy of Outward Bound Canada that harassment of any kind won’t be tolerated. Harassment is defined as any behaviour that threatens, humiliates, intimidates or hurts another person. This includes harassment based on gender, age, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. These policies will be explained to you at the beginning of your course.
WHAT CAN I SHARE WITH PARENTS ABOUT YOUR RISK MANAGEMENT PROTOCOLS?
OBC’s highly-trained professional instructors ensure that all activities meet the strict guidelines we have developed over more than 50 years of working in the wilderness and relevant provincial regulations. We mitigate risk wherever possible. There is a briefing before each activity so that each member of the group can participate in all our activities, assessing each situation for its risks and opportunity to grown.
Our methods and practices are regularly monitored and reviewed by a committee made up of senior Outward Bound staff from schools across North America, as well as independent experts.
In summary: While there is always some level of risk, you’re in great hands with OBC.
what level of physical fitness do my students need to have?
Physical challenge is one of the many tools that help School and Groups participants discover their personal potential. Course activities can be physically demanding throughout the entire day, or at the very least over periods of the day; the difficulty rating changes depending on the course and location (i.e., urban frontcountry vs wilderness backcountry).
Most school and group programs are designed with teacher and group leadership engagement and input. This ensures that the program is physically accessible for the whole group, and that challenges for individuals will be designed through other means on the program.
Please encourage each student to complete their Confidential Medical History form in detail and answer all questions honestly so we can be well-prepared to welcome them.
If a student is unsure about their ability to participate in an Outward Bound Canada course, please contact us. We’re committed to managing risks for all participants through these planning processes.
WHO ARE MY INSTRUCTORS?
Outward Bound Instructors are skilled, dedicated, and caring outdoor educators. These well-rounded individuals have extensive wilderness experience. They come from a variety of backgrounds: education, business, camp and other outdoor education networks, or from one of many Outward Bound schools around the world. Aside from formal qualifications in Wilderness First Aid, our instructors continually update their skills through independent training, personal expeditions, and staff development opportunities provided by Outward Bound Canada. They can’t wait to meet you!
What is included in my schools and groups course cost?
The course fee includes all technical equipment for your course (tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, gear) as well as three meals a day and snacks. The cost also includes the salary for the knowledgeable and experienced instructors and support staff who teach and guide you throughout the course. These individuals play an important role at OBC, and their skills and knowledge are very valuable. OBC’s additional fees also include applicable taxes.
WHAT IS YOUR CANCELLATION / REFUND POLICY?
Our Cancellation Policy reflects the fact that most of the costs of your expedition incur before your arrival for the program. A non-refundable deposit is required to secure your place. This is contracted with the organizing group or school. Therefore, any cancellation of an individual’s participation should be done in consultation with the teacher or group leader. If a student is unable to attend the program, we encourage parents or caregivers, and then teachers or group leaders, to share this info with us as soon as possible.
IS THERE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE WITH SCHOOL AND GROUP FEES?
OBC is a national charity that has been operating in Canada since 1969. Our purpose is to empower youth through experiential adventures in nature. We envision a Canada where all youth have access to high quality, impactful outdoor education experiences that help them realize their potential.
And we also know that access to the natural world is not equal. To ensure broad and equitable access to these transformative experiences, we offer several different financial assistance options. When available, OBC provides funding for Schools and Groups that meet our criteria. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about funding availability.
Thanks to our generous community of supporters, we were able to fund 50% of participants in Open Enrollment programs in 2022.