Deciding what type of expedition is right for your teen can feel overwhelming—we’re here to help.
This post was originally published on August 9, 2018, and updated on April 6, 2021.
The list of things teens learn on Outward Bound expeditions is practically endless:
- Cutting vegetables
- Washing dishes
- Keeping track of their belongings
- Setting up a tent
- Conflict-resolution skills
- Tree identification
- Leadership skills
- Basic First Aid
- How to be away from home
- Getting up early in the morning
- And how to keep moving even when they don’t want to
They experience the beauty and the harshness of a new landscape and learn about their fellow students’ life experiences. These things and so much more happen on all Outward Bound courses, whether it’s designated as an Intercept course or not.
The lessons learned from the outdoors are endless. Some people use the metaphor of the backcountry as a mirror—it can reflect your worst and best self. For instance, if your teen approaches a rocky trail by cursing and kicking the rocks, the trail does not change. It remains just as hazardous and difficult, but they lose energy spent in anger that could have been used to navigate the terrain. If your teen approaches the same trail distracted by a conversation with friends, the trail’s hardships pass by, barely noticed.
“A classic course and an Intercept course will both offer opportunities for leadership, self-discovery and reflection. A classic course can be a solid building block for a teen to rise to new heights, and an Intercept course can offer re-direction for a family who wants to lead the way to positive change for their teen.”
So when contemplating whether an Intercept course is the best fit for your teen and family, consider your goals for your teen, your family and your teen’s response to an outdoor expedition. A classic course and an Intercept course will both offer opportunities for leadership, self-discovery and reflection. A classic course can be a solid building block for a teen to rise to new heights, and an Intercept course can offer re-direction for a family who wants to lead the way to positive change for their teen.
Intercept Expeditions for Teens
First, what does Intercept really mean? Outward Bound Intercept is a highly structured and facilitated program that replaces negative challenges with positive experiences. Expeditions focus on developing positive decision-making skills, strengthening interpersonal relationships and cultivating a positive self-image. At the end of the course, students and their families are reunited for a family conference. There they have an opportunity to reconnect, share in lessons learned and make a plan for moving forward once everyone is back home.
Who Are Intercept Students?
Although Intercept students may arrive less open to the experience than classic course students, all have agreed to participate. Some teens choose Intercept from a group of options after a traditional academic setting or a home life has reached a breaking point. While some experiment with risky choices, others just struggle to find motivation. There are students who come with an understanding that Intercept is an amazing opportunity for themselves and their family, while others show up a little confused and or nervous about what to expect. No matter the student, while on the course, Instructors work to build trust and rapport among the group and unite them around the common purpose of successful backcountry travel. A task often made easier with the help of those around you.
“No matter the student, while on the course, Instructors work to build trust and rapport among the group and unite them around the common purpose of successful backcountry travel. A task often made easier with the help of those around you.”
Intercept courses are often slightly longer than a classic course, offering extra time to transition out of the experience. The culminating family conference allows everyone a seat at the table to help your teen transfer their successes from the outdoor setting to home. If your goals for your teen focus on increasing self-confidence, practicing decision-making skills and having support to hold them accountable for following through on their plans, an Intercept course might be a good fit.
Intercept courses also include a curriculum for parents and guardians, to transfer lessons from the outdoors to home and school environments. Instructors work with families to craft plans to make sure that the insights and achievements of Intercept become part of your family’s daily routine and conversations.
Classic Expeditions for Teens
If your goals for your teen focus around experiencing adventure, taking healthy risks and savoring independence, a classic course might be the right fit.
Teens on classic expeditions choose their trip for a variety of reasons. Some are ‘outdoorsy’ kids looking to kick the adventure up another notch, while others are students experiencing the outdoors for the first time, or maybe as part of a larger journey toward college. Some have family members who are Outward Bound alumni, while many aren’t quite sure why they’re there. These teens come from both academic success and academic challenge. They are athletes to video gamers, and all come from a variety of racial and socio-economic backgrounds. In every group, there are students who begin to thrive in the woods and others who struggle. It is the job of the Instructors to connect these teammates to each other and build a cohesive unit where no one is left out.
Classic courses present students with a variety of metaphors to understand how their successes and struggles in the outdoors connect to their counterpart successes and struggles back home. It is up to each student to choose what’s most meaningful for them to take home. Classic students are the leaders in their own lives after their course, leading and growing through their lessons learned while on course.
Reflect On You and Your Teen’s Goals
Take some time to reflect on your goals for your teen and your family, and then take some time to listen to your teen describe their goals and what’s important to them. We will work with you to choose the right expedition for your family. Call us at 866-467-7651.
About the Author
Renee Igo was an Outward Bound student at age 15 and has been instructing wilderness expeditions for the Voyageur Outward Bound School for the past eight years. When not instructing, she holds a variety of other teaching positions and raises sheep in Maine.
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