After more than a year, we’re finally getting outside!

The pandemic forced Philadelphia Outward Bound School (POBS) to do the unthinkable — to bring the outdoors inside — to engage our participants without having our key tool at our disposal. We, like the rest of the world, were forced to radically reshape our work and approach to programming — in a way we had never had to do before — and in a way we hope we never have to do again!

Our staff rose to the occasion, learning new skills and quickly shifting to teach experiential education using online platforms. We had to look inside ourselves to push through what felt like the impossible. It wasn’t easy, but that experience built professional and personal growth for all of us. And in a way, it’s what we’re all about — building resilience through learning, and stretching outside of our comfort zone.

Despite the pandemic, in 2020 we provided a total of 2,257 program days for 1,080 participants in partnership with 20 schools and community organizations. We are proud to have been able to work with so many youth, adults and educators despite all of the challenges.

Over a year later, we’re ready to be outside again with Philadelphia youth in COVID-safe ways. We are thrilled to begin to do what we do best, working together outdoors, building confidence in young people and helping them to develop self-reliance in nature.

Our first in-person session took place on March 12 with Greenwoods Charter School, a Philadelphia charter school we have been working with online, throughout the pandemic.

Lauren Stables, POBS’ Associate Director of Center-based Programs at POBS talked about how it felt to get outside for the first time in over a year.

“It was super-rewarding to see what we had planned on paper for managing Covid-safe programs become real, and to watch the action steps play out,” said Stables. “Staff felt like it was not as difficult as it might have seemed at first.”

Although POBS instructors are skilled facilitators who were able to pivot to online instruction, Stables reported that the conversations, the one-on-one connections and the interaction with students was much more enriching for students and teachers alike.

“Facilitating is a different experience in person; there are interactions and conversations that you don’t get to experience or share on a virtual platform…walking with students, asking them how they are feeling, picking up on a student’s body language.”

“You can just see the joy and excitement of being together again!”

POBS will be working with groups throughout the spring and summer as school and community  partners move to hybrid models or full, in-person interactions. We will coordinate and collaborate with partners to support youth as they make a return to their classrooms and after school programs and use the assets we have as partners to do that in the most effective ways possible.  We’ll focus on being both intentional and responsive and consider our “why.” We will be thoughtful in the pacing of the day and manner in which we set the tone for our togetherness.  We’ll share focus points for our ground activities, the framing and debriefing of activities, the use of our challenge course elements, consider our mobility and potentially facilitating on-site.

For information on how to start a partnership with POBS: