Increasing Student Participation in Outdoor Education Programs: New York City Outward Bound's 5 day Crew Orientation Program
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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This project aimed to identify barriers to participation in NYCOBS’s Crew Orientation program for urban high school students and to suggest strategies for increasing student participation. Through focus groups with students at two of the participating schools, the main barriers identified included concerns for physical safety, concerns for emotional safety, and language barriers in communicating with families. NYCOBS takes extensive measures to minimizing emotional and physical risks to participants, but cannot eliminate risk entirely. In spite of risk and fears, students are overwhelmingly glad to participate in Crew Orientation and recognize the program’s value. In order to effectively communicate the risk prevention measures taken, and the value of facing fears to achieve personal growth, NYCOBS should leverage the key influences to decision-making identified through focus groups: peers and Crew Orientation alumni, teachers, and families. It is imperative that teachers, who have extensive contact with students, encourage participation in Crew Orientation. This project also identified student peers and Crew Orientation alumni as a valuable and underutilized resource in outreach to students and families. By systematic leveraging of highly influential peers and Crew Orientation alumni, NYCOBS can overcome language barriers to message honestly the value of overcoming fears and concerns in order to achieve personal growth.