Tuesday, September 13, 2011

PA's Most Important Innovation?

by Dick Prouty

Recently, I was speaking to a group of visiting trainers who were being certified to deliver programs for us. I was speaking about our history and discussing the theme for our 40th anniversary this next academic year. Our theme is: 40 Years of Innovation.

One participant asked this question: What do you think has been Project Adventure’s most important innovation?  

“Hmmm..big question,” I said. I paused for a long two or three minutes as I reviewed the many options that came to mind. I had often thought of PA’s history and our creativity, but had not tried to weigh the value of them compared to one another.

Here are some of the significant innovations of our 40 years that came to mind.

Challenge Course:
Before PA, there had been a few elements called a Ropes Course at OB. But PA basically invented the modern challenge course.
New Static Challenge Course built for the Girl Scouts of Rhode Island

Academic Adventure based Integrated Curricula:

There had been experiential curricula using projects for more than a hundred years before PA in various schools settings in many countries, but PA put the risk edge in it. Three examples are:   
  • Adventure Based Counseling
  • Behavior Management Through Adventure (BMTA)
  • RESPECT program is a structured, research-based program that adapts the proven concepts, strategies, and tools of Project Adventure’s experience and adventure-based instructional methods to change a school’s learning environment.
Artwork by: City Year & Timilty Middle School Students - Boston, MA
Then there are our big three cornerstones!

Experiential Learning Cycle!
Challenge by Choice!

Full Value Contract!

Development of an Activity Base:
The activities published in Silver Bullets and QuickSilver and all of the other PA activities in publications or not. Used by literally hundreds of thousands of teachers and counselors world wide!

Quite a list of innovations and inventions of PA!

Then, I gave this answer to the participant: 

Facility-based Adventure Education!

“Before PA,” I told the participants, “adventure education was thought of as a wilderness experience. Then Jerry Pieh and the crew at Hamilton-Wenham Regional School System in the 1970s developed a way to replicate the outcomes of Outward Bound by integrating its principles and concepts into a high school curricula. That eureka moment,  the conceiving of this integrated experiential curricula program called Project Adventure, launched a whole movement that is now called facilities-based Adventure Education, as opposed to wilderness-based Adventure Education, in the traditional Outward Bound model.”  

So, yes, Project Adventure, in and of itself, was a huge innovation, and, and in my humble opinion, really its biggest.

PA launched a movement for facilities-based adventure education that has now grown to be worldwide and far bigger in terms of numbers of students reached each year, than the original wilderness-based adventure education movement.

Now entering its fifth decade, PA is coming full circle with our new Building Respectful Learning Communities. BRLC is a way to get all of the outcomes in a school or agency to be more powerful and amplified. But that is a story for another blog…..

What do you think?  What is PA’s most important innovation? How has it affected you and helped you to be a better facilitator/teacher?

Let me know at