Outdoor Pursuits has a long legacy of adventure and altruism. Originally known as Search & Rescue, the program is linked to the progenitors of Outward Bound USA and the international experiential education movement. Search & Rescue’s founder Josh Miner had worked with Kurt Hahn at the Gordonstoun School in Scotland where he was influenced by the school’s Four Pillars of education: Internationalism, Challenge, Responsibility and Service. Components of the Search & Rescue program had come into existence in the mid-1950s and in 1964 Search & Rescue was formally integrated into the Andover experience.
Over time, Search & Rescue (fondly known as “S&R”) expanded its original focus on emergency medical and rescue techniques and service to include broader initiative events and physical fitness as well. The shift in emphasis immediately made the name “Search & Rescue” an anachronism, though it endured as a very powerful metaphor that guided our philosophies on experiential education in the outdoors. The name was changed to Outdoor Pursuits in 2010 in order to reflect more accurately what it is that we do and to reaffirm our commitment to the natural environment as our classroom.
To reflect our evolving educational philosophy, the Outdoor Pursuits staff rewrote our mission statement in 2010:
In Outdoor Pursuits, students are encouraged to push their limits both physically and mentally in a variety of outdoor settings, while honing their skills in leadership, teamwork, environmental stewardship and global citizenship. In the tradition of Kurt Hahn, we seek to learn by doing, and develop ourselves and each other not just for the outdoors, but also through the outdoors.
Outdoor Pursuits satisfies the exercise and sport requirement of Phillips Academy, providing a hearty three-season complement to interscholastic athletics for those who seek other sorts of challenges. We run a ropes course, engage in outdoor activities such as hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, canoeing, winter mountaineering, orienteering and camping, and practice conscientious stewardship of the environment. In addition, we continue to focus on emergency preparedness, with some groups certifying in community and wilderness first aid, CPR and AED. All students learn responsible backcountry practices and cultivate leadership qualities, with a select few rising to the level of S.O.L.O. (Senior Outdoor Leadership Opportunity) as a capstone experience in their high-school career.
Our educational philosophy is shaped by the world’s leaders in outdoor experiential learning. The following links provide additional background into what makes Outdoor Pursuits such a wonderful program:
- Sketch of Hahn’s life and contributions, with some bibliographical information.
- Outline of the development of experiential education, including the influence of Hahn and Miner on outdoor education, mountaineering, scouting and teaching.
- Kurt Hahn’s vision of Outward Bound and its implementation in the USA by Josh Miner.
- David A. Kolb’s model of experiential learning, with an additional bibliography on the subject.