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An Analysis of Adventure Programming

An Analysis of Adventure Programming


Many studies of adventure programming have looked at self-concept in an attempt to understand program efficacy. However, it has been hypothesized that overall self-concept may be too broad a concept to describe changes evidenced by intervention programs such as these. Locus of Control (LOC), a personality construct that assesses how people attribute their success and failure outcomes, has been theorized to be a moderator of change in these programs. Examining differences in LOC effect across program characteristics can help set the stage for a more in depth understanding of how change occurs as a result of these programs. In deciding upon what program characteristics to examine, it is necessary to review terminology and thoroughly survey the existing research.

Adventure Programming

Teenage Girls and Wilderness TherapyAdventure programming has become increasingly popular in the past few decades. It incorporates the philosophy of “experiential education”. ‘Experiential’ is a term that people typically use when describing the active process of experiencing or doing. Experiential education can be defined as ‘learning by doing’ with reflection (Gass,1993). When people are learning experientially, all of their senses are actively engaged and they are totally absorbed in the experience. For example, a high school class is planting a garden and at the same time learning lessons in earth science and mathematics. An elementary school class travels outside several times in a day to stand in their footsteps and trace their shadows. Continual reflection and discussion focuses on the implications of their shadow moving (they might conclude at first that the sun moves, and then more accurately, that the earth moves around the sun).

In adventure programs, individuals or groups are placed in “real to life” situations in which they have to employ problem solving or otherwise creative methods to deal with the environment around them and the task at hand. Participants take on the responsibility of interpreting and manipulating novel stimuli they encounter. The actions they take to adjust or cope with their surroundings are made salient and provide learning opportunities. Adventure programs utilize metaphors associated with (or inherent within) these “real to life” situations to guide participant learning. An adventure activity might be an endeavor such as a hike or a rock climb, or may be a facilitated outdoor or indoor problem solving game (initiative).

A program which has been very influential to the advent of modern day adventure programming is Outward Bound. Its establishment can be traced back to the early 1940's and a man named Kurt Hahn. To help sailors better prepare for the rigors of war, they faced a rigorous, physically and emotionally demanding month long program. This included small boats training, athletics, orienteering and rescue training, as well as an expedition at sea. The course was designed to strengthen moral character and improve flexibility and adaptability to the conditions of war, and in addition, build upon endurance and strength (Hahn, 1957).

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