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    Nature’s Classroom

    By Kelly Medinger


    Baltimore Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound School uses education grant to send students from two all-girls Catholic schools in Baltimore City on a character-building expedition

    Girls_Compressed.jpg“Ships are safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are built for,” says Leanna Powell, Fundraising Manager at Baltimore Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound School. 


    She uses the ship metaphor to describe the organization’s work:  “We prepare students to leave the safe harbor of their home, their family, and their community.  We give them authentic challenges to confront, on wilderness expedition trips or our Baltimore City ropes course.  Then they return home safely – mentally stronger and with the confidence that they can overcome challenges in their own lives.”


    About Outward Bound

    Outward Bound has been serving the Baltimore community for 32 years.  As an educational organization and expedition school, people of all ages and backgrounds participate in active learning expeditions that inspire character development, self-discovery, and service both in and out of the classroom.


    “We think of ourselves as a partner to schools,” explains Powell.  “Where the traditional classroom might be limited, we can step in with our curriculum and outdoor classrooms to teach kids how to overcome very real challenges, hone their own leadership skills, and develop a greater sense of compassion for others.” 


    Character & Leadership Initiative for Girls

    The Knott Foundation funded the Catholic Girls Character & Leadership Initiative at Outward Bound, which offered programs for two Catholic girls schools in Baltimore City. 


    The partnership included Sister’s Academy, a tuition-free middle school, and Mercy High School. Nearly 200 students from these schools participated in Insight days, which include a rigorous outdoor challenge course and character education curriculum.  Small groups of students from each school also participated in 5-day expedition trips – canoeing on the Potomac and hiking the Appalachian Trail. 


    Notably, 100% of the girls participating showed gains in emotional self-efficacy, conflict resolution, problem solving, and perseverance.  “Ultimately, all teens are at risk, and the window to make an impact on their development is short. What we do helps them make decisions that chart a course for the rest of their lives,” states Ginger Mihalik, Executive Director. 


    In Their Own Words

    The girls who participated in the expedition trips were challenged and changed by their experience.  At the end of the trip, their comments ranged from, “Thank you for giving me this opportunity to experience a different environment other than my house,” to, “I got to know myself in ways I may have never seen without this trip.  I am now able to trust myself that I am able to do more than what I think.”


    Perhaps one participant summed up her transformation the best:  “Entering the expedition I was closeminded, not confident, and completely unwilling to try new things.  Through this week, I made new friends and hiked more than I ever thought I could, volunteered to be a navigator twice, and ate food of all kinds.  I would never exchange this experience for anything.”