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History of AE


Adventure Education was born out of the concept that play can be purposeful – through natural forms of recreation and leisure one can attain personal growth. As this form of education evolved, it became more defined.Outward Bound used the natural environment for youth development programs in the 1940s that included activities like orienteering, expeditions, service and simulations. In fact, it has been said that the concept of “ropes” courses actually started on sailing ships!

The disequilibrium created by “looking risk in the face” produced a perfect platform for introducing leadership and life skills. Project Adventure brought simulated activities into the classroom in the 1970s and then transferred learning into other areas of life. The concept of transfer of learning is the most important purpose of adventure education: taking what is learned in a simulation and transferring it back to the school, home, field, court, office, or other environment. Bradford Woods began using challenge courses (or ropes courses) in the early 1980s during summer camp and then extended their use to environmental education programs. Soon after, Adventure Education became its own program area.


Adventure Education Timeline

5th Century BC— Greek Philosophers: Plato & Aristotle

§Understood importance of adventure, recreation, leisure and play

§3 elements of play

§Leisure and recreation is the way to personal growth and attainment of the good life

Late 1800s-early 1900s—Philosophers: John Dewey& William James

§True behaviors surface during adversity (speech given in 1907:The Moral Equivalence of War)

§Freedom to develop naturally, interest is motive of all work (Dewey)

§Making the outdoors the classroom for outdoor activities (Dewey)

1920—Kurt Hahn

§Founded coeducational, residential school in Germany

§Focused on respect, social justice, service in community, and equality

§Closed by Nazi’s and Hahn imprisoned

§Released to United Kingdom

§Asked to find reasoning in decline of youthful sailor’s attitudes and ability to survive as an effective sailor

1941—Outward Bound

§Intended to provide experiences through adventure to turn attitudes around

§OB Wales

§Program for youth

§Participants sponsored by shipping companies, police and fire departments, local governments, and schools

§30 day courses

§Orienteering, search and rescue, athletics, sailing, mountain and ocean expeditions, service to community, and obstacle courses designed to simulate tasks and risks on a sailing vessel

§Predecessor of modern challenge courses and high elements

1962—First OB America founded in Marble, Colorado

1965— National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) founded


§Train Outdoor Leaders

§Standards, certifications

1971—Project Adventure (PA), Jerry Pieh

§Adventure in Classroom

§Key component: Transfer

§Lessons learned in cooperation and problem solving during P.E. classes

§Directly used and applied in school projects

1976—Association for Experiential Education (AEE)

§Conferences, workshops, publications


§Resource for the outdoor professional

§Appalachian State University

1977—Wilderness Education Association (WEA)

§Membership based on colleges and universities departments

§“Wilderness Preservation Through Education”

§Western Illinois University

1982 – Bradford Woods

§Summer programming and outdoor education utilizing challenge courses

§Challenge course training begins outside of outdoor education programs

Today, Adventure Education at Bradford woods seeks to provide innovative learning opportunities that enable individuals, groups, organizations, and communities to maximize their potential. These program designs may focus on team and community development, interpersonal reflection, personal skill growth, outdoor technical skills, leadership and adventure therapy. Professionally trained instructors facilitate participants through challenge courses and adventure-based activities.

Adventure education uses unique situations and purposeful activities to provide an environment for learning. Specific activity sequences and program outlines are created based on the group’s desired outcomes described in a group profile form. Our goal at Bradford Woods is to create a safe simulated environment where learning may transfer directly to the school, community, home, or workplace.

While we love to use our facility at Bradford Woods, we can easily go to your location of choice for a program.

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A paramount principle for all activities at Bradford Woods is Challenge by Choice©. This term originated with Project Adventure and has since become almost universally adopted by the Challenge Course industry. It means that we as facilitators offer both physical and psychological challenges to individual participants but they choose their level of engagement in the particular challenge. Our challenge courses and activities are designed to offer differing levels of challenge to participants. We operate inclusive programs meaning anyone of any ability is able to join.

We seek to be innovative and continue connecting with like-minded professionals in the industry. Most recently,

Bradford Woods was host to the 2010 Association for Experiential Education AEE Mid-States conference. We attended and presented at the 2010 American Camp Assocation ACA Mid-States conference. We attended the 2010 Association for Challenge Course Technology ACCT International Challenge Course Symposium and remain active in the industry through a variety of affiliations. Our challenge courses are inspected annually by an approved vendor of the ACCT and we train our facilitator according to industry accepted standards.