Teens can develop crucial mental, emotional, and physical skills through outdoor adventure and education, preparing them for a bright future.
Being a teenager has never been easy. A time of momentous growth, teenage years are full of change and transformation. They’re when people truly begin to discover who they are, what they believe in, and who they want to be.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has left teens dealing with unprecedented circumstances: months of isolation from their peers, a lack of physical activity, and incomprehensible amounts of screen time. In a world riddled with technology, the way in which today’s youth interact with others, themselves, and their environments is unlike anything humanity has ever experienced before.
It’s a fact that the pandemic and increase in the use of technology will have long-lasting effects on young people. That’s why the maintenance of teens’ physical and mental health is more important now than ever. Fortunately, there’s an accessible way to help youth reconnect to themselves, others, and their surroundings: spending time in nature.
Building lifelong skills
Away from screens and thrown into the physical world, it’s well-known that time spent in nature is healing for anyone. At Outward Bound Canada (OBC), the team believes that outdoor adventure is a way to equip teens for the future, no matter how it may look.
“The wilderness is a natural teacher. It allows you to take a step back and provides an opportunity for self-discovery,” says Jill Zeppa, OBC’s Director of Admissions. “Teens can reconnect with nature and their peers, and learn to make decisions on their own while being supported.”
OBC offers a variety of programs across the country, including sea kayaking, backpacking, surfing, and white-water canoeing. It’s committed to helping Canadian youth change the trajectory of their lives by building important skills like problem-solving, collaboration, and conflict resolution.
“Teens build self-confidence by overcoming challenges,” says John McAlister, Head of Marketing and Philanthropy at OBC. “But they also gain adventure and excitement, whether they’re camping under the stars or hiking in the Rocky Mountains.”
Experiencing the great outdoors
As a world leader in outdoor education, OBC helps its participants experience incredible growth, including an 80 percent increase in self-confidence development and the ability to step out of their comfort zones. Participants have also seen a 65 percent improvement in personal resiliency.
Plus, OBC’s programs help promote environmentalism, with participants being 70 percent more likely to make eco-friendly choices throughout their lives. “The more time they spend outside, the greater appreciation they’ll have for the natural world,” explains McAlister.
With internationally-acclaimed risk management and COVID-19 protocols in place, OBC is committed to making outdoor adventure accessible to all teens, no matter their background. “Newcomers to Canada who face social or economic barriers may think that these opportunities are out of reach, but they’re accessible,” says McAlister.
OBC offers subsidies for school programs, travel costs, COVID-19 tests, and more. It also provides all trip equipment and even has a clothing-lending program. A registered charity, OBC has various financial assistance options, including individual scholarships for BIPOC youth leaders and the Youth Access Fund for low-income families requiring financial support.
Equipped for the future
“We want to encourage youth from all backgrounds to take advantage of these opportunities,” says McAlister. OBC knows that its programs positively impact the physical and mental well-being of youth, especially coming out of the pandemic. “Getting out into nature, they can think about who they want to be,” adds McAlister.