For many students, Outward Bound excursions are among their key experiences at Salem. Year 9 students leave civilisation behind for an eleven-day expedition in the wilds of Norway, Sweden, Romania, the French Alps, Corsica or the Black Forest, for example. Pushing yourself to your limits, setting yourself challenges and learning that your own actions have consequences not only for you as an individual but for the group as a whole are central to the Outward Bound experience.
Doing without luxury and consumer goods leads to a much more intensive relationship with the natural world and a heightened sensitivity to the economic use of natural resources. Discovering a spring after a long route march can be a source of pure joy. As one student concluded: “We learnt to manage without the mod cons of everyday life and to really appreciate the things we normally take for granted, such as water.”
The students sleep in tents, deprived of the comforts of a campsite, and are expected to cook and fend for themselves. One element of the excursion is the so-called “solo”, where each student is thrown on their own resources for 12 to 24 hours and writes down their thoughts and emotions in a reflective letter. This letter is then sent to them a year later to confront them with their Outward Bound experiences in the midst of their daily routine. Participants also keep an expedition journal and present their experiences to their fellow pupils on their return.
The physical effort demanded of the participants is tellingly expressed by one voice on reaching 2200 metres at nine in the evening: “Please can we go to bed?
Each student is given personal feedback on the expedition, which is also recorded in a report at the end of the school year.
The objectives of the Outward Bound programme are firmly anchored in the experiential education philosophy of the school’s founder Kurt Hahn. They are also reflected in the IDEALS of Round Square, to which the Schule Schloss Salem is affiliated.