Project Great Outdoors began in 1999 when three river guides wanted to share their love of rivers with those less fortunate. Over the years, the organization wrestled with its ultimate purpose. Was it to teach environmental ethics? Conservation? Just to have fun? Or was it something else entirely?
Our original mission statement was not a mission, but a confused shopping list. In 2007 armed with seven years in the field, on rivers and at challenge ropes courses, and with research to back our observations, we took a good hard look at our mission. We brought our own experiences into the mix. Why were our board and volunteers so engaged? What was it about floating down a river with new friends that had such an impact?
We learned that our experience was not unique, and that others had studied and even measured some of the outcomes that we’d witnessed and felt. The educational philosophies of John Dewey, Kurt Hahn, David Kolb, Jean Piaget, more recent empirical studies published in the Journal of Experiential Education, and the experiences gleaned through established outdoor programs like Outward Bound all helped us understand what is was that Project GO did best, and why it worked.
In short, Project GO is an experiential education program focusing on outdoor adventure. In the past, we relied on the “experience to speak for itself,” and we were educators almost by accident. Today our organization is dedicated to experiential education ON PURPOSE.