“I’ve yet to see a youngster step off the boat from Thompson Island and back onto the mainland whose learning curve has not soared off the chart. And that, after all, is what good education is all about.”

— Roland Barth, Founder of the Principals’ Center at Harvard University, author, educator

Boston’s Island Classroom.

Established in 1988, Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center is an independent Massachusetts not-for-profit organization whose mission is to provide adventurous and challenging experiential learning programs that inspire character development, compassion, community service, environmental responsibility, and academic achievement. We serve over 6,500 early adolescents annually from all economic and social communities of greater metropolitan Boston, and the institutions and adults who support them.

In partnership with Boston Public Schools and the National Park Service, our programs utilize the natural resources of Thompson Island to ignite a love of learning, inspire curiosity, and build teamwork in students of all ages. From hands-on field experiences for urban youth to summer wilderness expeditions and professional team building programs, we change lives through challenge and discovery. And while our private events and custom programs deliver the magic of Thompson Island, they also make a positive impact with all proceeds going to support our youth programming initiatives.

Educational Framework

Our core values

Compassion, integrity, excellence, inclusion and diversity

Foundations of course design

Learning through experience, challenge and adventure, supportive environment

Intended outcomes

Character development, leadership, social and environmental responsibility, academic achievement in math, science, and English language arts

Course Area

Thompson Island is one of the largest, most accessible and most ecologically diverse islands in the Boston Harbor Islands National Park area. With 204 acres of undeveloped property, the island has mature forests, meadows, freshwater and marine wetlands, salt marshes, and a variety of important geological features. Amenities include a formal school campus complete with dormitories, dining hall, classrooms, lab space, auditoriums, gymnasium, outdoor challenge courses, and climbing towers.

Instructional Staff

Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center hires an extremely qualified and mature staff of college graduates, teachers, social workers, and outdoor professionals who are dedicated to working with students. Our instructors are between 21 and 40 years of age, extensively background-checked (including CORI and SORI screening), and participate in intensive training (including CPR and Wilderness First Aid). The staff to student ratio is low (typically 6:1), and students always remain within 100% sight or sound.


Outward Bound pioneered the safety management processes and procedures that have become the model for the experiential education industry. Our safety policy includes national and unit standards that guide all program activity, participant screening, and staff hiring, as well as instructor manuals with detailed safety requirements, unit safety directors, safety committees, safety reviews, and annual safety reports. Our instructors receive regular, intensive training and are certified in Wilderness Advanced First Aid, as a Wilderness First Responder, or as a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician.

The Outward Bound Difference

For more than 60 years, Outward Bound has been delivering adventure and challenge-based courses to youth worldwide. Grounded in the educational philosophy of its founder, Kurt Hahn, Outward Bound seeks to empower young people through hands-on experiences. Using the wilderness as a classroom, Outward Bound guides students through a journey of self-discovery. By combining learning-by-doing, adventure, challenge, and play within a diverse group, our courses enable students to explore their possibilities as leaders, problem solvers, and responsible citizens of the world community.