WHO WE ARE
WHAT WE DO
OUR VENUES
SUPPORT US

Discovery Programs

Learning Expeditions for School and Youth organizations


Thompson Island Outward Bound’s Discovery programs use the outdoors and adventure as a vehicle for learning, education and personal growth. Participants step outside their comfort zones to discover their potential as individuals, team members and leaders. Created specifically for schools and community-based organizations, Discovery expedition trips serve youth in Boston of all physical levels, backgrounds and experiences from 5th grade through undergraduate college.

Bring your students on a Discovery program that will build their confidence and develop their abilities to interact and work effectively as a team. Our programs are designed to support the social and emotional learning of every student in person on Thompson Island, at your physical location, or through an online learning environment.

Now Online! Virtual Discovery Programs

Just as the challenges of COVID-19 have caused the "traditional" school system to adapt and innovate in order to meet the needs of their students, we too have pivoted to help meet these new demands on education. To continue to serve our mission of "changing lives through challenge and discovery," our highly-skilled instructors have spent countless hours writing, practicing, and implementing our lesson plans for online platforms so that students can engage in similar fun, eye-opening experiential education they are used to from our traditional Outward Bound programs.

Request information to learn how a Discovery online program can improve your students’ achievement and progress in school, home and their communities.

Request Info Discovery FAQ

Program Goals


Each Discovery field trip and group retreat is led by skilled instructors with extensive training in group facilitation, risk management and youth development. Participants are guided through challenging activities where they learn new skills, apply their learning, exercise leadership and practice teamwork to accomplish individual and group goals. Just as important, groups have fun and learn the importance of supporting one another while experiencing the thrill of our low and high ropes challenge course elements.

Our custom-designed programs set us apart from other organizations. We take the time to develop a tailored program that will meet each group’s specific goals. Discovery programs are ideal for educational field trips, high school and university club outings, freshman class orientation getaways, fraternity and sorority retreats, and sports team building workshops.

The following outcomes are common to all of our programs:

Character

Demonstrating increased self-awareness and self-confidence while demonstrating understanding and compassion towards others.

Leadership

Demonstrating the ability to set goals, inspire and guide others to achieve them; additionally, the ability to collaborate, communicate, solve problems and resolve conflicts effectively.

Service

Demonstrating social and environmental responsibility and a desire to actively engage in service to others.

Request Info Download Our Brochure

Classic Outward Bound Expeditions


In addition to building teamwork and leadership skills, Discovery Expeditions bring adventure to the next level with kayaking or backpacking components. This classic style of Outward Bound Expeditions teaches participants technical skills like using a map and compass to plan the day as well as camp craft and the basic techniques of backpacking and kayaking. Through shared challenges, adversity, failure and success, students discover and develop new skills, confidence and passion.

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.

Request Info

Explore The Island

Boston's Island Classroom

Thompson Island is one of the largest, most accessible and most ecologically diverse islands in the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park. 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. Our amenities make Thompson Island ideal for school trips, class retreats and educational field trips. Amenities include a formal school campus complete with dormitories, dining hall, classrooms, lab space, auditoriums, gymnasium, outdoor challenge courses and climbing towers.

(Click Map Hotspots to Explore)

Explore The Island

Boston's Island Classroom

Thompson Island is one of the largest, most accessible and most ecologically diverse islands in the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park. 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. Our amenities make Thompson Island ideal for school trips, class retreats and educational field trips. Amenities include a formal school campus complete with dormitories, dining hall, classrooms, lab space, auditoriums, gymnasium, outdoor challenge courses and climbing towers.

compass icon
Erosion Bluff
compass icon
West Salt Marsh
compass icon
East Salt Marsh
compass icon
Learning Zone (Microwilderness)
compass icon
Gable Orchard
compass icon
Classrooms
compass icon
Ferry
compass icon
Bowditch Grove High and Low Ropes Course
compass icon
Kayaking (Boston Harbor)
compass icon
Campsites
compass icon
Intertidal Zone
compass icon
Challenge Field
compass icon
Dormitories
torn image

Erosion Bluff

This is one of multiple geologic sites students visit on the island formed by earth’s natural processes- erosion, deposition, weathering, etc. Experimentation and collecting evidence gives students hands-on opportunities to discover how the island continues to be shaped by those forces.

West Salt Marsh

Digging deep into the intricacies of the salt marsh, students explore how energy and matter move in an ecosystem. Students examine organisms through guided inquiry and exploration to collectively construct a salt marsh food web.

East Salt Marsh

Digging deep into the intricacies of the salt marsh, students explore how energy and matter move in an ecosystem. Students examine organisms through guided inquiry and exploration to collectively construct a salt marsh food web.

Learning Zone (Microwilderness)

Through investigation and observation, students learn about adaptations in the world of insects. Using engaging scientific tools, students collect insects to discover how certain variations can lead to increased survival in an ecosystem

Gable Orchard

Fun and exciting low ropes obstacle course elements are found in Gable Orchard. Students work together to get their team over walls, problem solve to get through a spiders web, communicate to balance the whale watch and much more.

Classrooms

Classroom lessons introduce students to scientific concepts through hands-on demonstrations. Students practice making and recording scientific observations, forming relevant questions and making connections to prior knowledge. Practicing these skills prepare students for their island experience.

Ferry

The Motor Vessel Outward Bound (our ferry) leaves from the EDIC dock off of Drydock Avenue in South Boston. The 25 minute ride through the Boston Harbor to Thompson Island is always a highlight for groups visiting the island.

Bowditch Grove High and Low Ropes Course

Partners or trios work together to utilize their team's strengths to get up the Giants Ladder- a high ropes course vertical ladder. In Bowditch Grove students also participate in our ground-based low ropes obstacle course elements.

Kayaking (Boston Harbor)

Groups propel the waters of the Boston Harbor in two-person kayaks to learn paddling techniques, capsize and rescue procedures, weather forecasting and navigation skills.

Campsites

Students spend their backpacking course exploring the island preserve, where they investigate geology and ecology of forests, salt marshes and beaches, while learning camp craft, wilderness skills and environmental stewardship. Nights are spent at various raised platform tents or in shelters around the island.

Intertidal Zone

Students travel to the Intertidal Zone to learn about trophic levels- producers, consumers and decomposers. Exploration allows students to encounter a wide variety of organisms in order to examine how the unique roles of each trophic level help energy flow through the ecosystem.

Challenge Field

The Challenge Field consists of two Alpine Towers- 62’ tall, self-supporting structures that provide unique group challenges. They’re the ideal high ropes challenge course elements to foster team building, improve communication skills and develop self esteem.

Dormitories

Students sleep in dormitories separated by gender, typically on separate floors or in different buildings. Adults stay in the dorms with the students- either our staff, or the adults who accompany the students to the island. Our dorms range in size from 2-5 beds per room and feature nice, clean wooden single beds.
Our yearly retreat at Thompson Island is the critical foundation to creating a cohesive team. The students refer back to their experiences there throughout the summer, drawing from the skills and insights they gained almost daily.
-Northeastern University
As a whole, the youth were all more connected to each other. They realized through each other's support, they could reach new heights. A great example was during the obstacle course. A lot of the youth stated that as they climbed, they would feel scared halfway through, but when they heard their teammates cheering them on, they felt that they could do it. We became more of a team.
-Whitney L., Southwest Boston CDC - Green Team
I have learned so much on Thompson Island! I got to go to the salt marsh and see so many creatures. Being here taught me that I should take every chance I get to do something new. Thompson Island has opened my eyes and now I know I can do anything I try to do.
-Miriam, 12 years old, Boston Community Leadership Academy
The group was able to reference their time on Thompson Island to push through the last couple of weeks of the summer. They were able to come together as a group and work together to motivate each other and hold each other accountable.
-Mariela D., The Stepping Stone Foundation

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH