Climbers on Thompson Island High Ropes Course

Why We Choose Challenge

Exposure to challenging situations can trigger an immediate response – one we have all felt at some point echoing deep inside ourselves:

“I don’t want to. I can’t.”

This is a situation no one would choose. Right?

But on Thompson Island we do. Everyday, we ask students, educators, and professionals to confront “I can’t.” On Thompson Island we choose challenge – dirty, sweaty, uncomfortable though it may be – because we believe that true education isn’t about banishing doubt – it’s about breaking doubt’s power to hold students back.

We have found that challenge-based, experiential education allows students to break through “I can’t” like little else. In the words of Outward Bound’s founder, Kurt Hahn, by asking students to persist through challenge you can “defeat defeatism.”

Working through challenge on both a physical and mental level allows students to vividly experience the physical sensations and mental progression of converting panic, worry, and doubt, into focus, persistence, and triumph. A memory that is then locked within them – able to be recalled for encouragement and motivation to persist and triumph again in the future.

“When you have seen yourself falter and prevail…‘I can’t’ just isn’t as believable as before,” says Arthur Pearson, CEO of Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center.  

Thompson Island instructors know that their students lives’ will be full of challenges: some big, others small – and they want each and every individual to know that they have the strength to make it through. A conviction they can trust because it has been awakened into knowledge through experience.

By incorporating challenge in each student’s’ island experience, Thompson Island provides a safe space where they can witness themselves break through the “I can’t” barrier over and over again. Students learn how to simultaneously summon personal fortitude while working as a team to overcome obstacles, and at each step of their journey they are encouraged to think critically, challenge assumptions, and investigate the scientific and social processes of the world around them.

Each Thompson Island experience – every challenge, whether mental, physical or both –  helps students build new beliefs of what they are capable of and lays the foundation for them to view future challenges not as impenetrable barriers but as obstacles they can overcome.