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The State of Knowledge of Outdoor Orientation Programs: Current Practices, Research, and Theory

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Abstract

Outdoor orientation programs represent a prominent area of experiential education with over 25,000 participants annually. More than 191 outdoor orientation programs currently operate in the United States and Canada. The research examining outdoor orientation programs consists of 25 peer-reviewed published studies and 11 dissertations. A new theory explaining the success of these programs has emerged based on research and the belief that students experience a special sense of belongingness promoted by social dynamics found in these programs.
... Currently, orientation programs are available at all accredited colleges in the United States (Bell, Gass, Nafziger, & Starbuck, 2014). Modern orientation programs are designed to introduce prospective students to the campus culture and traditions, promote confidence among students/parents and help students transition into the college environment through programming and activities (Robinson, Burns & Gaw, 1996). ...
... Most programs involve adventure and team building activities in a wilderness setting along with discussion and reflection on challenges that confront students as they transition to college . These programs typically utilize adventure experiences such as backpacking and wilderness travel to facilitate a fluid transition for students entering college (Bell et al., 2014). ...
... Many of these programs grew out of, or were directly influenced by, OB and NOLS curriculum (Bell, Holmes, & Williams, 2010). Since the development of outdoor orientation programs in colleges and universities, these programs have been growing and changing to meet the needs of the current incoming students (Bell, B. J., & Starbuck, D. 2013 (Bell, et al., 2014). These variables include college retention, GPA, student adjustment to college, student development task inventory, satisfaction, friendship formation, social support, student fears, self-efficacy, leadership, sense of place, sense of community, life effectiveness, selfconcept, value, and environmental preference (Bell, et al., 2014). ...
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Outdoor orientation programs have a significant impact on student success in college. These programs foster a sense of belonging, self-efficacy, trust, interpersonal skills and community engagement ideals critical for student development in higher education. This mixed-methods study compares First Ascent, an outdoor orientation program, with a required academic orientation program and evaluates why students participate in First Ascent, how First Ascent participants' GPA and retention rates compare to the academic orientation program, and the perceived outcomes of both orientation program types. Results of this study can be used to support the value of outdoor orientation programs and how these programs can lead to student success in college.
... This paper is the third census of outdoor orientation programs, a type of pre-enrollment immersion program considered an evidenced-based solution able to help transform higher education (Mintz, 2021). This census is a follow-up to a census of outdoor orientation programs conducted in 2006 (Bell et al., 2010) and 2012 (Bell et al., 2014). Both of the previous projects identified the number of outdoor orientation programs in the United States and the practices of those programs. ...
... The first census of outdoor orientation programs was conducted by a team at the University of New Hampshire in 2006 (Bell et al., 2010). This was followed by a second census in 2012 (Bell et al., 2014). The goal of this paper is to add to the census data from 2006 and 2012 with new data about outdoor orientation programs from 2019. ...
... The literature on outdoor orientation programs has grown to 51 blind peer-reviewed published studies in 2020 (and counting), more than twice the number of peer review studies (n = 25) published between 1979-2012 (Bell et al., 2014). In this review of the literature the focus is on the two previous census studies by Bell et al. (2010) based upon 2006data, and Bell et. ...
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This study investigated the number of outdoor orientation programs—high-impact transition programs for college students—in the United States. Researchers used a census methodology to identify the number of outdoor orientation programs existing at accredited, residential, bachelor’s degree-granting colleges and universities within the United States (N = 1,217). Researchers found 212 outdoor orientation programs (OOPs), representing 17% of the identified colleges, the largest number of OOPs in the history of these programs. A follow-up survey found OOPs were notably aligned in risk management procedures (medical training of leaders, tracking incidents, etc.) and programmatic similarities (use of name games, problem-solving and initiative activities). Programs diverged in the use of curricular activities (i.e., solo experiences) and the specifics of risk management (i.e., physician oversight). The COVID-19 pandemic led to 83% of programs being cancelled in 2021. A question remains as to how well these high-impact programs will recover after the pandemic.
... Ribbe et al. (2016) reported that overnight outdoor adventure orientation programs assisted college students in their adaptation to college. Colleges are utilizing wilderness pro-Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership gramming in increasing numbers to bolster students' sense of connectedness to others and to assist in the transition to college (Bell et al., 2014;O'Connell et al., 2019). Happiness and stresscoping are also variables related to success and well-being in college and have been reported as bolstered among college students who engaged in wilderness backpacking events (Ilagan et al., 2016;Ilagan et al., 2019). ...
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U.S. military veterans attend college in increasing numbers, yet, often without a sense of attachment to their university. This mixed-methods exploratory study examined sense of belonging, happiness, and stress-coping outcomes for student veterans (N = 9) participating in a backpacking event. Results indicate the treatment group’s happiness level improved significantly over the control group, t(7) = 2.80, p = .027. Treatment group scores also improved on stress-coping, t(7) = 1.56, p = .163, and sense of belonging, t(7) = 2.28, p = .056; however, results were not statistically significant. The backpackers attributed increases in social belonging and happiness to the following elements of the trip: social support, stress coping, physical benefits, and camping skills. Although further quantitative research is indicated using larger and more diverse participant groups, findings from this study support the use of outdoor programming with veteran college students.
... Berdasarkan teori stakeholder mengatakan bahwa kecakapan entitas menyediakan informasi lingkungan menjadi penting untuk menyakinkan stakeholder. Pengungkapan media (media exposure) menjadi alat komunikasi yang revolusioner yang mampu menyebarkan informasi secara luas mengenai kepedulian perusahaan terhadap isu-isu lingkungan dan sosial, dan tertuju pada banyak pihak (Permadiswara, dan Sujana, 2018;de Camargo Fiorini et al.,2018;Bell et al.,2014;). Adanya media exposure yang lebih intensif akan meningkatkan visibilitas perusahaan akan mempengaruhi pandangan publik, sehingga muncul upaya untuk membangun citra positif yang berdampak pada kinerja keuangan yang lebih baik (Meer dan Vliegenthart, 2017;Bai et al.,2019;Sparta dan Rheadanti., 2019). ...
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The purpose of this study is to examine the effect of environmental performance, ISO 14001, media disclosure on financial performance of mining companies in Indonesia. The population is mining companies listed on the Indonesia Stock Exchange in 2016-2021 of 247 annual reports. This study was use census method for the sampling technique. Data analysis techniques was use path analysis with SmartsPLS 3.0 software as tool. This study found that Environmental performance, media disclosure was effect on financial performance. While, ISO 14001 was not affected on financial performance. This study contribution is strengthening stakeholder theory and legitimacy as the basis of the accounting theory literature. Furthermore, as an earth friendly enterprise strategy tool for managers that significantly improves financial performance. The realization of the financial performance of mining companies that pay attention to environmental issues (green company) can contribute to strengthening the Indonesian economy and achieving the goals of sustainable development goals (SDGs).
... Introduction College and university outdoor programs offer a wide variety of benefits to students including, improved well-being , improved retention rates (Deringer & Wiggins, 2018), and opportunities for social integration and belonging (Bell et al., 2014). These benefits are vital to the students who participate. ...
... We thank you for your continued support of SEER and hope you can join us this year and look forward to (hopefully) being back in person in 2021! counseling: A promising approach for influencing developmental outcomes for youth 2:55 -3:00 -Key points, clarification, and research/practice implications, chaired by Christine Norton. In nearly five decades of research, outdoor orientation program (OOPs) have reported positive benefits for U.S. college students (Bell et al., 2014), but few research studies have considered non-U.S. OOPs. ...
Conference Paper
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This study is an exploratory comparison between a Japanese outdoor orientation program (OOP) and select U.S. OOPs to expand the understanding of how culture may play a role in OOPs’ outcomes. The results demonstrated OOPs had common benefits to students in both countries. Many of the outcomes were similar; for example, reducing anxiety and solving interpersonal problems was an important outcome for all students. Some differences, such as the ability to face challenges showed similar growth, but the relationship with the social constructs differed by country. Both groups reported increased interpersonal and personal growth, which could be universally valuable to college students in transition in both countries.
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Background: Research shows that participation in outdoor adventure education (OAE) programs can confer individual educational, psychological, and social benefits that relate to college student thriving. Purpose: This qualitative study examined the experiences of college students who took a semester's leave to backpack the Appalachian Trail (AT) in order to understand how self-guided and immersive outdoor experiences can facilitate traits related to college student thriving. Methodology/Approach: We employed a longitudinal phenomenological approach and experience sampling to gain a holistic understanding of four college students’ experiences thru-hiking and transitioning back to college. The two primary sources of data included audio diaries and semi-structured pre-, mid-, and post-hike interviews. Findings/Conclusion: We found the self-guided and immersive nature of thru-hiking enabled participants to deal with immediate tasks while engaging in deep self-reflection about life on and off trail. Additionally, participants discovered how to integrate individual and broader group goals while also developing self-efficacy, self-confidence, and resilience when dealing with unforeseen circumstances. Implications: Our study suggests that providing opportunities for intensive and prolonged student-led and student-chosen outdoor experiences can meaningfully contribute to the development of traits related to interpersonal, intrapersonal, and academic components of college student thriving.
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This study examined student experiences participating in a peer-led three-day wilderness canoe excursion in Northern Ontario, Canada. This program is a mandatory outdoor experience program (MOEP) for third-year students and is the final course in a progressive series of outdoor experiences offered at the beginning of the first, second, and third year. Guided by principles of realist evaluation, the written reflections from consenting students in the 2015 MOEP cohort were analyzed to identify the contexts and mechanisms associated with enjoyment or lack of enjoyment of their trip. These findings will help improve the MOEP program and have implications for similar intentionally led outdoor programs offered at other higher education institutions.
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Researchers surveyed colleges and universities in the United States to assess the number providing outdoor orientation programs (OOPs). OOPs are defined as college orientation programs that work with small groups (15 or fewer) of first-year students, use adventure experiences, and include at least one overnight in a wilderness setting. This census identified and received survey data from 164 separate OOPs, representing at least 97% of all programs. From the data, researchers ascertained common peer practices describing the current state of OOPs. Although programs differed significantly by age and by size, programs generally shared common practices. With the number of OOPs growing—an average of 10 new OOPs begin each year—the current census was designed to better understand how OOPs operate and how they may be changing.
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Although outdoor orientation programs, as a special type of orientation designed to enhance student retention, are relatively commonplace in the United States – we are not aware of any such campus-wide initiatives in Canada. Research indicates that outdoor orientation programs impact students in a positive way, enhancing academic success, personal development, and integration into campus life. This exploratory, mixed methods pilot study reports on the results of an investigation that administered three pre and post surveys that measured indicators of “Life Effectiveness,” “Sense of Community,” and “Sense of Place” on a group of seven, first-year students who participated on a five-day canoeing trip in the wilderness of Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada. The program, entitled “Brock BaseCamp,” exposed students to a curriculum that included networking with student facilitators about campus life, in addition to acquiring technical skills of canoeing and outdoor living. Results indicated that students were positively influenced in all three measures and that the Brock BaseCamp experience enhanced their social integration into campus life.
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