22 Ways to Enhance a Debrief

Imagine with me, that you have an immense fear of heights and your Outward Bound South Africa (OBSA) Instructor is slowing and clearly giving you instructions on how to climb a very long and very narrow pole. And then once having ascended to the top, you are told to stand up straight, with the support of the belay ropes anchoring you from below, and then once again told to jump and catch the swinging bar in the distance in front of you all while in the air.

You freeze from fear. Your inner self telling you that you are not capable of making the jump and that the rope supporting you will fail. But there’s another voice too. Telling you that you CAN do it and that you are capable of the task if you just TRUST yourself and your team below. With shaking knees and a racing heart, you close your eyes and leap. Taking the leap of faith.

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Once back on the ground, you get together with your OBSA Instructor and your Team and open up and chat about that activity and what it meant to you. This is the debrief.

One of the main reasons that an Outward Bound program is so different from that of other Adventure Companies, is our fundamental concept of Group Debriefings. This is an important educational tool to better gain an understanding from the Participants on their experience with the OBSA activities.

What is a Debrief?

Google describes a debriefing as a process of receiving information or reporting of measures of performance, and/or opportunities to further investigate the results of a study, investigation, or assessment of performance after participation in an immersive activity is complete.


Here are some ways to enhance a debrief with your Group:

  1. Get the group in a circle sitting knee to knee to standing shoulder to shoulder.
  2. Don’t leave any unfinished business, terminate all issues appropriately for every learner.
  3. Ensure that you maintain eye contact with whomever is speaking.
  4. Keep aware of others in the circle and non-verbally acknowledge when it’s their turn to speak or becoming distracted.
  5. Maintain a clear structure or ‘rules’ to your debrief. A good tool is the Full Value Concept (speaker in charge, respecting others and yourself, ect).
  6. Don’t be surprised by Participants resistance to a debrief, it’s often not how Participants are used to learning and takes some getting used to.
  7. Treat what Participants have to say with respect.
  8. Encourage those who are not Participants to speak by asking them direct, fair and inclusive questions.
  9. Learn from each facilitation session by being evaluated by peers, learners and yourself.
  10. Sit across the circle from your co-facilitator and establish non-verbal cues to communicate with them while you’re co-facilitating (such as leaning forward if I would like to follow a response with a questions).
  11. Take discrete notes of the activity and in the debrief refer to them when asking direct questions.
  12. One structed format that works is Gestalt, which has a questioning format of “What, So What, and Now What”.
  13. Sometimes it’s best to “let the mountain speak for itself”.
  14. Be creative and humorous (at appropriate times).
  15. Keep notes on each Participant so you can have them reflect on things that they have already learnt or goals that they have already set.
  16. Take your time reflecting on the learning, make sure that you have a solid awareness amongst the group about what just happened so that they can effectively and efficiently transfer the learning.
  17. Ask the tough questions to really challenge your Participants.
  18. Probe, Probe, Probe for the deeper meaning within the answer.
  19. Read more literature on facilitating a debrief, understand and apply the theory.
  20. Challenge what your Participants have said in a developmentally appropriate manner that challenges them to develop their thoughts into meaningful understanding.
  21. Pick a key word that a Participant has used and when they have finished their response simply say the word in an inquisitive manner (Respect or Pressure?).
  22. Utilize solutions oriented debriefing techniques by asking Participants questions about the experiences successes, how Participants achieve them and how the success can be replicated both directly and indirectly.

Give some of these a try and please let us know how it works out for you.

Written by:

Ashleigh Davies



What Are The Safety Standards At Outward Bound South Africa?

At Outward Bound South Africa (OBSA) our primary focus is our Participants Safety while on one of our wilderness courses. We pride ourselves on our high International Safety  Standards and can easily say that Safety is our Number One priority! Why? Well it’s simple, OBSA is solely responsible for our Participant’s lives while on our expeditional  programs.

OBSA allows Participants’ to face challenges and to push themselves clear out of their personal comfort zones in the largest classroom in the world, the Outdoors. Obviously there are risks. There are risks all around us in life, but at OBSA, we  implement and follow through with our strict safety protocols and recovery procedures to make sure that our Participants have an extraordinary experience while in a very safe environment. It’s all thanks to the OBSA Instructors who ensure the safety of our Participants, as they always keep a watchful eye on them during the course. So let’s take a look at what makes our OBSA Instructors so important…

1.) Training and the more Training.

It all starts with the training. Our instructors are put through a challenging 3 month Training School that is not for the faint hearted (speaking from experience). The training is managed by our Training Manager where the Trainees need to get their LOC’s (Level Of Competence) for all the activities: Canoeing, Kayaking, Rock Climbing, Abseiling, Facilitation, Group Dynamic, High Ropes, and ETC. Once the Trainees have acquired their LOC’s, they become Level 1 Instructors.

During the training phase,  the Trainees have the responsibility to keep themselves fit, and still do after they become Instructors so that they can be ready for anything on course.

Most courses involve water based activities, so swimming is the most important  element during training. The Instructors are trained to swim distances of 200m under 6 Minutes while being fully clothed (to add extra drag) as well as and being trained in basic life saving skills with a kayak and without, to act immediately if there is an emergency.

2.) First Aid Qualifications.

First Aid is vital for our Instructors who must all have Level 3 First Aid. An Instructor will carry a First Aid Kit with them at all times when they are on an OBSA course, to ensure that they can respond quick enough in emergency situations should something go amiss. Each year around August we do Scenario Training to put our Instructors in certain scenarios that is treated as real life situations.

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3.) Equipment Safety.

Every month the OBSA Staff do Safety Checks around the OBSA Home Base to see if all our equipment and activities are safe and in working condition. If there are problems there are system and protocols in place for it to be resolved.


4.) Learn about each individual Participant.

The next thing that the Instructors will do at the start of each and every course is a Medical 1-on-1 with the Participants. This will ensure that each Participant is physical and mental eligible to go on a course. Should a Participant have a prior medical condition, this then allows the Instructor to become aware of the condition and will then know how to treat it should the Participant’s aliment arise. This screening is so that if something happens to a Participant, the Instructor can act accordingly. If they need to go to the hospital we can easily give the Doctors the necessary information.

So there you have it, a bit about the safety aspect of OBSA. Should you have any questions, please contact us on training@outwardbound.co.za or call us on (044) 343 2044.

This Blog was written by our Level 2 Instructor,

Jacob van Dyk.



The HAHN Philosophy

What, then, is the Hahn philosophy and what were the principles which were special to the Salem and Gordonstoun system?

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Hahn saw around him a diseased society suffering from what he called the modern declines. Decline in: fitness, due to modern transport; initiative, due to the widespread disease of spectatoritis; skill and care, due to the weakening tradition of craftsmanship; self-discipline, due to availability of stimulants; memory and imagination, due to the confused restlessness of modern life; and, above all, the decline in compassion, due to the unseemly haste with which modern life is conducted.

Then he asked: What happens to the “treasures of childhood” in adolescence – the zest for building; the craving for adventure; the joy of exploration; the love of music, painting or whiting; the vivid and creative imagination? These he called the non-poisonous passions and his system was designed to encourage these and thus forestall the decline. He made use of several devices which at the time were fairly revolutionary.

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To foster self-discipline; pupils were encouraged to follow a so-called training plan – a simple routine task such as a short run followed by a shower every morning. There was also a great deal of trust placed in them with a few checks, and the older ones were expected to look after the younger one. The training plan was not arduous although it gave Gordonstoun an unfair reputation of being tough and Spartan-like.

Today, Physical Education is a regular part of all education systems. There were the regular expeditions which encouraged the spirit of adventure and exploration, seamanship to encourage skill. But perhaps the best known feature of Gordonstoun was its rescue services: The Watchers, the Fire Service, the Mountain Rescue, the Surf Life-Savers and, later, The Community Service. It was perhaps the most salient feature of Hahn theory that youth could find itself in service to others; it gave a raison d’eter for the other qualities of fitness, skill, initiative, ect; and, above all, encourage the compassion which he maintained was the essential difference between his code and those of totalitarian state youth movements. But any service had to be real – playing at it was not enough – hence, the services had to be integrated into national organizations.

Hahn believed that the virtues of fitness, skill, initiative and self-discipline counted for little by themselves and may even be misused to colonize the minds of young people, as in the youth movements of the world’s regimes dedicated to various ideologies. Their true value is found in compassionate service to fellow humans.

To this day Outward Bound Trust of South Africa still believe and operates under Hahn’s philosophy. We believe in empowering the young people with skills that will help improve their Academic Performances, Leadership Abilities, Motivation, Initiative, Self Concept, Discipline and Self Control, Interpersonal Skills, Integrity, Character & Value, Tenacity & Perseverance, Assertiveness and Teamwork.

Our programs and courses push the students out of their comfort zones in order for them to learn about their weaknesses and use their strengths for the benefit of other fellow students and for themselves, also to face their fears and overcome them.

The mission of Outward Bound SA is to transform individuals and groups to achieve their best. We equip people with character, will, values and self-belief to live their lives to the full and to consistently make the right choices. We aim to transform communities through the influence of transformed individuals.

“Vision without action is dreaming. Action without vision is random activity. Vision and action together can change the world”

-Joel Barker

Written by:

Area Coordinator,




On every Outward Bound Exploration, there is always a systematic procedure that our experienced Instructors follow to maintain our safety standards. This is a great way of keeping a balance within the group and making sure that everyone is accountable for and aware of their surroundings. The following diagrams are great examples of where the Group Leader should be positioned within the Group and why.


                      STUDENT   ♦                                                                   INSTRUCTOR  ψ


POSITIONING STRATEGIES (in relation to physical positioning):




FAR SWEEP                      SWEEP                      MIDDLE                  LEAD                  FAR LEAD


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  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ψ

INTENTION: this position allows the staff member to micro navigate and to be in position if any hazards are encountered. Also allows the staff member to role model navigation and keeping the group together. This positioning is often used early on a course or during difficult terrain.





♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦                ψ

INTENTION: this position allows the staff member to move ahead of the group to macro navigate and/or recon the terrain and anticipate any hazards. This position also allows the students to take ownership of the micro navigation.





 ♦   ♦   ♦  ψ  ♦   ♦   ♦

INTENTION: this position allows the staff member to build relationships, assess, assist, and/or check-in with individual students, and to coach the student navigators. The staff member is close enough to the front to also intervene if hazards are encountered.





ψ  ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦

INTENTION: this position allows the staff member to observe the group and still build relationships, while giving the navigators and student group more autonomy. The staff member is no longer in position to anticipate hazards or to coach the student navigators.





 ψ                   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦


INTENTION: this position grants the students with more autonomy and is warranted when students demonstrate competency with regards to navigation, travel, hazard assessment, and social cohesion.





♦   ♦   ♦

♦   ♦   ♦


INTENTION: this position allows the staff member to observe the whole group and to be in position to react to risk management or educational needs. The group is enabled to spread out which can be useful when traveling through open, fragile, or aquatic environments.




These diagrams describe individual positions. When there are two or more staff present they can each position themselves to accommodate a multitude of needs, assessments, and intentions. With common names staff can efficiently and clearly communicate the plan for their positioning. (see below).




♦   ♦   ♦  ψ  ♦   ♦   ♦                 ψ


INTENTION: These two positions combined allows one staff member to move ahead of the group to macro navigate and/or recon the terrain and anticipate any hazards, while the other staff member can observe the group and build relationships This position also allows the students to take ownership of the micro navigation, but the staff member in the middle can easily intervene if hazards are encountered.

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Have you ever had to use these types of stratigues before?

If so, let us know all about it..


The History behind Outward Bound

Outward Bound is a non-profit, outdoor-education organization which aims to encourage personal growth as well as social skills of participants by using challenging expeditions and activities in the outdoors.

The mission statement of Outward Bound South Africa is to empower young South Africans with the character, will, values and self-belief to live their lives to the full and to consistently make the right choices.” Outward Bound South Africa does this through adventure-based learning interventions, providing safe, expeditionary learning experiences that open the eyes, mind and souls of our participants. In so doing Outward Bound South Africa aims to set thousands of young people free from lives of poverty, mediocrity and destruction, and to contribute to the prosperity, pride and success of our country. We use outdoor and adventure activities as a profound metaphor through which to promote individual growth and community transformation.

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Who had the brains to put this together?

Kurt Hahn and Lawrence Holt, with the support of the Blue Funnel Line, started the first Outward Bound School situated in Aberdovey in Wales in 1941. Outward Bound grew out of Hahn’s work in the development of the Gordonstoun School and what is now known as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Kurt Hahn felt that young people were not prepared for the hardships of life on a mental, emotional or physical level.  He saw their lack of enthusiasm, lack of care and skill, lack of adventurous spirit and lack of motivation.  He knew that qualities such as perseverance, compassion, initiative, fitness and life experience were lacking in the youth.  Outward Bound’s founding mission was to give young men the ability to survive harsh conditions at sea during the war by teaching confidence, perseverance, and tenacity of spirit and to build experience of adventure and to handle harsh conditions.

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Outward Bound South Africa Founded in the aftermath of Apartheid, as a result of the visionary efforts of Charles P Stetson, an American philanthropist from Connecticut. Outward Bound SA started in 1992. Today, Outward Bound SA’s central focus is to impact the lives of young people in South Africa who have been marginalized and disadvantaged by the political history and injustices of the past. It helps people develop life skills, compassion and a determined, positive attitude toward life and its many challenges.

 What’s In a Name…

The name Outward Bound comes from a nautical expression that refers to the moment a ship leaves the harbor. This is also signified by Outward Bound’s use of the nautical flag, called the Blue Peter.

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Our motto: “To Serve, To Strive and not To Yield,” was adapted by JF Fuller from “Ulysses“, a poem written by Alfred Lord Tennyson.


… Come, my friends.
Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though

We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are —
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Alfred Lord Tennysen

Our programs are challenging, but never overwhelming; they stretch but never break; they are memorable and life changing.


Sea Kayaking and Hiking Expedition

At Outward Bound we have a passion for going on Adventures unlike any other. We call these OBSA Expeditions. This is a short Blog on what one of those adventures would need and entail:

What is an Expedition: It is an organized journey that is made for a particular purpose such as exploration, mission etc.

What are the Purposes for our Expeditions:

  1. An Expedition can provide incentive for and a chance to measure individual growth and group achievement of skills, these are called oriented goals.
  2. An Expedition, more than many other types of Adventures, offers the Participant the opportunity to truly master the skills required and proceed with the activity with little or no input from an Instructor. A very empowering learning environment.
  3. It helps to identify weaknesses and strengths.

 The Equipment required for the Expedition:  

Tents and sleeping bag: The tents are used for on the ground sleeping. At Outward Bound South Africa we provide our students with two-man tents. The tent is light in weight and it is easy to carry. Outward Bound South Africa also provides students with the sleeping bag if they happen to come on course without one.             

Douglas: We use the spade to clear the cooking area so that the grass doesn’t catch a flame and it is also used for digging up the “long drop”.

Woozy mat: The woozy mat is used for the lightning drill and also for sleeping on. We tell our Students to sit on the woozy mat only when we know it is necessary to do a lightning drill.

Stoves: When Students go out for an expedition we also provide them with the ground stoves. We give them 4 stoves to use for cooking.

Food: We give our Students rations (food) when they go out for an expedition. They need to be able to share the food among themselves.

Torch: A torch is needed at night when students are hiking or during night camp crafting.

First Aid Kit: We, as Outward Bound South Africa Instructors are qualified with Level Three First Aid. We carry First Aid Kits at all times while in the great Outdoors. It is used for any emergency or if Students need medical attention.

Teaching Outline:

Ø  How to pack a back pack: The first thing that goes into the back pack is the back pack liner. It helps to keep your things dry in case it rains. The second thing that goes into back pack liner will be the sleeping bag because it is the last thing you will need, unless if it is really necessary to be used during the day. The third thing will be your clothes followed by group equipment. A rain coat should always be packed at the top or it should always be where it is easy to grab.

Ø  Food and Drinks: Most Participants are unfamiliar with the Outward Bound food and thus unaware of the possible ways of preparing it. The Instructor is their main source of information and inspiration. Before the course starts it is important as an Instructor to be familiar with the rations and the different ways of preparing them. The benefits will be healthier, more efficient and you will end up with a happy group.

Ø  Map and compass: Teaching Participants how to read a map is a very important tool. It offers metaphors to encourage people to choose the right directions in their lives. The top of the map always points North. Always teach Participants how to use a compass and how to orientate the map. The compass is the most useful when you don’t have distinctive geographical features to orientate yourself with. The magnetised needle in your compass will align itself with the earth’s magnetic field that runs approximately along its North –South axis, unless there’s something metallic or magnetic that interferes with it.

So, after reading all this, you are now ready to embark on Your very own Expedition! Send us pictures and let us know where you explored at Outward Bound SA and that you found! We can’t wait to hear all your stories…

Words by:


Training Coordinator at Outward Bound SA


Eat Right & Travel Light

When packing the food for your camping trip, planning is key.

Every gram counts when you are carrying all your camping equipment, clothes and meals on your back. Follow these 5 easy tips to make sure you are eating right while travelling light on your next outdoor adventure:

  1. Foods high in energy and nutrition are vital as you will be burning many calories out in the mountains. Make sure you are eating a balanced diet and include a starch, protein and a fruit or vegetables into every meal.
  2. Once you have collected your food items, lay them out clearly into the different meals. This will help you to get a clear picture of what you will be eating and help you to avoid taking too much or too little. Use a basic food group wheel to make sure you are including all the types of food that your body will need.
  3. Get rid of any unnecessary packaging, you don’t want to fill your bag up with air. Remember that whatever you take into the mountains, you must take out with you. You should be able to eat as much of what you carry as possible. This way your bag gets lighter as you eat and you don’t end up carrying too much rubbish around.
  4. Snacks are an absolute must to keep you going through long days on your backpacking trip. Be wise in your selection of snacks as this can be tricky. Avoid foods that are high in sugar; they tend to give you a burst of energy up front and then soon leave you exhausted and thirsty. Rather go for snacks high in protein or complex carbohydrates that will give you long lasting energy throughout the day.
  5. Finally never break the three health rules of backpacking: Hydration. Hydration. Hydration. You may aim to travel light but you should never skimp on your water supplies. When backpacking, your body uses much more water than usual and you should budget at least 2 litres of drinking water per person for every day you are out. Remember this is not including the water you will use to cook and clean. Dehydration is extremely dangerous and can sneak up on you if you are not extra careful. So a few extra ‘back up litres’ is highly recommended.