The Thriving Classroom


At Outward Bound, we understand the challenges educators are facing today.

Navigating curriculums, managing student engagement, and investing time to develop new facilitation skills for your classroom. Your time is valuable, and you care about your students' social and academic growth. That’s why the team at the Outward Bound Professional Learning Lab designed The Thriving Classroom.

The Thriving Classroom is a professional development series built specifically for educators. Connect with your colleagues in a supportive learning environment and discover new skills for engaging your students in learning. Walk away with the ability to translate these skills into tangible plans that support your classrooms’ social and emotional needs.

Curriculum Overview
  • Current offerings include 10 sessions that can be delivered in groups of 6, 3, or 2 progressive sessions.
  • Delivered virtually through live, interactive sessions via Zoom.
  • Sessions run 2.5 to 3 hours and are best fit for educators serving middle and high school groups.
Curriculum Flow
  • Invitation Participants are invited into the topic through discussion, an exercise, or a mutimedia activity.
  • Exploration Participants explore previous knowledge and test their understating of the topic.
  • Concept Invention Participants are introduced to new ideas or perspectives via lecture, discussion, readings, and more.
  • Application Participants apply session content to a situation they routinely encounter in the classroom.
  • Reflection Participants look back on their learning journey and make a plan for moving ahead.

Sessions We Offer

Current offerings include 10 sessions that can be delivered in groups of 6, 3, or 2 progressive sessions. See upcoming programs below, or contact us about collaborating with your team to design something that fits your needs.

Introducing the Thriving Classroom: Launching Your Journey

This session introduces participants to foundational content for their journey through several sessions.

Facilitating Belonging: Exploring the Power of Connection

This session explores what it means to belong and provides techniques and activities for creating safe space and facilitating connections within a group. Participants will experience the concepts firsthand as they participate in an intentional progression of Outward Bound activities that promote belonging.

Understanding Belonging: Relationships that Promote Social, Emotional, and Academic Growth

This follow-up to Facilitating Belonging: Exploring the Power of Connection prompts participants to look more deeply at how they can help their students develop a sense of belonging.  Drawing from participant’s personal experiences, research, and Outward Bound methodology, this session prepares educators to take a comprehensive approach to belonging in their classrooms.


The Science of Structure: Designing a Supportive Environment

When Outward Bound takes students into a new environment, whether it’s a ropes course or a remote forest, we utilize structure to help students feel safe and open to learning. With brain science as a guide, participants will discover how Outward Bound’s approach to structure can help them create supportive learning environments in their classrooms.


Implementing Structure: Practices for Success

This session moves from theory to practice, giving participants the opportunity to examine their beliefs about structure and tangible practices to use in their classrooms.  Participants will leave with a plan for creating an optimal learning environment by using structure to help students feel safe and connected.


The Social-Emotional Toolkit: Games and Activities for a Thriving Classroom

This session prepares teachers to promote student engagement and teach social-emotional development skills using games and activities.  Expert Outward Bound facilitators will model activities participants can use in their educational environments and share tips and techniques for designing and facilitating effective learning experiences. 


All Learning Is Social and Emotional: Practices for the Classroom

At Outward Bound, social-emotional skills are taught explicitly, and they are also woven into the fabric of the program.  As students go about daily tasks, travel, play, and explore, our instructors implement practices that support their social and emotional growth.  This session defines eight key practices and gives educators a path to supporting social-emotional skill development in their own classroom. 


Questioning Strategies for Engagement and Learning

It’s been said that instructing Outward Bound is the art of asking questions. Questions are what make an experience, brief or long, into more than merely a happening. Not all questions are created equal. This session helps to identify reasons for inquiry, patterns in questioning, and methods for devising questions.  Participants will develop questions that engage, challenge and lead to deeper learning and awareness.


Promoting Discussion for a Thriving Classroom

Good learning is sticky! Sticky is not about answers, and it is neither fast nor efficient. It is about productive struggle and meaning making, most often connecting in conversation with other people. Promoting Discussion helps us to create a culture of back and forth dialogue. It provides methods for facilitation and practice to help with both planned and improvised discussion. Discussion promotes and can even become its own social-emotional skill.  


What’s Next? Engaging the Whole Learner in Your Classroom

In this final session, participants reflect on the variety of approaches to social-emotional development they have explored in The Thriving Classroom and make tangible plans for implementing practices to engage and support the learners in their classrooms and support students’ social and emotional needs in their classrooms.  


Upcoming Programs - Winter / Spring 2023

All sessions take place from 4:30-7:00 p.m.
Cost: FREE for Maine educators
(Space is limited!)

Participants will receive a Certificate for Contact Hours for the individual module hours listed below, or a total of 21 hours upon completion of all three. Sign up for one track or combine them for greater impact!

Colleagues who team teach or share student cohorts are encouraged to participate together.

Thanks to the generosity of our philanthropic supporters, Hurricane Island Outward Bound School is pleased to offer the following professional development opportunities FREE OF CHARGE for Maine educators.

The Thriving Classroom is supported by: Davis Family Foundation, Sandra Stone, Marr-Anderson Foundation, and an Individual Trustee Designated Grant of the W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone Foundation.


This 3-part series guides participants through the foundations of social-emotional learning (SEL). The series begins with why SEL is important and builds towards using in-class tools such as games to grow SEL skills and incorporate SEL-building practices into classroom routines. (9 contact hours)


Introducing the Thriving Classroom:
Launching Your Journey


The Social-Emotional Toolkit:
Games and activities for a thriving classroom of connection


All Learning is Social and Emotional: 
Practices for the classroom

Register Now


Belonging is foundational to a safe and effective learning environment. This 2-part series explores the theory and practice of how educators can be intentional about incorporating strategies to build belonging into their classrooms all year. (6 contact hours)


Facilitating Belonging:
Exploring the power of connection


Understanding Belonging:
Relationships that promote social, emotional, and academic growth

Register Now


This 2-part series takes our most common classroom strategies—questioning and discussing—and propels them to the next level! Are conversations falling flat? Are you asking leading questions? This mini-series will freshen up your toolkit to increase learning and engagement for you and your students. (6 contact hours)

*Note: Previous participation in the “Boosting SEL in your Classroom” module above is required.


Questioning Strategies for Engagement and Learning


Promoting Discussion for a Thriving Classroom

Register Now

Interested in Learning More?

To express interest in The Thriving Classroom, register for one of our upcoming sessions or contact Andrew Spofford, director of educational partnerships, to learn how we can customize a program to meet your needs.

The Outward Bound Professional Learning Lab (“The Learning Lab”) is a collaborative effort of the Outward Bound USA system and is directed by Outward Bound USA. The purpose of The Learning Lab is to continuously improve the student experience by evaluating program delivery and student outcomes and enhancing professional learning opportunities.

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