Blog Post

We are Crew, Not Passengers

By Poppy Potter, Director of Operations from Voyageur Outward Bound

Voyageur Outward Bound develops teamwork both formally and informally - hear more in this blog by Poppy Potter.

No one is done until everyone is done.” Joey Estrada, a student member of Voyager Outward Bound’s recent cohort, said that he and his crew developed this mantra on their Superior Hiking Trail Backpacking expedition.

Their mantra was tested on one of the last nights of the long hike, when their spring course through Minnesota turned cold, wet and muddy. They got into camp late, knowing they had to establish camp, cook, get a fire going and do their evening assessment. While this may not sound that challenging, consider they had to scavenge to find the wood that was dry, discover tent locations that weren’t muddy, keep themselves warm in dipping temperatures, and get dinner going so the team had a warm meal. All of this after a long day of arduous hiking.

If anyone was unable to complete their task, or just needed a little help, their fellow Outward Bound-ers stepped in to make sure everything got done.

It’s in these moments that our Outward Bound students discover the meaning of the expression, “crew not passengers.” It is in these moments that individuals build friendship and trust with everyone, and everyone’s role is valued. At these moments, our students understand our founder’s philosophy that “you are needed.” Our students don’t compete with each other, they compete with themselves to do their personal best so that their “crew” or team does its best.

Building the team is a critical element of an Outward Bound course. So how do we do it? We are asking our students to take both physical and emotional risks, so establishing a positive group culture is critical. Outward Bound structures teamwork into our courses by establishing a leadership rotation each day. These leadership roles are specific things that help the group function: navigator, cooks, camp set-up, journalist, or leader for the day. These roles build an identity for each person each day, and allow each student to build skills as they rotate through the responsibilities. They learn to look to each other for information, decisions and support as they experience the leadership each new role requires.

This is one formal structure for teamwork on our courses. The “crew” develops informally too—for example, by sharing a tent, canoeing in a boat with a partner and having to figure out how to paddle together, unified toward the same goal, or sharing feedback each night about their “rose” or “thorn” from the day. Imagine the team building that occurs as one student belays—or manages the safety ropes—for another on a rock climb.
All of these moments—whether intentional or informal in structure—present opportunities for the students to build camaraderie, experience vulnerability,

poppy potter sitting on a rock with mountains in the background

Poppy is an educator at heart and passionate about helping people discover things that help them move confidently through the world. Poppy leads and manages all programs and operations to deliver Voyageur Outward Bound programs in the Twin Cities area.

encourage each other and collaborate to reach a shared goal together. They build both the team and the individual—fostering trust and cohesion, encouraging collaboration and challenging the team to achieve together.

During this time, the staff balance their roles from teacher to facilitator, modeling and coaching along the way. This team-building happens in a progression, defined by the way the group is coming together; staff use their judgement to help their students develop skills as they build a strong team that lives the mantra that Joey’s team established: “no one is done until everyone is done.”

LEARN MORE:

As a companion to the Preparing Youth to Thrive guide, we are hosting Learning in Action, a series of informal video chats among youth and program staff to delve deeply into each area of SEL learning. Learn more about the video chats and how to participate in upcoming chats here.

Poppy and Joey, a VOB student, participated in the first video chat on April 20: Teamwork Video Chat.

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