The Expedition Experience as a Vehicle for Change in the Inner City

Alastair Kennedy (1992) Adventure Education

This study gives a detailed account of the history, rationale and results of a 1988 youth expedition to the Sahara. Several aspects of the expedition are worth noting - the 'non-selection' policy, the degree to which the young people are involved in the planning and management of the expedition, and the effect on the expedition participants. The use of a range of philosophical and psychological theories to examine the expedition is an unusual and compelling feature of the study. The study features neither a control group nor a long-term follow-up of impact on the participants, and is authored by the instigator of the expedition series in question. The study gives a convincing insight into the processes which result in the expedition.


The high levels of unemployment which have strained the social fabric of the inner cities in the 1980's have weighed particularly heavily on young people. This has resulted in initiatives to bring adventurous activities to disadvantaged young people as a means of compensating for their disadvantage. Claims have long been made for the "character-building" qualities of adventurous activities and this study examines one aspect of such activities, namely long-term wilderness expeditions from a single school.

Shorefields Community School, as the community comprehensive school for the Toxteth area of Liverpool, has had to meet the problems resulting from multiple deprivation. An unusual aspect of its work has been its regular ten week expeditions to the Sahara for unselected groups of pupils and ex-pupils.

This study examines the effect which the expeditions have on the young members, on the school, and on developments outside the school. Evidence is presented that the expeditions have a major influence on the social and moral development of the members and suggestions are made as to qwhy the expedition is an effective vehicle for such development. A contrast is made between the difficulties of the home environment, and the constructive social environment of the expedition. The changed behaviour resulting from the new environment is shown to bring changed attitudes, and the steps in this moral education are noted. The challenging circumstances of the expedition are shown to bring psychological pressures to bear on the young member, and suggestions are made as to how Jungian psychology may account for the changes which become apparent.

The conclusion of the study is that an expedition is a valuable part of the education of inner city youngsters, providing an equality of opportunity which may otherwise be unattainable.