Story of FOP
The mission of FOP is to provide group adventure-based experiences that promote the development of social support and self-awareness for first-year students, and leadership development for members of the Harvard community.
The Harvard First-Year Outdoor Program (FOP) is an outdoor orientation program for incoming first-year students. Every August, FOP runs about 50 trips in which 10-12 first-years spend five days with two to three upperclass student leaders. Each trip has a unique itinerary — some are backpacking trips traversing long routes in the mountains of New Hampshire, some are based out of cabins and farms across the Northeast, and others canoe across the lakes of Maine.
How does FOP achieve the outcomes in the mission statement? It is not enough to "throw everyone in a trip and stir." Since the first trips in 1979, FOP has built a base of institutional knowledge about what makes an effective trip.Two elements stand out as important: maintaining a space separate from other parts of life and providing structured activities that allow participants to share and be vulnerable.
The FOP Space
A headspace where each person is approached with a level of care and wholeness.
- FOP leader
Creating space for FOP trips allows them to be immersive experiences that encourage participants to participate in games, to smile in the rain instead of frown, to share about themselves and learn about others, to feel a part of a small community that is the world for five days. FOP trips are so impactful and memorable in part because they are separate from what normal life looks like.
Though many memories are of spontaneous moments, FOP trips rely on intentionally structured group activities to create strong communities and provide space for personal growth. FOP leaders carefully plan trips and create a trip curriculum to achieve what they want out of each trip. Often, the moments where participants feel empowered to be the most vulnerable are in structured group processing activities. Moments like these provide much of the raw material out of which group bonding and self-reflection arises.
Please also look at Rick Li's page and Beth Larcom's page for other projects about FOP!