The hike was so fulfilling and I felt a lot during different times of the hike. I felt joy, pain, satisfaction, helplessness, and a whole range of emotions. -Class of 2021 Student Vansh C.
Our Chile term centered around The THINK Global Leadership Expedition, a twelve-day backpacking expedition in the sparse and ruggedly beautiful region of Patagonia. The expedition was designed to enhance our students’ leadership and teamwork skills in an environment where decisions have real consequences.
The term began with a week in the small city of Coyhaique, a gateway to some of Patagonia’s most remote regions. Coyhaique was an opportunity for students to reacquaint, gather their bearings, and prepare for the upcoming expedition.
Learning sessions here focused on reflecting on our students’ current skill sets while introducing new strategies they might try and set personal goals around during the upcoming expedition. Educators put together compelling activities that challenged students to demonstrate their abilities in communication, conflict resolution, environmental stewardship, first aid, self care, and social responsibility.
Many of the activities were physical in nature, but also required our students to think critically and creatively — cognitive processes that would prove invaluable in the upcoming twelve-day journey.
After wrapping up in Cohyaique, our students and staff loaded up their outdoor equipment and set off to explore Patagonia.
To ensure that benchmarks were in place to measure growth and application of our core values during the expedition, students broke up into three groups, the Alpackers, Smiles, and Ina and the Well-Trimmed Toenails, and worked within these groups to complete a full-value contract. The three groups were set up in Australia, with students keeping in touch over the break and during the online portion of the term by sharing their weekly hiking preparation goals and progress.
Through the full-value contract, students shared their collective goals for a successful hike. For instance, the Alpackers set the following goals for their expedition:
* Living in the moment to truly experience Patagonia
* Be open with their challenges
* Come out of the experience feeling positive, supported, and knowing one another better
* Be better at camp cooking
During the expedition itself, participants placed a strong focus on being adaptable and demonstrating interpersonal skills. They did so by alternating between the role of team leader and team member on a daily basis. When it was a student’s turn to serve as the team leader, they were responsible for delegating tasks and decisions during the three to ten miles to be hiked that day.
The team leader was responsible for:
* Preparing and organizing
* Setting expectations
* Maintaining connectivity within the group
* Leveraging the group’s individual and collective strengths
* Taking stands on issues
* Working to stay calm and focused
* Helping other when they need it
When not assuming the team leader role, students demonstrated a different type of leadership by participating in the group process, modeling good expedition behavior, giving input, and respecting the group’s plan. Given that students were in the wild for an intensive twelve days, it was essential that each team work cohesively and communicate effectively. We knew that the leadership skills our students learned through the trek are lifelong, in demand, and universally applicable — chief among the reasons we chose to embark on such an ambitious and arduous journey (the stunning settings certainly played a part, as well).
Practical Outdoor Skills
From a physical standpoint, students learned a wide range of backpacking and hiking techniques as they trekked across Patagonia’s desert steppes, alpine ecosystems, and ocean fjords. Experientially learning to read maps, cross rivers, set up camps, and backpack added another practical element to our leadership curriculum.
During the course, students lived with two or three other students in a “cook group.” These small groups helped disperse THINK Global School’s impact on the land and enabled students to develop the art of backcountry cooking and living.
By all accounts, our expedition in Chile was overwhelmingly well received by our students, providing a particularly memorable highlight in a high school career filled with them. Below you can find a written reflection by Class of 2020 student Paula M., who was a member of the Smile group.
Some lessons I took from Patagonia
by Class of 2020 Student Paula M.
Gigi and Paula
Sometimes we get so caught up in the moment and rushed present that we forget to take a step back, take a deep breath. Part of that rush for me is forgetting the value of words, spoken or written. This, of course, is something we all already know but sometimes need a reminder off. I have gotten the chance to reflect more in the last 12 days, many things I’ll eventually forget, but these are some that I must not forget and would like to share:
1) Life is like a mountain crossover. The fear, panic and falls on the way up are what make the view worth viewing. It is always worth going those extra steps to explore the higher hill even if we are filled with fear.
2) There is always enough time to stop and look around. Appreciate the exact moment you are in. Allow yourself a 5-minute grounding activity. Love and wonder as much about the little things as the big things. Value a bumblebee and a mountain just as much as the other — neither is better than the other.
3) There is a “right feeling” or a “gut feeling” and instincts to trust. There is a strange feeling —something hard to explain— but a feeling full of gratefulness. Not because something is over or will be does it mean it’s bad. Embrace being sad or angry, it means it has been worth it.
4) Embrace the challenge. If you don’t embrace the rain or mud on the road and try to avoid it, it’ll catch you later and it’ll be worse.
5) Focus on the next rock you gotta step on — not the full mountain you still need to climb. Be present and take every step as a win.
6) Laugh as often and as loud as possible. Nothing lasts forever, and everything will pass.
7) The environment you are in and those who you surround yourself with have an impact on how you feel. Balance it.
8) Fall in love with life and live it passionately, feel deeply. Emotions connect to memories and memories are the only thing that is truly ours.
Like many schools around the world, THINK Global School has pivoted from in-person learning to remote learning for the foreseeable future.
Flexibility and blended learning have been at our core since we launched, however, and we were able to seamlessly pivot to a remote project-based module, Creativity in Crisis, which our CM1 students will participate in over the next six weeks.
For the module, students will seek to answer the driving question, “How might I grow my creativity during the COVID-19 crisis through exploring the science of creativity and innovation, and trying an art form I’m unfamiliar with? “
We look forward to sharing their creative outcomes in the future, and we hope everyone stays safe in the meantime!