The Ultimate Boon – Experiential Education Day 3

I love teaching the Hero’s Journey, not because it is really cool to see how many stories fit into the archetype, but because it is fun to think about how it applies to our lives. We all get to go through the journey so many times, and if we look at each adventure we have from this perspective, we can grow so much as individuals. But the only way that we can do this is by looking for that ultimate boon every time we leave our houses to go on one of these adventures. This is the thing that makes the experience worth our time. It is what we can look at as a symbol of how we have grown. Sometimes it is something physical that we can hold on to, but most of the time, it is held within a memory of how we were before the experience, and how we have changed because of it.

This is why the experiential education trip I went on with my student became so meaningful. It was an adventure that they needed to go on. They could not avoid the call to adventure, and there were many trials along the way that pushed all of them to their limits. I can’t remember how many times the students came up to me and told me that they had reached the apotheosis. Keep in mind that they are teenagers, and they all believe that they have reached that they have reached the moment when they have died, ready for the moment when they could experience their rebirth. And they all wondered when they would get to cross the return threshold and go back to their bed. But none of them thought about what they brought back with them. This is the thing that will last the longest from the trip, and for each of them, it was something different from the trip that allowed them to connect with the reality of who they really are. This is really applying what they learned to the real world. It is that ultimate boon that will make them resilient to the problems of they face in the future, and overcome them.

So as the trip closed down and we finished up the final moments, I enjoyed the fact that I got to see so many of these young men and women grow as individuals. I could see them make those connections as well, but that was because we framed the trip under the context of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth. It forced them to look for meaning on the trip, and when you are looking for meaning you usually will find it. This is the type of education that transcends the traditional classroom, and should be implemented in more schools across the world.

So the next time you go out on your next trip, I challenge you to look for your ultimate boon. Like many heroes before you, what you find might not be what you are looking for, but it will definitely be what you need. It is what will make that adventure one of the most memorable ones you have ever been, and you will find a little piece of yourself that you never knew existed before. It will make your next trip, more than just a vacation. It will become an epic adventure.

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The Changing Weather – Experiential Education Day 2

One of my favorite memories from all the times I have been camping comes from when I was in my early twenties, and on a whim, a couple of friends and I decided to brave the outdoors. We quickly loaded up the car with what we thought was the appropriate gear, and headed up to the mountains of Colorado to find a place to pitch our tents. Unfortunately, our lack of planning and the fact that we did not look at the weather forecast closely left us in the middle of the woods without much of what we needed as we got rained on. But we were determined to make the camping trip a success and our motto for that experience turned into “Adapt and conquer”. We ended up using the strangest things from speaker wire to pulp fiction paperbacks to make it through the evening, and in the process had probably the best experience ever. It really proved to me that we are at our best when we are struggling. The same thing happened on the second day of my Experiential Education trip with my students.

The hurricane that hit Hawaii earlier in the week had traveled further in the Pacific and ended up hitting Japan, and even though it officially never hit the Korean peninsula, they were still experiencing a lot of rain that came from the storm. The first day of the trip, we did not see a lot of the rain, but the second day of the trip, we went through this cycle of nice dry weather, followed by rumbling thunder, followed by a torrential downpour. It meant that we had to constantly make adjustments with our plans in order to make the trip meaningful for the students that we brought with us.

There were many outdoor activities planned for the day. Students were to go through three different rotations where they would learn how to shoot traditional Korean bows and arrows, go through a series of challenges on a low ropes course, and battle each other through another series of challenges on boats made from recycled material. The kids were having a really good time at the rotations, and we were able to get through one and a half of them before the rains that we were promised started to arrive. We were able to wait out the storm and go to finish our final activity, but the rain pretty much washed out our afternoon activity, a hike up to the top of the mountain that overlooked the camp. It was time for that old saying of mine, “Adapt and conquer”.

Fortunately, I was no longer that foolish idiot that decided to go camping without bringing with me the supplies that I needed. I knew that there were rumors of terrible weather on the way, and I brought back-up plans to the back-up plans. I just needed to make sure that there were places where these activities could take place. I needed a group of people working with me that were flexible enough to make the sudden changes so the kids we brought with us could still have fun and get something out of the challenges. The trip would have been a failure if it wasn’t for those fellow teachers that were with me who took on the challenge that the weather presented. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with them.

Even though I would have liked for the trip to have gone as planned, and we could have enjoyed the challenges that Boramwon has at its facility, I was still happy how the second day went. I did go through pretty much all of my clothes that I brought with me because of the on again/off again that I got experience that day, and I was through with always being wet, but the crew I was with was still able to pull off one of the greatest trips that I have been to ever since I was asked to put these things together in the first place. It turned out to be not only a hero’s journey for the students, but for all of us as well, and we all came through the day stronger people.

Getting Out of the Classroom – Experiential Education Day 1

Being a teacher, what I am about to say my be considered blasphemous to others in the profession, and there is no way that I will be sharing this post with my administrator because I am pretty sure that she feels the opposite way. But the classroom is a toxic place to the education of modern students. Tests do not teach anything except how to fill in bubbles. And in order to prepare these students to solve the problems that will grow in their futures, we need to quit thinking about the way that we have thought about education and need to move it beyond the confines of the four classroom walls.

Even though I say these things often, there are not many people in the profession who agree with me, or if they do, they are not willing to make that change to a messy form of education that might be more conducive to create the skills that their students will need in the future. I would even admit that during the belly of the school year, I fall into the same trap of going back to what is easy and more familiar. In others words, I do not always practice what I preach.

The school I do work at right now does recognize that it is important to move beyond the classroom in one of the programs that it does promote, and I love the fact that I am a part of creatine one of the experiences for the students at that school. Every year, three weeks after the first day of school, we pack all of the sophomores in the school into a bus and ship them out to the center of South Korea to a camp called Boramwon. There we have created challenges for the students that get them to think outside of the box more, and learn those skills that they will need to take on the challenges they will face later on in their lives. We structure the experience around Joseph Campbell’s monomyth and it has grown into a greater experience every year that we have gone out to this. There are still some holes in the story, but the fact that the evolution of the trip continues to grow, and the students get experience the hero’s journey for themselves shows that they start to internalize the experience more than just get ready to fill in the right bubble when it come up for them on a test.

The trip is designed to take the students out of their comfort zone, and learn about the real world. They start to learn that they do not learn from only their teachers but from every person they encounter, and every moment that they live. It helps to shape them into who they are. We started our first day by visiting various retirement homes around the Boramwon area. There the students put on a performance for the residents, and then they taught them about an American game that many of them had never experienced before, Bingo. This was a great opportunity for both the students and the residents. Because of the language barriers, and the teaching of this game, the students were forced to interact with the residents. There is a lot that they can learn from these interactions. The people that they are working with become the mentors to them, and eventually teach the students what it means to be a mentor in the first place.

We also were able to take students out to show them a little bit about their Korean heritage. The school I teach in is an international school with a predominately American curriculum, and sometimes American values and culture is prioritized over the culture of Korea. Not all of the students that attend the school are Koreans, but there is a huge portion of them that are, and they do not learn much about their history or culture. I believe the opportunity for them to learn a little bit about where they come from is essential and this opportunity becomes their special weapon that they can take with them into the future.

The cultural experience that we took them to on the first day was a pottery museum near Boramwon. Here, they not only got to look at traditional Korean pottery, but they got the opportunity to create their own piece of pottery using clay from the region. They were really able to learn about where they are from while getting their hands dirty working on a creative project. Yes, some of these same activities are available within my school, but students do not always look for the creative classes thinking that the ones that lead to a test that proves their worth with bubbles is more important. Sometimes, the act of creating something from scratch can be more rewarding.

It was the perfect set-up to the bigger adventure that these students would go on, and I am happy that I was able to be a part of it once again. It shows me what education can be and how the future of this world depends on educators getting their students out of the classroom more often.

Seista Selfie – Around the World Day 46

I have finished the circle and made it all the way around the world. The last leg was a long one, but I am happy to be back home. I got in late last night, and Seoul is hot and sticky like it always is in August, but I was too tired from traveling to worry about it. I just found a soft space on my bed and went quickly to sleep. Thank you for everybody that followed me as I wrote about my travels during the summer. I won’t be posting as much in the future, but if you are interested in reading some more of my work, there is always Tag: A Cautionary Tale that is available right now at Amazon for either a hard copy or a ebook. If you want to get a copy there is a link down below.

Thanks again, and I will see you soon.

The Last Leg – Around the World Day 45

I haven’t gotten into all of the lines yet or shuffled my bags from one plane to the next. That is what today is for. I am going to complete my voyage around the world today, and the only thing left for me is the long flight home. I am not a fan of airports, or planes, or air travel in general. Airlines sit you in tight spots and shuttle you around like cattle all so you can eat bad food, and land feeling like you have spent the last twenty-four hours running a race that never ends even though all you ever have done is sit in a seat. I am aware of the fact that it is the quickest way to get from one point to another so I should not really complain about it. If it wasn’t for air travel I wouldn’t have been able to see all of the things that I was able to see this summer, and for that I am grateful, but there is a different feeling about getting on that last plane then there was about getting on that first plane.

The trip is now coming to an end, and the adventures are all in the book as opposed to just beginning and the mystery of the trip still ahead of me. I will have to get back to doing work on a regular basis again as opposed to relaxing during the day and looking for some fun way for engagement some time throughout the day. It is the knowledge of this that makes that last flight a bitter pill to swallow.

But there are all the memories I created on the way to keep me company, and the fact that I got to visit people I love along the way. It was great to spend time in the United States again, and to see a part of the world that I had never experienced. I am also getting tired of living out of a suitcase all of the time, and there is a different feeling of being in your own home, living life according to your rules instead of trying not to step on the feelings of those who have been kind enough to share their homes with you during the time you were in their part of the world. In those cases, I am happy to be taking that last flight. It will also feel nice to be doing something that is more important than supporting the local economy by being a tourist, and in that case, I am ready to get back to work.

So, I guess it is time to say goodbye. Thank you for all of the people that shared their homes and their lives with us while in America, and thank you for all of the people that made our experience in Europe such a memorable one, but it is time to take that final step onto my final leg back home.

Thanks.

At Target – Around the World Day 44

As I start to collect all of the little things I have collected on my travels around the world, and prepare to take that final leg back to where I started, I have a little addiction problem that I would like to address. I do not get to spend much of my time in the United States any more, but when I am out here, I like to spend a some of my time at Target. I might even say that it is my favorite place to go shopping. There are many times when I am sitting in my place in Seoul and talk about how much I miss Target. I do not know why I have such a love for this store. It is only a department store after all, but I get all excited when my plane lands back in the states because that means that very soon I will get to visit one of its many locations. In fact, considering I have spent just over three weeks in the States, I have visited five different locations. It is like I see that big red dot on the horizon and I think that I need to stop there and get all of the little things that I cannot get anywhere else.

To my defense, I do go to Target a few times because there are certain things that I like to bring back with me to South Korea that for the life of me I cannot find there. The brands of toothpaste that they have are not as good as the ones I enjoy out in the United States, and it is really hard to get cold medicine. Movie candy absolutely does not exist and I will have to admit that another addiction of mine is to Mike and Ikes. Clothes fit weird for me if I buy them in Asia because of different body types out there, so I do always look for new clothes while I am out in the United States. I get to browse through a whole new set of media that is not in display in the city where I live, and there are thousands of other odds and ends that I can only find there. It is for this reason that I go to Target.

But do I really need to go five times in the short amount of time that I am out in the States? No, I do not, but I do feel a little at home in one of these stores. I know I go in for one little thing and leave with a basket full of crap, but I can’t help myself. Out of the corner of my eye I spot something that I forgot I needed I have to grab it before I forget. And even though I hadn’t been in the one in the town I used to live in before I moved across the sea, I still know where everything is in that store. How could I not feel at home?

I know that I sound pathetic, and as I pack my bags, I start to look at the collection of Target bags I have collected and wonder how I will get all of that stuff back to Korea with me. There is only one answer to that question, and only one solution. I need a new bag so I can check all of this stuff, and there is only one place that I trust to get a great bag that I can use over and over again. Thank God for Target.

Santiam Pass – Around the World Day 43

Yesterday was the last voyage west before the last big one back home to complete the whole circle around the world. It was a short voyage this time that did not involve a plane or a train. Instead I took a drive over the Santiam Pass from Central Oregon to make it over to the Portland area of Oregon. This drive is a beautiful drive most of the way, but there are a couple of places where you can see the skeleton of what was once a great forest but due to recent fires, it is now just a bunch of burned out trees. There are times where this look a little depressing, as if we have lost something great by having the forest fire. It is a little depressing at first but when I found out more about forest fires, they are not always the terrible thing that we think about them.

Forest fires, if they happen naturally, are an important part of the revitalization process. Pine cones need the heat of a fire in order to open in order to plant its seed and create a new tree. The old burned down trees add the much needed nutrients to the soil to let those trees grow. So even though it may look like a devastated landscape right after a fire, if you keep coming back to visit the same places where the fire took place, you will see that they are slowly starting to come back and turn into the amazing forest that you once remembered them as. There are a few places along the Santiam Pass that you can see this progress. There have been many times that I have gone over the pass and I can now start to see a significant change in what left behind. It makes me feel good that something can come out of so much destruction.

But in order for these fires to work this way, we need to let the forests alone and let them go through the process naturally. This means that we should not be cleaning up the ground cover and letting it alone so so can let this rejuvenation process happen. But this can be very dangerous for communities that are near big forests that could go up at any time with one ill placed lightning strike. It leaves an interesting debate. How far should we go to keep people safe, and what does that mean for the forests that we love so much that we moved near them in the first place? This is the debate that is going on in-between the fire fighters whose job it is to protect those homes, and the environmental programs whose major concern it is to protect the forests for future generations. There should be some middle ground that can be reached that would satisfy both parties, because they are both important for future generations. It is interesting to think about, and know that during this crazy time of year where you turn on the news and see another forest fire destroying another community, that people are working hard to come up with a reasonable solution to both problems. But it is up to us to make sure that these fires are not started by us. We need to think about what we are doing while we are out in the wilderness, so we do not leave any destruction behind. That is the important thing that we can do for the future of the beauty of the outdoors.