19 Dec 8 Life Skills Teens Learn Through Project World School Retreats
There can be no greater classroom than the world itself, and in addition to the information and learning one can gain through it, it also teaches us about ourselves. Through experiential, social and cross-cultural learning, the PWS teen retreats seek to focus on this internal growth and development alongside more traditional subjects such as history or science.
Through travel and social integration we can learn how to better manage our own internal biases and processes, how to challenge ourselves to grow, how to reconcile and embrace cultural differences and how to avoid emotional, social and physical burnout. In the real world, it is likely that young adults will find these skills to be more useful than knowing historical dates or having mastery over calculus.
These are 8 of the most powerful things we’ve seen teen participants takeaway from their experiences with PWS over the years.
How to Reflect and Process
One of the most important vehicles for growth is introspection and reflection. With this in mind, PWS teen retreats hold circles focused on processing and discussing experiences every night of the trip. Our circles are more than just a nightly gathering; they’re conversation starters that keep people sharing and talking about their experiences even well after the trip ends.
Reflection is often something that is done subconsciously, but by making it an active and intentional act we can encourage young adults to process their experiences in a more mindful and efficient way. Within a world of ever increasing stimuli, this skill will become a crucial one for the future.
Leadership and Confidence
PWS aims to explore the many different facets of leadership with its teen participants, including building confidence and taking on responsibilities. We do this in two main, identifiable ways. Firstly, we ask every participant to come to come prepared to lead a session for the group. The content of the session is unimportant, but what matters is that the participant rises to the occasion and takes on a leadership role.
Secondly, we ask for volunteers for every single day of the trip. Volunteers are expected to serve and support the community, and just through the simple act of taking on this responsibility, teen participants take ownership over their role in the group and often step into leadership positions with ease.
Patience and Compassion
When interacting within a group, these two themes come up frequently and are ultimately vital to the wellbeing of any community. Teen participants are invited to be mindful of the needs of others in the community, and together we aim to create an ethos of patience and support throughout the trip.
Things come up when traveling and aren’t always easy to deal with. Through maintaining this air of compassion, we can help each other get through difficulties and safely be vulnerable with one another, a skill that is helpful in any future relationship.
How to Challenge One’s Self
Challenging ourselves is an integral part of growth, but it’s also important to learn how to identify our limits in order to challenge one’s self in a safe and responsible way. PWS seeks to provide a safe, supportive environment where teens can challenge themselves and take risks with the unwavering support of the group.
We also have many conversations in which we discuss the differences between limits and fears, and discomforts and incapabilities. We welcome all of our participants to step out of their comfort zones and ultimately, to grow.
Self-Care and Advocacy
It is impossible to serve a community if you are not whole yourself. This is why teens on the PWS retreats are encouraged to advocate for their own wellbeing and speak up for their own personal needs while also considering the needs of others. Through this, every participant strikes up a fine balance between the needs of the individual, and the needs of the community.
Through this process, we can practice speaking up for ourselves and for others, avoiding burnout and managing our time and energy more efficiently. This kind of awareness will benefit anyone within any kind of group setting, whether it’s personal or professional.
Through exposure to new ideas, concepts and cultural practices, teen participants are given the opportunity to learn about beliefs that differ from their own and to confront any internal biases they might hold. By looking at the world from another perspective, we are able to achieve a higher level of respect and understanding, and this is something that we seek to do through travel.
Experiences like the ones we share on these retreats are impactful and capable of shifting the way we look at the world and the people in it, and this is just one way that we can make Earth a more peaceful planet.
During the trips, all participants (including the facilitators) are treated as equals. This means that everybody is held accountable for their actions or mistakes regardless of difference in age or role in the community. For many teens, our retreats are the first time they experience an objective form of accountability where everybody expects the best from others in the group and hold each other to similar standards.
When given total trust and confidence within this setting, teens rise to the occasion and make great decisions, because that is what they expect from others and, by extension, from themselves.
Compromise and Problem Solving
When living with people in close-quarters for extended periods of time, conflicts are bound to arise. This is natural, and something that can even be seen as an opportunity for growth. During the Project World School teen retreats, all decisions are made on a consensus basis; every single member of the group must agree to a decision before it is made. This might sound impossible, and sometimes it is, but you’d be surprised how often a group of committed, young adults can resolve complicated problems within the community.
Sometimes this means compromising and putting the needs of the group before your own, other times it means advocating for your needs and being strong. Sometimes, it involves creating a new decision entirely that works for everyone. All of these processes are valuable, and help teach us about ourselves through the way we interact with others.
One of our main goals as a worldschooling organization is to make the world a better place, and what better way than to help young adults flourish into grounded, aware individuals?