The Odyssey. It is an SEGL rite-of-passage: part personal discovery, part hard work, and all opportunity. Week one (which we undertook the week before Spring Break) is a personal solo expedition that is best not explained in detail here. Suffice it to say that it involves a personal inventory, three individualized locations, deep questions, and extensive journaling; afterwards, the students were full of insight at our traditional (and secular) Quaker-style meeting. This experience, created specifically for each student by our faculty, is the springboard to the second part of the Odyssey.
Week two is a bit less enigmatic: given her or his experience this semester (including the first week of The Odyssey), each student designs her or his own case study: discovering and corresponding with experts, setting up appointments, creating an itinerary, creating and asking questions, and taking notes.
Why do The Odyssey? In the spring of 2010, our faculty read a piece by the noted Yale University professor John Lewis Gaddis. The piece describes a famous “Grand Strategy” course offered at Yale, which includes an opening “school of the classics” (in which students are exposed to classic ideas and theories in order to build their knowledge base), a closing “school of responsibility” (in which students are pushed in an elaborate crisis simulation), and a central, Odyssey-like “school of surprise.” (We have a number of graduates who may soon take the class at Yale!)
Having already arrived at roughly the same opening and closing ideas, we were inspired to create a practical, solo experience that would force students to use their SEGL knowledge toolkits in order to prep them for real responsibility in the future. In short, there is more to learning than reading what a teacher puts in front of you and prepping for an exam. And there is more to leadership than having a bake sale or clicking “Like” on a Facebook page.
Here’s to a meaningful second half of the Odyssey!
You can download the speech that inspired the Odyssey here.
P.S. You may be wondering about the picture at the top of this blog post. Our Director, Noah Bopp, plays in a recreational basketball league, and a few weeks ago our students surprised him at a game. 90 minutes, many boisterous cheers, and a few hand-lettered signs (several jokingly compared Noah to Vladimir Putin: “WHAT WOULD PUTIN DO?” etc.) later, Noah’s team–the Crisco All-Stars–emerged victorious. Playoffs begin next week.