My name is David Buth, and my unfolding story starts with a kid who didn’t quite fit in but eventually seized the opportuntiy to create something meaningful and give it to the world. Mixing my discontent with school and my deep urge to learn, I created a place that merges people and possibility, that makes learning meaningful by giving it authentic, experiential context: Summer Journeys.
After earning a BS in Biology and teaching certification from Calvin College in 1998, I completed a leadership semester at the National Outdoor Leadership School. This became part of my “Wyoming trifecta” after I graduated from the Teton Science Schools Professional Residency in Environmental Education and earned my Masters Degree from the University of Wyoming.
After eight years in traditional classrooms, I decided to research innovative education programs nationwide and pursue my dream – scrawled in a field journal in the Laguna Mountains and desert coastline of Baja in 1999 – of bringing truly innovative, place-based education at the secondary level to the students of Grand Rapids. The Great Lakes region needs another school, one with a semester program for high school sophomores and juniors; a gap year program for early graduates, seniors, and recents graduates; a center for sustainability; university programs; teacher training. Grand Rapids students need another way to learn, an instructional model grounded in place with deep connections to communities, ecosystems, and economies.
Summer Journeys is born from our experience. We develop and administer experiential education programs for teenagers partly because the most profound experiences of we know have been direct contact with landscapes, communities, and cultures in expeditionary contexts in both our backyard and around the world…but mostly because it works. Research has shown such contextual, place-based learning to be the most effective, lasting, transforming, and valuable.
Summer Journeys students gain confidence and purpose; they connect with deeper, more enduring truths; they learn to respect people they disagree with; they become better caretakers of themselves, their relationships, and the environment; their knowledge, awe, and wonder increase; they lead, take action, and craft codes to live by; they experience amazing natural landscapes and learn how to preserve and celebrate and enjoy them safely. When they complete programs, they add value to their communities. These outcomes benefit every person in every community and every environment; they are not limited to any particular demographic.