Philosophy

Let yourself go

Education has been an anchor of the human experience for thousands of years. School, on the other hand, has been around for about a hundred.  Summer Journeys exists to educate – to bring forth – Grand Rapids area teenagers, not to school them. Docility, compliance, credentialing, competition, and narrowly-measured achievement are not our features; rather, our linchpin is the student’s innate desire to learn.

Our narrative tells of learning that is place-based, identity-based, and happens naturally.  Our narrative tells of students who engage voluntarily, immerse themselves in novel environments, and welcome encounters with new people, places, and ideas. It tells of students whose original ideas are appreciated and honored as they are developed authentically within a community of supportive, like-minded peers.

High school students will spend four weeks living simply, traveling far, developing ideas, researching phenomena, and practicing art. To help them develop their ideas, professional artists, scientists, and educators will supplement the students’ own study, reflection, and peer support. The outcomes of their experience include products to be published and shared with their families, friends, and communities.


  • ... you willl be given the big picture up front. Unlike education which unravels an often mysterious curriculum piecewise, Summer Journeys starts with the whole and then allows students to participate in the creation of knowledge that foliates the spare, yet broad, landscape.
  • ... you start at home, studying the elements of place in the Grand Rapids area. Then you travel to another place, filled with adventure and surprises, applying the underlying principles of place there and developing a fresh perspective on community by exploring systems, thinking critically, and living in intentional community.
  • ... you will embark on edventures to discover the elements of place. What systems are operating to make a place function: ecosystems? social systems? economies? What about parity, justice, equity, and inclusion? How does the natural world provide analogies to human systems? What principles underlie both types of systems, human and natural?
  • ... you will meet other students from diverse backgrounds whose situations, beliefs, and experiences may be different from yours. You will experience a diversity of thought and find opportunities to reinforce and develop the set of underlying principles and enduring truths as you responsibly craft an ethic to guide your life.
  • ... you will be active every day. Hiking in the mountains.  Skiing, climbing, running, paddling.  You will challenge yourself physically, but no experience is necessary. Only willingness to persevere and try something new under the guidance of experienced leaders who will teach you skills and keep you safe.
  • ... you will see places of extraordinary beauty, wildness, and adventure, as well as places whose beauty has been buried, whose wildness has been caged, and whose adventure forgotten. The former will help you understand there are profound things going on that are much larger than self, while the latter will inspire you to invest in areas of need and help restore them.
  • ... you will participate in your education, helping steer the experience toward things that matter to you, discussing issues from menu to schedule to curriculum with your coursemates and leaders in a democratic setting that gives you a voice.
  • ... everything you learn will be translated into action. For instance, you may study wolves academically by reading Halfpenny, Turner, US Government documents, or State management plans. But then participate in a mediation, mock public hearing, or actual public hearing. And then journey to Lamar Valley to view wolves with eminent wolf biologists. And then apply the principles of wolf behavior to human behavior - anthropologists say no other species offers as much hope for our future.