Adventure Semester is a 10-week bootcamp for teenagers who want to build a life of freedom, adventure, and meaningful work.
Check out AdventureSemester.com to see everything that the Adventure Semester 2015 did!
Welcome to Unschool Adventures’ newest, longest, and most ambitious program: Adventure Semester. Think of it as an intensive leadership training with all the fun, adventure, and community of our international trips and writing retreats.
If you’re ready to tackle 30+ fun and challenging mini-adventures, build real-world skills, live in close-knit community, and become more self-directed and self-motivated—this is the life-changing program you’ve been waiting for.
When: September 13 – November 21, 2015 (10 weeks)
Who: 22 participants (ages 15-18, flexible)
A minimum of 18 participants is required to run this program
Program Leaders: Blake Boles, Dev Carey, Joel Malkoff, Ari Kosel, Addison Pond, and Tabi Musselwhite with assistance by Marian Pierce and Eric Viele
View leader profiles
How Much: $4,750 includes all lodging, meals, activities, and ground transportation.
Returning Unschool Adventures participants receive a 10% discount.
How can I fundraise for this program?
Arrival/Departure Location: Denver International Airport
Priority Application Date: March 15th, 2015
Application Status: Full!
Applications first opened on January 16th, 2015.
Build a Life of Freedom, Adventure, and Meaningful Work
At Unschool Adventures, we believe in the power of self-directed learning to transform lives.
But how do you become a powerful self-directed learner?
Specifically, how do you:
- Motivate yourself reliably?
- Take effective action?
- Set goals in a way that leads to both commitment and freedom?
- Find meaningful work?
- Communicate clearly with other people?
- Know and be true to yourself?
- Build a life that’s ultimately your own?
We created Adventure Semester because we believe that the skills, habits, and attitudes of powerful self-directed learning can be gained through focused practice.
Adventure Semester is for teenagers who already have a foundation in these skills, habits, and attitudes—and who are passionate about taking them to the next level. It’s also for those who want to gain this kind of practice through fun and meaningful real-world adventures with other teenagers.
We call Adventure Semester a “bootcamp” because it’s designed to challenge and push you in an intensive, fast-paced way. But it’s not a military-style program in which we’ll shame you or make you do things against your will. Rather, think of Adventure Semester as a bootcamp for young adults who love their freedom and want to take full advantage of it.
Listen to Adventure Semester directors Blake and Dev explain what it’s all about:
Adventure Semester is a 10-week residential program for a group of 22 teenagers that takes place in three locations:
Part One: 5 weeks in Paonia, Colorado, at the off-grid High Desert Center on a wild mesa above a mecca of small organic farms.
Part Two: 4 weeks in Crested Butte, Colorado, a high mountain ski town, at a youth hostel inhabited exclusively by our group.
Part Three: 6 days in Denver, Colorado, at a big-city hostel.
The group stays together for the entire 10 weeks, migrating from one location to the next via charter bus.
During the Adventure Semester, each day brings a new adventure to be tackled by a group of 4-5 participants. (We do this by splitting the entire program into 4 or 5 groups.) Most adventures are 1-day long, while a few are 2- or 3-days long. There will be a few solo adventures as well, to create a healthy balance of alone and small group time.
The adventures are designed to be challenging, fun, diverse, and meaningful, with lessons that are transferable to all of life. Some will challenge your communication skills and have you reaching out to strangers or potential mentors and trying on new roles. Others will build your entrepreneurial skills, ask you to craft letters of introduction to accomplished people or publish a quality video online. Yet others will have you outside climbing high mountains, harvesting and preparing local foods, or sneaking unseen through the countryside.
As the semester progresses, the Adventure Semester staff will choose and assign specific adventures from their (very long) list of possibilities based on the needs and appropriate challenge levels of each group. Groups members will be constantly reshuffled, with the goal of having every participant work with every other participant at some point. As your abilities and comfort level increases, so will the scope and rigor of the adventures. Every few weeks you’ll also use your new skills to design and carry out your own, self-designed adventure.
Here’s a representative sample of the type of adventures you’ll undertake:
- Get rejected 20 times—e.g. asking to directly talk to JK Rowling or asking for a job or internship. (1 day)
- Write a strong, well-researched and potentially controversial editorial/article and submit it to multiple newspapers or magazines. (1 day)
- Find three strangers and do your best to extract their full life stories. (1 day)
- Sit in on a college lecture course and strike up a conversation with the professor afterwards. (1 day)
- Perform 5 acts of radical kindness for strangers. (1 day)
- Find a place in the woods before dawn and sit there quietly without moving for 8 hours. (1 day)
- Learn calculus to the extent that you can solve basic calculus problems and explain it in a way that others get it. (1 day)
- Create a micro-business (either online or in-person) and earn at least $100 from strangers. (2 days)
- Walk to another place 15-25 miles away without being seen by other people. (2 days)
- Turn $5 into the largest amount of money possible using only your wits. (2 days)
- Act like you’re starting an independent life in a city: Tour potential rooms and apartments, apply to 5 jobs, create a budget, understand public transport, and explore community events. (3 days)
- Assist our chef with preparing, serving, and cleaning up lunch and dinner. (A different group will do this each day.)
If some of these adventures sound difficult, potentially uncomfortable, or way outside your previous experience—that’s by design. But don’t worry. Every adventure you undertake will be 100% supported by a staff member who will help you discover strategies for success, stay on track, communicate effectively with your group, and learn from both your failures and successes.
By the end of the program, you’ll have a huge number of real-world experiences under your belt that will help you become a person who:
- Feels comfortable jumping into big, messy problems that don’t have clear solutions.
- Works well in a small group and can take on multiple roles (e.g. leader, follower, analyst, cheerleader).
- Sees failure as an opportunities for learning.
- Has a stronger concept of who they are and the many lifestyles and work paths available to them.
- Possesses an enthusiastic optimism for facing life’s challenges and uncertainty.
Whether you’re moving on to school, college, or full-time self-directed learning, these skills and attitudes will serve you for years to come. This will be a empowering and life-changing experience.
At the conclusion of every adventure (in the evening), each group publishes a digital summary of their adventure through a written blog post or video. These summaries include:
- A brief summary of the challenge presented.
- The story of your group’s initial brainstorms, decision-making process, attempt(s) at completing the challenge, and the successes and failures you encountered. (We place a big emphasis on honest sharing of failures.)
- “What we would do differently next time” and advice for others attempting the same challenge.
These summaries will be posted publicly on the Internet. In the beginning, it will probably just be your families and a few people in the Unschool Adventures community that see them. But as we hone our publishing skills, we’ll aim to make these blog posts and videos more interesting and accessible to a general audience. By the end of the Adventure Semester, our goal is to create a big, free library of “how-to” videos and blog posts that show teenagers across the world how to go on amazing adventures.
Finally, in addition to the online publishing, each group will offer a brief, live presentation summarizing their adventure to the rest of the Adventure Semester group. These nightly presentations will serve to excite each other for upcoming challenges, educate each other regarding effective strategies, and hone our public speaking skills.
In Paonia (the first 5 weeks), your life will be off-the-grid. Your energy will come from the sun, your eggs from the local chickens and apples from the tree, and you’ll shower outside (in private). You’ll meet farmers and people who live in houses made out of tires or cob or straw bale, see eagles and pluck raspberries from mountainsides, and sleep in a bunk house or a tipi. Our time in Paonia will overlap with the Harvest Festival, which you’ll get to enjoy through our adventures and in your free time. Adventures in Paonia will focus on exploring the outdoors, group dynamics, and reflecting deeply on your life and role in the world.
In Crested Butte (the next 4 weeks), you’ll experience a high-mountain ski town filled with small businesses, coffee shops, and a friendly small-town culture. Our group will rent out the entire Crested Butte Hostel where you’ll stay in bunk bed rooms with views of the high Rockies. Your creature comforts will be fulfilled (including high-speed internet and reliable cell phone service), making it possible to tackle more complex challenges. Adventures in Crested Butte will focus on entrepreneurial challenges, online professional development, and introducing yourself to interesting strangers.
In Denver (the final 6 days), you’ll learn how to comfortably navigate a big city and take advantage of its unique resources. Every day will involve walking the city streets, taking public transportation, exploring large institutions, and seeking out the individuals who might help you answer your biggest life questions. We’ll stay in a downtown hostel where we will have our own bunk rooms while sharing the common areas with other guests. Adventures in Denver will focus on exploring big-city resources, building community, and learning how to lead a financially independent life.
A Day in the Life
Here’s a general outline of how days on the Adventure Semester will be organized. Times are approximate and will shift according to the needs of specific groups and specific adventures.
- 9:00pm: Each new day will begin the prior evening, when small groups will meet and plan the next day’s adventure. (A dedicated staff member will mentor your group through the entire process.)
- 9:00am: The next morning, you prepare your own breakfast, and the adventure begins and carries the group through the day. You’ll be engaged and challenged, and the time will fly.
- 1:00pm: Lunch is either served hot or provided in take-away brown bags.
- 4:00pm: Before you know it, the adventure will be over and it will be time to decide how best to present it to the larger group and publish a summary online.
- 6:00pm: Next comes a large luxurious dinner (prepared and served by the food adventure group), followed by presentations and fun.
- Finally, you meet in your small group again to plan the next day’s adventure. We recommend going to sleep before midnight, but like college students, you will have the freedom to stay up and work late if desired.
The structure of each day may look the same, but every day will feel radically different. Some days you’ll be in a city, others in the wilderness. Some days you’ll be practicing the habits of a successful CEO; other days you’ll feel like a hobo around a campfire. Some days will be about challenging your body and other days it will be about your mind or emotions. In the end, each and every day of Adventure Semester will become a unique and memorable story.
Participants get one full day off each week. A second day is devoted to self and home care, a communication workshop, a community meal, and an evening of fun. The remaining five days are chock-full of adventures.
Effective communication is so crucial to just about everything in life that we give it extra attention in the form of regular workshops. The goal is to develop communication practices that are authentic, inspiring, and effective, while also enhancing learning and a sense of freedom and adventure.
Sample communication workshop topics include:
- Active listening and co-counseling
- Giving (and receiving) effective feedback
- Body language
- Stories and labels about ourselves and others
- Partner dancing as communication
College Credits (Not) Available
(Updated April 7th, 2015)
Unfortunately we were not able to secure 8 optional college credits for leadership training through Western State Colorado University. We regret this development and apologize for any dashed hopes!
Frequently Asked Questions
New: In this audio file Dev and Blake address the following questions:
- (0:20) How is it possible to learn calculus in one day?
- (2:21) I’m in school right now. How can I join the Adventure Semester?
- (6:00) Can I join if I’m 12 or 13? Also: If I’m 18 or 19, will I still be challenged?