Tabel 3 and Table 4 show the flow of curriculum and timetable at Odyssey, respectively.
Preparing mentally and physically to learn
Learning about oneself and the world
Plan and practice a new way of learning to change oneself and the world
Summarizing and wrapping up what one has learned and experienced
Building the foundation
March 2 to July 21
July 22 to Aug. 15
Aug. 16 to Dec. 29
Dec. 30 to Feb. 5
Preparations to return
Feb. 6 to 10
|09:30 - 10:00||Start the day|
|1||10:00 - 10:50||Group meeting||Math||Literature and Growth|
|2||11:00 - 11:50|
|12:00 - 12:50||Lunch|
|3||13:00 - 13:50|
|4||14:00 - 14:50|
|5||15:00 - 15:50|
|6||16:00 - 16:50|
|7||17:00 - 17:50||Wrapping up the day|
Extracurricular club activity
At Odyssey, every student is instructed to create and follow his/her own learning plan. Although students apply to the school to find meaning and direction in life, they are pretty much clueless about where they should start. So, at the beginning of the school year in March, when students typically have the greatest desire to make themselves better, they are asked to imagine and design their school years at Odyssey.
The activity does not merely end with the imagination process; they are told to present the details and simulate and record how they will bring all the factors together. As a tool, they are given a form called “The Learning Plan.” Before they are told to fill out the learning plan, an orientation is provided to help them understand the importance of this task. Preparations are made so that students can feel how crucial it is even from the settings and the attitude of teachers. They are informed of the details regarding resources, activities, classes, etc. that will be readily available over the courses during the school years. With the given information, students get to work, designing their school years. In the learning plan, students describe how they have understood Odyssey, how they want to spend the next year, what their objectives and goals are, how the teachers could help them achieve their objectives and goals, and so on.
The learning plan begins with the following message:
As such, the learning plan is not meant to fill out and tuck away somewhere. It serves as a guideline for students to check their progress as well as personal management for one year and as a barometer for teachers to assess the degree of growth achieved by each student. The learning plan may be modified several times by students, consulting their teachers. Their learning plans are typically updated two or three times, even though the frequency of revision does vary. At Odyssey Mindeulle, for example, each student compiles a book regarding his/her process of learning at the end of the year, and often, they create their books by referring to their individual learning plans.
The principal strength of Odyssey School distinguished by most of the graduated students from the Odyssey program is a “safe learning community.” At Odyssey School, about ten students and one pathfinder form a single group, and they gather together in a “group meeting” to support the learning activities of one another.
A group meeting takes place for 4 hours from morning to afternoon on Monday every week. It is the second most important activity, with respect to the amount of time spent, following project-based activities that take place all day on Thursdays. During the weekly group meeting, twenty students are divided into two groups and look back on what they learned, what happened over the past week, and what they meant. After that, they analyze, organize, and record the information from the perspective of learning and growth. This is not only an educational activity but also a process of repeatedly realizing each moment in life, which can easily be forgotten, come together to form today, and lead us to tomorrow.
When this activity initiated in mid-March, teachers start things by saying, “Let’s share about our daily lives,” and a student might say, “I ate noodles this past Sunday, and it was delicious.” But by September, the conversation will be more like, “I went out to eat noodles with my family this past weekend, and all we talked about was college admission. I wanted to decide on the college and department that I want to apply once I finally realize what I want to do in my life, but my parents think differently. I am concerned about college admission as well as my relationship with my parents.” In this case, the subject matter of the group meeting will become “college admission” or the “meaning of family,” and an intensive discussion will be progressed. If there was not enough time, it might even continue the next day. The discussion may be carried out with another group, or by inviting an expert on the topic. This helps students gain a broader view of the world, gain unique insight, and establish their own stance on various topics.
Another critical activity in a group meeting is to record the information. While keeping in mind that a person’s memory cannot surpass written records, students are instructed to keep detailed records of activities that they will likely forget. This is because there may be students who forget what they have learned at Odyssey School. Some students believe they did not learn anything unless they studied for a test. There was even a student at Odyssey who said, “It seems like my peers who are in general schools are studying hard. I’m worried that I’m not doing anything.”
This is why, at Odyssey, records are kept regarding all the activities carried out in the school. Students record not only the progress but also how they felt, things that should be approved, what they learned, and so on. At the end of the school year, they compile a book using the records. As their records accumulate, students can feel a little relieved and not worry about whether they are accomplishing anything. The records are the process of learning itself and a map regarding the path of thinking, and students proudly say that they function as a compass for them in their future life, too. Some even gain strength and encouragement by looking at their Odyssey books when they return to a general school and have a hard time.
At Odyssey School, travel is an essential educational activity and one of the most crucial educational activities. Education largely consists of two main components: experiences and stimulations that accumulate little by little in daily life, and that are encountered in an unfamiliar place away from everyday life. At Odyssey, these two components of education are in harmony with each other, thereby transforming students from the inside and helping them form a set of values. Daily educational activities are also extended outside the school through activities for “Across-Learning,” but the stimulation and experience gained from travel are much more intense and impactful. Odyssey School organizes small-scale trips, so it is possible for students to take on a variety of challenges, planning and executing it by themselves. As a result, the educational function of traveling begins to work from the preparatory stage even before departure. Organizing things, settling the costs, and looking back on the experience after returning from the trip are all part of the travel experience.
Although students contribute a lot when there is a trip, the work that teachers put in is considerably more than what they normally do. So, understandably, going on a trip creates a great burden for teachers, but it is a pleasant challenge that leads to joy and a sense of achievement for students. After a trip, teachers prepare for the next trip with great pleasure, as they get to witness how much their students have grown and matured. Some operators organize more trips than the others, but all of them organize a long trip at least once per term. All operators, for instance, organize a kick-off trip in March at the beginning of the school year and a fall trip.
Kick-Off Trip: a trip to become physically ready and create a learning plan
At Odyssey, we go on a kick-off trip at the beginning of the semester in March. The trip lasts a week or two, and it is called a kick-off trip because it is an activity requiring students to leave home and go to an unfamiliar place. However, it is more like a compressed experience of a year-long Odyssey program than a trip.
The greatest benefit of the kick-off trip in March is that students can get to know each other in a relatively short time. Students from different backgrounds can see and understand things about one another as they spend a couple of weeks together in an unfamiliar environment. They can better understand their own selves as well as others. Teachers gain a better understanding of their students and vice versa. Students gain a better understanding of one another as well. This experience compels them to think about what kind of attitude they need to have in order to live in harmony with others in the future. It is also an opportunity for teachers to gain a deeper understanding of and build relationships with their students at the beginning of the school year. The trust built during this trip tends to last throughout the year.
As a compressed experience of the one-year Odyssey program, various educational activities are conducted during the trip. Teams are created for short-term project activities, and opening-morning and group meetings are tried. Students are engaged in discussions, communicating with one another from the beginning until the end, where they must do things on their own without being told what to do. Also, they are early faced with situations requiring cooperation. So this is like a warm-up before the full-scale activity begins. Rather than explaining the curriculum in words, students get to experience it directly during the kick-off trip.
Students are instructed to create their own learning plans, as described above, during the kick-off trip. Students have to think about what they want to learn and what type of activities they will engage in during the year, what their objectives and goals are, what obstacles they expect to face in the process, and how they will try to overcome them. Efforts are made to make them well-aware of the seriousness of the learning plan by reminding them that they must follow their plans, instead of thinking it of a plan treated as a habit.
The kick-off trip brings forth major changes. Students naturally become friends and companions in learning, as they spend several days together. It also provides a valuable opportunity for students who feel timid in an unfamiliar environment to get to know that dependable companions in their journey surround them. They also realize that they must do things on their own at Odyssey.
Fall Trip _ A trip with questions
Compared to the kick-off trip, the fall trip is typically taken in small groups, and it is mostly student-led in which the students decide various aspects from the purpose of the trip to the destination, activities, accommodation, and money management. Each group can decide on its own destination and activities. It is an extension of the activities that have been performed in groups. It is organized when students become more occupied in their thoughts about career paths and form concrete questions about their lives between the end of the first semester and the beginning of the second semester. The questions or topics that came into mind over the course to discover one’s direction and values in life in the first semester are compiled together, and the questions to be answered during the fall trip are chosen. Preparations alone take almost a month. “My Questions” are compiled together and organized into “Our Questions” by each group, and students go on a trip after putting all the questions in a bag. Although it may be challenging to find the right answers to each and every single question they have, they can experience the process of searching for the answers together. Students also investigate and choose people they want to seek for assistance and locations they want to visit, and then, they should contact and make all the arrangements needed.
Aside from the aforementioned trips, each operator organizes a wide range of trips such as a summer trip, year-end trip, trip with the seniors, walking trip, volunteer trip to a rural village, Jirisan Mountain trekking, etc.
An excellent example of an educational activity that best embodies the four principles of “self-learning,” “With-learning,” “Do-learning,” and “Across-learning,” would be a project-based activity. It entails setting objectives and goals, designing a roadmap to achieve such objectives and goals, and executing the plan. Generally speaking, when it comes to business projects, attaining the objectives and goals is the utmost priority, whereas the process is considered more important in an educational setting. Students get to learn what it means to make a plan, while experiencing complications, obstacles, and trial-and-error processes, how to resolve conflicts with their project partners, and how to manage themselves better, and even they learn through failures. This is why the educational objective of school projects is to learn by doing.
After the project activities, all students say that although it was tough, doing everything on their own, it was a fun experience, which is why they were able to learn better. Just because this is process-oriented, it does not indicate reaching the objectives and goals does not matter. When it comes to projects, students can taste the joy of accomplishing something on their own, and thus, the related activities must be planned and executed by considering this aspect.
All the students who experienced the activity said, “Because I had to do for everything myself, it was enjoyable as well as hard. Due to that reason, I could learn much better”
Still, there are issues to be considered when it comes to school project activities: to what extent should the teacher be involved?; should it be carried out as individual projects or group projects?; how should the objectives or themes be set?; how hard should it be to attain the objectives?; etc. At Odyssey School, projects are carried out as group projects. There are cases where individual projects are assigned in the second semester, but a “group project” is the basic form of projects at the school. With respect to group project activities, some students complain in the first semester because when students work on a project as a group, some work very hard, while some are free-riders. A group project, however, is an educational device that changes such thought, as students gain valuable experience or memory of learning a lot more and enjoying greater pleasure by working together with other students who have different characteristics, aptitudes, etc.
The academic year must be divided into “initial,” “development,” “climax,” and “conclusion” stages, and the level of difficulty in achieving the project objectives and goals must be carefully determined with a goal-setting per each stage so that students can experience a sense of accomplishment. A particular note is that the teacher must intervene appropriately in the first stage if possible so that students can gain a sense of accomplishment. This is because they should not taste despair before they gain the motivation to tackle the challenges ahead. By the beginning of the second semester, students tend to ask their teacher not to intervene because they want to do things on their own. The teacher gladly takes on an observer position, but actually, s/he still remains busy behind the scenes. The teacher must predict the paths for the students, arrange meetings or lectures by experts, and help students “do things on their own.”
Learning by interaction is made more profound and expansive through a device called the “sharing session.” Project activities at Odyssey Mindeulle, for example, flow in the order of “initial,” “development,” “climax,” and “conclusion” stages, mentioned earlier, and at each stage, a sharing session is held for each group to share how things are progressing, whether they face any difficulties, what they want to boast about, and what kind of help they need. So, a sharing session is held four times a year. At the first session, each project group shares its objectives and how they will carry out their activities, seeking the necessary information and advice. At the second session, groups typically boast about what they have achieved thus far. At the third session, they mainly discuss their hardships. They talk about who or what is causing difficulties for them, but at the same time, some students testify that such hardships have helped them grow. The fourth session is a wrap-up session, during which students reveal that they learned on their own, learned by interaction, learned by doing, and learned across borders. This is also when teachers feel rewarded for their hard work and dedication.
Common Compulsory Subjects
Project program that fosters planning and execution abilities
Internship program for gaining work experience and designing one’s future
Culture and arts program that fosters cultural imagination and diverse ways to express oneself
Humanities program that allows students to encounter diverse cultures, learn about themselves and foster their ability to live in harmony with others
Citizen engagement program that nurtures students into democratic citizens through social involvement
Literature and growth program that fosters the ability to contemplate life and the world
Science culture program that fosters the ability to look and think about the world
Art workshop program that through which students can aspire to lead a happy life through the arts and technology
The Odyssey curriculum is primarily composed of common compulsory subjects and alternative subjects. The Common compulsory subjects consist of subjects that are taught in the first year of high school, but their hours are reduced, and alternative subjects are structured in accordance with the educational objective of Odyssey School to compel students to engage in reflection and exploration of the world. As for the electives, two elective programs are established at each operating institute, and students can take the programs that are available at their respective institutes.
Odyssey School is a place where all members learn by actively interacting with one another. All 20 to 30 students do practically everything together, so there is no place to hide. Every aspect of their lives gets exposed, and this inevitably leads to conflict. Such conflicts are resolved in a way that is educational at student-led council meetings where students learn and grow. A student-led meeting is to be held for two hours each week, but usually, it exceeds this time limit and runs well after the school hours. Topics discussed at student-led meetings are quite diverse. Anyone can introduce an issue that they feel is problematic as an agenda item to be discussed at one of these meetings. It could be any issue that seems to affect other students such as not washing a cup after use, using one’s smartphone in class or during a school trip, swearing, or gender issues. There may be even complaints about the course content or the teaching method applied by the teacher. Any issues pertaining to the community can be introduced as agenda items at the meetings.
Not all student-led meetings proceed amicably, and not all problems get solved. Many students find it difficult to be in a meeting that gets prolonged due to trivial matters. There are also occasions where an issue is reintroduced at another student-led meeting because what the students have agreed upon earlier was not kept. When certain students’ faults and wrongdoings are pointed out, it can make the students involved become emotionally hurt or nearly explode while discussing the issue. Some students feel helpless when they are forced to discuss an issue that cannot seem to be resolved, no matter how long it is discussed.
But the important thing is to keep on going, without giving up. When this process is experienced over and over again, students start to acknowledge the fact that different individuals can have different thoughts and opinions even about the same issue and learn how to respect and coexist with those who do not share their opinions. They also learn the fact that the process of expressing one’s opinions – no matter how different they may be from the others – and debating until the end keeps the group or community safe and secure. Through this process, they learn to trust one another and build their abilities to practice and uphold democracy in their everyday lives.
The first-year program at Odyssey School is wrapped up with a class presentation, where students share what they could learn for the past year with their parents and friends. In most cases, students compile a book by recording their learnings and other activities in school, what they felt, and how they grew through those experiences, and then, they give presentations based on their own books. Other students present the results of the projects they carried out in their areas of interest such as music, art and literature, or give a presentation on their internship experience. At the class presentation, students exchange words of encouragement and support while looking back on the year they spent at the school where there is no "first place student" or "last place student" chosen solely based on grades. Every student feels like a star of the day, as they shout, “Thank you for everything this past year, Odyssey School!”
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