A School on the Move

January 20, 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Stories

Jenny takes in Machu Picchu. Photo by Tianxiao X

THINK Global School offers parents a unique option for worldschooling their kids

Parents that are interested in worldschooling but lack the ability to pack everything up and hit the road themselves might be interested in THINK Global School, the world’s first traveling high school. Each year THINK Global School travels to four different countries, providing its students with an exceptional educational journey along the way. Now in its seventh year of operation and nineteenth host country, THINK Global School has graduated three classes, explored all six habitable continents, and learned countless logistical lessons from a life on the road.

THINK Global School was founded by Joann McPike, an intrepid traveler, photographer, and mother who had explored over 70 countries with her son Alex before he turned 14. At that point, Joann began to search for an international school that embraced world travel in the same manner that she and her family did. Upon finding none, the unique educational philosophy that is THINK Global School was born. In 2010, THINK Global School launched with fourteen students, a small staff of teachers, and a desire to experience the world firsthand. That first year they collectively traveled from Stockholm, Sweden, to Sydney, Australia, before finishing the year in Beijing, China. Since then, THINK Global School has seen its staff and student body grow, with roughly 45 students in Grades 10-12 embarking on a new world tour each year. Beginning in 2017-18, students will begin traveling to four countries instead of three, as the school embraces a year-round calendar with regular breaks in between each term, allowing students to spend much needed time with their family back home.

A Dedication to Diverse Locations and Students

Cameron bows to a maikko in Kyoto, Japan - Photo by Lindsay Clark

Cameron bows to a maikko in Kyoto, Japan – Photo by Lindsay Clark

Equally as important to THINK Global School’s commitment to diverse locations is their dedication to maintaining a diverse student body. Due to a generous grant from The THINK Foundation, the school is able to employ a sliding-scale tuition that ensures that no child will be denied admission based solely on their parents’ financial situation. THINK Global School also prides itself on recruiting students from all over the world. Lee Carlton, a marketing coordinator at THINK Global School, had the following to say about the school’s commitment to diversity:

“THINK Global School is unique in that not only are we traveling around the world, but our students hail from all four corners of it as well. We have students from over twenties countries each year, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Guatemala, Ghana, Bhutan, The Netherlands, and the United States, –just to name a few from our current class– and the diversity in the classroom leads to very open conversations on a wide range of subjects. Building relationships not only with the local community but each other instills in our students the type of mindset that will help them succeed in college and our increasingly global society.”

All THINK Global School students do, however, share at least one commonality: the ability to understand English as the language of instruction. Although in each place they travel to, THINK Global School students are encouraged to communicate in the local tongue when possible. Additionally, all tenth graders at THINK Global School are enrolled in Spanish classes, and at least one term per year takes place in a country where Spanish is the predominant language, allowing students to practice their language learning skills through repetition and local interactions.

A Shift Towards Project-Based Learning

As THINK Global School has evolved so has its curriculum, and beginning in 2017-18 an even greater emphasis will be placed on project-based learning. At the start of each term, every student will select an interdisciplinary, project-based module in an area that interests them and focuses on the host location. For example, in India, students might choose to create a business plan centered around the thriving Indian tea industry or in Japan they might decide to focus on the future of nuclear energy. While the students have the freedom to choose their own projects, each project will be required to meet a number of learning targets, such as mathematical reasoning and modeling; interpretation and expression; and self-development and social intelligence. Learning targets that aren’t focused on in a particular project will then need to be the focus of subsequent projects, ensuring each student receives a well-rounded education.

Marine biology in the Galapagos Islands. Photo by Lindsay Clark

Marine biology in the Galapagos Islands. Photo by Lindsay Clark

Mike Hourahine, THINK Global School’s head of technology and strategic outreach and a member of the school’s Leadership Team, had the following to say about the move towards a project-based learning curriculum:

“For us, project-based learning is a path to increasing student engagement by making learning more relevant, by connecting it to what a student is most curious, intrigued or passionate about. And by having the work they produce be meaningful outside the scope of the classroom, the learning also becomes more authentic as well.

Project-based learning provides our students more autonomy and choice in what and how they learn. As a travelling school, it also allows us to truly connect the place they are in with their day-to-day learning experiences. After having piloted PBL for the past 3 years, we are very excited to make this the core of how we teach and learn at THINK Global School.”

More about THINK Global School’s Changemaker Curriculum can be found on the academics section of their website.

Character Development Through Core Values

Nicolas teaches nutrition lessons in Urubamba, Peru - Photo by Pablo H

Nicolas teaches nutrition lessons in Urubamba, Peru – Photo by Pablo H

When most worldschooling families hit the road, whether in an airstream, yacht, or other well-worn method of transportation, the parents can be counted on to encourage curiosity, teach tolerance, and instill a strong moral code in their children. This dedication to molding compassionate and proactive gamechangers is also integral to THINK Global School’s mission, and the school’s set of core values, derived from different cultures around the world, forms the foundation of the school’s philosophy. Seven in total, they include the Greek meraki, or putting all of yourself into your work, the Japanese kaizen, or a dedication to continual improvement, and the Zulu ubuntu, or connecting to a greater whole in support of the community. After excursions and service-learning projects, students are often asked to reflect on the activities through the lens of the school’s core values, adding an additional layer of value to their experiences, and laying the groundwork for affecting more meaningful change in the future.

Where Are They Now?

This school year, THINK Global School students have already explored two contrasting sides of the world: their travels began in Peru, where they had a chance to scale Machu Picchu, receive goodwill blessings from Q’ero shamans, and explore many facets of Peruvian life while living in Cusco and the Urubamba Valley. More recently, students swapped their quaint Andean surroundings for one of the world’s most tech savvy and entrepreneurial cities, San Francisco, where they are exploring future career possibilities by touring the headquarters of digital giants like Facebook, Etsy, and Uber. And following a break for the holidays, they’ll head to Morocco before wrapping things up with a term in Vancouver, Canada.

Apply For Next Year

TGS at Machu PIcchu. Photo by Joann McPike

TGS at Machu PIcchu. Photo by Joann McPike

Next year, students can expect to rack up even more frequent flyer miles and rewarding experiences, with their travels extending across Botswana, Indian, Japan, and Spain. If you are interested in having your child join THINK Global School for a worldschooling education, visit their website to learn more about the admissions process. This year, the application deadline for the 2017-18 school year falls on January 2nd, 2017. Have questions about an education at TGS? Email them directly to