The Atlas Story
First, an idea: Three years ago, while sitting on a beach in Croatia, Adam and John first dreamed up our plans to change educational travel. A few years later, John, a full-time journalist, was back living in Croatia writing. Adam was visiting him after speaking at a conference on design innovation and the informal economy. Since finishing graduate school at the London School of Economics (where Adam and John met), we had managed to travel or work in more than a dozen countries. We love to travel – and the more we traveled, the more necessary a comfort with travel, cosmopolitan spirit, and fluidity in terms of translating cultures and places became to our work. As professionals for whom in-depth international travel, collaboration, and research had become an essential skill, we realized we had something important to offer. This year, Jenny joined us, after working in study abroad, international public health and then higher education, to help turn our idea into a program.
A number of companies offer international field trips for high school students on summer break. While we love visiting landmarks as much as anyone, we believe trips centered upon tourism fall short. They shortchange students who are capable of engaging with another culture beyond simple postcard tourism.
We want our students to be more than just visitors – and we believe the workshop format allows unparalleled opportunity for collaboration and dialogue with local communities and experts.
That’s why we started Atlas Workshops. We believe students should be building an international network by researching contemporary global issues. Each international workshop focuses on one relevant topic and asks the students to deliver a tangible work product based on their research.
John offers a concise write-up of our founding beliefs in his article in the Huffington Post, Why We Need to Rethink Student Travel.
Over the past few years, we’ve led high school students on trips to explore contemporary issues like urbanization in China and the use of cell phone games in India. Each program taught us that high school students are capable of nuanced understanding and meaningful contributions to complex global issues. In January, Adam led a group of students to study urban planning challenges in advance of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro – the results from this workshop are really outstanding. We’ll be featuring them in future blog posts, but you can take a sneak peek here.
We’re in the planning stages for our summer workshops now. Continue to follow our blog to learn about who we are, where we’re going with our upcoming workshops—and how we are changing educational travel, and the experiences of our students, teachers and projects along the way.
-Adam, Jenny, and John