Today, while driving to to work for Staff Development Day and the start of the 2016 school year I listened to this story from Radio National's Earshot program.

 

It put a smile on my face to hear the larrikin like voices of young men going on an epic adventure. Not an epic adventure in Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed or Halo 5 -- but one aboard a tall ship, the James Craig which first set sail in 1874.

I work in a high school as psychologist 2 days a week.  I've been at the school for 5 years and it was the first school I taught at in the early 00's.  It's a school with real spirit, the kids have grit and humour despite their many social and economic struggles. The Helmsman Project took its first group of kids out and taught them to sail in 2013.  The program has flourished as its found it's sea legs and established its efficacy for helping shape young people's sense of purpose and confidence.

There's a million lessons to learn at sea.  From the history of the ship itself and the trade and commerce it provided to the maths and physics of its 23 circumnavigations past the Cape Horn.

Many of us remember what felt like forever that it took to restore the ship, she was berthed on a dry dock at Darling Harbour for many years while the $30mil, 40 year restoration took place!

This program shows how important it is to make learning relevant for young people, to give it an applied use, a context that has meaning and a link to an emotional experience.  I have seen one particular young man become completely transformed through his experience with this project.  I only wish there were more organisations, doing such strongly evidence-based coaching experiences as this crew.