Leadership Tours Offer a New Type of Trip for Students

Lindsay Dollinger, Ohio AATSP President
Spanish Teacher, Jonathan Alder High School

This past summer, I took my third EF Leadership Summit trip with students from my high school. I started taking students on these tours in the off-year from my school’s Spanish language trip in 2015. The theme of this year’s trip was The Power of Communication, but past summers’ themes were the Future of Education and the Innovations of Food. Next summer’s theme (which I’m not participating in since I will accompany students to the Galapagos Islands) has to do with Sports Innovations. Regardless of the theme, my students always thoroughly enjoy the trips along with the added benefit of having a theme to concentrate on before and during the trip. Also, EF does an amazing job making the themes relevant to a variety of interests.

Planning for a trip starts a year and a half or more before the Summits. I started planning this summer’s trip in October 2017 when I held my first parent meeting. The trip sold out by early 2018, so if these trips are something you’re interested in, start planning the 2021 trip now. Students have the opportunity to use the WeShare platform that EF provides to interact with students going on the Summit, as well as work on a design thinking project before and after the trip. Lots of fundraising, meetings, and copies of passports and important papers later, we were on our way in early July.  We were on our way in July after we held many fundraising events, attended meetings and made copies of passports and important papers.

The theme of our particular trip was the Use of Propaganda in World War II. Our tour started in Krakow, Poland, a truly amazing city that is still not completely tourist-filled and has so many hidden gems. The best food from our trip was here, as were many of our most memorable experiences. Students visited Schindler’s Factory, the Jewish quarters, Nowa Huta, and Auschwitz Birkenau. Everywhere, stories of the Nazi and Soviet propoganda haunted the sites.  Our tour guide, Heather Wynn, added valuable tales and showed the students first hand artifacts from the time, which really interested the students.

Leaving Poland, we stopped in Prague for a couple days before making it to Germany. One of the most memorable parts of Prague were the small plaques in the Jewish area with peoples’ names on them and which concentration camp they were last known to be in. The plaques are placed in the last area where the people had been seen before picked up by the Nazis. An example of propaganda was The John Lennon Wall, which the kids (and adults) got to paint on because our tour guide provided us with spray paint (so nice!). Propaganda, for the good and bad, really is everywhere.

Our last country, before the Summit in Davos, Switzerland, was Germany. We visited Nuremberg and Munich. In Nuremberg, the students enjoyed walking through the art bunkers and learning the history and story there, before visiting the Documentation Center. Seeing all the realia in the Documentation Center was moving for many of the students. Munich involved much of the same, including getting to trace Hitler’s footsteps in becoming Chancellor of Germany. Finally, our educational tour portion of the trip was over and our group was headed to Davos.

The Summit itself is Friday evening through Sunday evening, with two really full days of keynotes, workshops, and time to craft and perfect a design thinking project. Meals are included and there’s some time before the Summit starts to enjoy Davos. Speaker highlights this year included Ann Curry, Clint Smith, and Kai Kight, to name a few. Teachers have a separate program they can follow when the students are in their own workshops, and can earn professional development hours. Students are split into groups with no one from their school in the group, so they really are able to step outside their comfort zones to shine. Each evening there are fun events planned, kind of like a field day of sorts, and the last evening the judges give awards to the most innovative projects (the teachers and EF staff grade them). Finally, Summit ends with a giant dance party which the kids love (this year was a silent dance party where everyone wore headphones provided–so cool).

I highly encourage every school to send a group to the EF Leadership Summit! There is only one per year (except in 2020 there are two), and they are always in the summer. Spots are limited per school (usually 6-12) but if you have a lot of interest, sometimes they’ll let you bring a few more. The tickets are first come, first serve, so definitely decide and plan early. Please reach out to me if you have any questions about the Summits or planning other trips…I’m happy to help!