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Mindful : December 2013
December 2013 mindful 41 education Students built the sea school’s first ship, the Dorothea. After being damaged in a big storm in 2011, the vessel has been rebuilt and is seaworthy once again. learn to appreciate the value of taking a real break. There’s nothing radical in that idea. We all know what it feels like to take a deep breath and make a fresh start.” Zoe Nudell says that taking a break from reg ular life is an essential part of why teenagers take to the sea school. The way she sees it, what they all have in common is a feeling of being fundamen- tally uncertain and unsafe. “They’re all desperate for validation, afraid they’re not good enough, not cool enough,” she says. “ You put them in a tiny boat where they can’t escape from each other, and the first thing they learn is that they can’t get by on pretending. “Our society is extremely individualistic at this point, and most of the pursuits you’d choose as a teenager are focused on yourself,” says Nudell. “On the boat, you can’t do anything on your own.” For ma ny of the students, that understanding happens by the third day of a sea school trip, when the teens start to adapt to the demands of the environment, the ocean, the tasks on the boat, and each other. “That’s when I start seeing indications of real awareness, as well as compassion a mong crew mem- bers,” says Nudell. “It’s an experience of immediacy that’s both relaxing and fulfilling. All of a sudden they get to just be there.” For Stookey, the challenges of the real world are the best teacher. That ’s why he resists suggestions to ma ke the sea school more efficient—for example, by using more sophisticated technology or a bigger, comfier boat. “There’s no benefit to it being easy,” he says. “ When it’s hard, people learn to be patient with each other. That applies in a lot of situations ashore as well. The more efficient we get, the less contact we have with each other and the less opportunity we have to solve problems together. ” He adds with a chuckle, “I’m a big fan of inefficiency.” Turns out teenagers take to it as well. Carlo Myers is excited about going back to sea on the little boat. He’s planning on t wo sea school voyages next year. The smallness of the boat in the big open sea has helped him appreciate space in his life on land. When he got back home he noticed, “I have a lot of room to walk around.” And Claire Fraser ’s favorite pa rt of the voyage? When she was on the tiller, helping navigate the ship into a narrow cove. “I was being really careful,” she says, looking like she’s reliving the stress of that moment. “And I got us in.” She smiles big. “And then, when we swam, it was the warmest water. It was so beautiful. The sun was out. It was paradise.” ● See students in action with video from the Nova Scotia Sea School and read excerpts of teenagers’ stories from the boat at mindful. org/seaschool Carsten Knox is associate editor of Mindful.