Sunburn and a ravioli song.

Students take on the ‘Challenge & Responsibility’ project in Thuringia


‘In those three days, we got to know each other better than we had in the years before,’ says 16-year-old Nicola. In May, she joined other year 10 students at the Phorms Campus Berlin Süd on a three-day paddling trip up the river Saale from Rudolstadt to Jena. The trip is part of the ‘Challenge & Responsibility’ project, which has been running since 2015 at the Phorms Campus Berlin Süd in Steglitz-Zehlendorf and intentionally integrated into year 10. On the one hand the project marks the end of lower secondary school, but it also raises the students’ awareness of the new challenges and responsibilities they will face in upper secondary school. For the trip to Thuringia, the students not only celebrated the end of their lower secondary school exams, but also handled all of the organisation and planning themselves, from the activities and meals to the journey there and back. And the students also declared a smartphone-free zone for the duration of the entire trip. Sean Jackson, Phorms secondary school teacher of English Literature, accompanied the students. ‘It was certainly a different experience for me, because I wasn’t involved in any of the decision-making,’ he says. ‘The students did a really excellent job, but I wouldn’t have expected anything else.’

Apart from a few cases of sunburn, the main challenge was carrying heavy boats and packs around the weirs, which called for teamwork and motivation. ‘Another challenge was sleeping all together in the same big tent, but we’re a team, after all,’ says Anna, 16. When difficulties dampened the mood, the students lifted their spirits by singing together about the cans of ravioli brought along as provisions. When supplies ran low, when they didn’t make it to the campsite before night fell, or the return journey was hampered by delays and bus breakdowns, the students discussed the situation and took decisions in hand themselves. 16-year-old Felix felt particularly aware of his responsibility when he invested all of the group’s money at the bus counter. ‘I certainly have a new understanding of what it means to make decisions and bear the consequences,’ he says. The students worked well together over the course of the three days and rose to the challenge, as Sean Jackson confirms: ‘Everything practically looked after itself.’

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