Curriculum and College Credit

leapyearThe design of LEAPYEAR reflects the belief that getting a worthwhile education bears more resemblance to sculpture than painting.  Rather than putting on layer after layer of knowledge in a classroom setting, it is more effective to create situations that allow the individual to sculpt themselves and expose their inherent beauty and coherent structure.  In this way, the genius in each person is revealed, and their wisdom becomes available to themselves and to others.

This is well described by the author Barry Lopez who, when speaking about the Inuit people says: "The isumataq is 'the person who creates the atmosphere in which wisdom reveals itself.'  The person who uses words to try to stuff you full of wisdom has confused wisdom with turkey stuffing.  Wisdom must reveal itself, because wisdom lives, hidden, within the self, where only the lone reader, lone listener, the self itself, can summon and free it."

The LEAPYEAR Journey begins:

Each student starts the study abroad program by identifying where they are - physically, culturally and personally, and proceeds from there. We inquire into the very ground each participant stands on, then investigate what is drawing us forward into life. In this way, each participant builds a pathway for their life - starting where they are, moving toward a vision that they take time to define themselves.  Once defined, the journey can be broken into steps that are small enough to begin to walk.

Along the way each participant begins to build a positive conception of what it means to become an adult. Elements within the Living Skills, Gap Year, Curriculum support this movement into adulthood and include:

  • Development of a high level of integrity or alignment with one'self.   We break this down into the skills of feeling your feelings, telling the truth, keeping your agreements, and expressing your creative voice.
  • Development of a high level of Emotional Literacy
  • Creation of a conscious and supportive community independent of your family
  • Mapping yourself clearly enough to make accurate decisions about your life
  • Development of a fertile and interactive intellectual life
  • Learning the art of living with others and embracing diversity
  • Learning to be an active participant in the world and the prime mover of your own education

Four primary goals of LEAPYEAR program studies are:

  1. The breaking of the educational "trance." After 12 years of sitting in classrooms and having people talk at you, learning disconnected material that changes every hour, students learn that their input isn't important, and that education is something that is done to us by "experts" and outer authorities.  In a traditional classroom, the student's focus shifts to jumping through hoops, and trying to please outer authority figures.  The experiential nature of a LEAPYEAR demands that a student reconnect with a desire to learn that comes organically from within, and engage actively with their own learning and evolution.  Both study abroad semesters are structured in such a way that a major block of travel and exploration is bracketed by two residential retreats - creating a learning structure of Preparation, Experience, Reflection. Throughout each semester students have a great deal of choice about what they study while living and traveling abroad.  LEAPYEAR asserts the primacy of the individual as their own ultimate authority.
  2. Development of a strong sense of autonomy. A sense that you can go anywhere in the world and live and learn in a capable, independent way - that you have wings on your back and can live a "winged life."
  3. Development of a strong sense of self.   A deep and multi-dimensional sense of one's own being, independent of external circumstance, that includes the mind, the body, the flow of emotion, the energetic body, and the spirit.  
  4. Understanding of the context of your life:   Through exposure to the broader world for 6 months, and 8 retreat weeks devoted to understanding one's own inner world.

The importance of these three developmental goals:

If these goals don't seem important, imagine going off to college without any one of these four goals being met. LEAPYEAR graduates have a much better sense of the broader world as a context for further study, and generally have a much better idea of their interests and passions. They understand that the rest of their college career is meant to serve their needs, rather than just being the next thing to do because that's what the rest of the "herd" is doing.

LEAPYEAR attempts to put back into a college education those things that everyone needs to know, and that should have been there all along:

  • Excitement
  • Real and Progressive Challenges
  • Engagement
  • Exploration
  • Compassion and the importance of engaging one's heart in one's activities
  • Investigation of Consciousness
  • Connection to something larger than one's self
  • Self-Direction
  • Connection with the Body and Connection with the Natural World

LEAPYEAR honors and encourages exploration of all World Wisdom Traditions, and does not espouse a specific religious point of view. 

Living Skills Curriculum

The LEAPYEAR Curriculum can be broken down into broad areas of inquiry and experience.

Integrity is the foundation of the curriculum
Integrity is an oft neglected value in our modern society.  Without understanding how to live in and maintain our integrity, we build our lives on sand.  We divide Integrity into the four teachable skills of:  Feeling your Feelings, Telling the Truth, Keeping your Agreements and Expressing your Creative Voice.

Personal Life Map
Comprehensive Life Review - Exploration of Core Values - Identification of Life Goals - Rites of Passage & Navigation of Life Transitions - Identification of Barriers to Success

Understanding the World of Work - Acquisition of Practical Skills
Carpentry, Cooking/Baking, Gardening/Landscaping - Work Experience in Construction, Environmental Work, Social Service - Internship: career exploration through a 3-month personalized internship - Job Readiness Skills: Resume, Mock interviews, Public Speaking, Presentations v Career Paths Exploration - Presentations on "How to navigate college & make it work for you"

Cross-Cultural Exploration
One month of intensive Spanish study and three months of Spanish practice, homestays, service work OR Intensive exposure to the religions, culture and people of India - Living & working in 5-7 different countries - Identification of our own cultural assumptions and blind spots

Cultivation of the Body
Daily work outdoors - Nutritional Basics - Daily physical discipline (yoga, dance, movement, tai ch'i) - Breathwork - Meeting physical challenges such as diving, trekking and construction work - Learning how to remain grounded in our bodies under stress

Cultivation of the Mind
Regular writing & journaling - Meditation - Learn new skills then teach to others - Group presentations & storytelling - Required readings throughout the year - Learning effective teaching & presentation techniques - Development of mental discipline through understanding emotion, practicing meditation and daily physical discipline, and through meeting inner & outer challenges.

Developing Emotional Literacy
Learning to identify primary feelings: fear, anger, sadness, excitement - Locating and grounding feelings in our bodies - Learn to constructively work with and express feelings

Social Skill Acquisition, Communication
Conscious Speech, Conscious Listening - Conflict Resolution - Working together - Care and Feeding of Community - Embracing Differences - Balancing Group & Individual Needs

College Curriculum, Coursework and Credits

The majority of students use LEAPYEAR as it was designed, as the first or second year of college.  These students are enrolled as B.A. Undergraduate students at Naropa University, and earn a full year of college credit.

Each year 1-2 students have used LEAPYEAR to complete high school - and do so either by working through their home high school or through LEAPNOW's relationship with a high school based in northern California.

Courses for College Curriculum

Choice of one travel study program - India OR Latin America


Course Title: Cultural Immersion: Nepal/India (6 credits)
Course Description
: A 12-week extended field study in northern India giving direct exposure to the people and culture of India through spiritual study, Hindu, Tibetan & Muslim home stays, social service and environmental work, and individual internships.  Through these activities students engage in activism through service work, develop an awareness of their relationship to different cultures and of the Westernizing of cultures; they learn what steps can be taken to begin to identify and work with this, as well as learning how to utilize available resources positively and effectively. Additional topics include culture shock, languages (Hindi and Tibetan), cultural differences, the effects of privilege, karma and the caste system, Opportunities abound for concentration on each student’s individual interests.  Students identify their own cultural assumptions as well as learn skills to travel effectively and cooperatively within a group.

Course Title: Wisdom Traditions of Nepal/India (6 credits)
Course Description
: Experiential study of the spiritual practices of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism in north India.  Students learn about each wisdom tradition by living in intentional communities that focus on Hatha Yoga, Tibetan Buddhist Meditation, and Service to Others (Karma Yoga).  Students explore practices that provide opportunities for intrapersonal and interpersonal learning as part of their own personal journey, discovering their own biases and spiritual beliefs as well as exploring the value of integrating Western and Eastern philosophies and belief systems.   A 9-day seminar prepares students for then permits them to reflect upon the experience in India.

Course Title:  Introduction to Contemplative Practice & Conscious Community


Course Title: Spanish Language Immersion (6 credits) 
Course Description:
 An intensive 10-week study of the Spanish Language through academic and practical immersion.   Students begin with two weeks of total immersion in Guatemala.   They study with native teachers one-on-one from 8 to 12 each day for a total of 40 hours of instruction.   Four afternoons per week are spent doing volunteer community service, and students live with Guatemalan homestay families.   After further weeks of volunteer service in Guatemala & Nicaragua, students spend two additional weeks of language immersion in Peru.   The remaining 6 weeks are spent living, working and traveling with native speakers in Nicaragua and Peru while doing construction, service work and environmental work.   The design of the course cultivates fluency in conversational Spanish with students being engaged in the practice of speaking Spanish for the entire time abroad.

Course Title: Cultural Immersion: Latin America (6 credits)
Course Description:
 A 12-week extended field study with direct exposure to the people and culture of Guatemala, Nicaragua & Peru through volunteer work, homestays, environmental work in the Amazon, wildlife conservation, and other cultural activities.  Through these activities students cultivate an awareness of their relationship to other cultures, learn about activism through service work, and of the Westernizing of cultures; they learn what steps can be taken to begin to identify and work with this, as well as learning how to utilize available resources positively and effectively.  Additional topics include culture shock, cultural differences, the effect of privilege, and work ethics.  Opportunities abound for concentration on each student’s individual interests.  Students identify their own cultural assumptions as well as learn the skills to travel effectively and cooperatively within a group.

Course Title:  Introduction to Contemplative Practice & Conscious Community (3 credits)

For both India and Latin America Programs

Course Title: The Whole Human Being  (6 semester credits)

Course Description:  Exploring the journey to adulthood in the context of learning about what it means to live a life of health and vitality, students engage in an exploration of the body/mind continuum. This exploration integrates contemplative practices with study of the development and evolution of the human being. Coursework include workshops on integrity, conscious communication, health, nutrition, emotional literacy and the place creativity has in an embodied life.  Awareness develops within the crucible of learning about the necessary ingredients for living in a sustainable, effective community. Students learn a variety of communication tools as they work to improve their own fluency in effective communication, emotional literacy, creativity and intuition. They explore these topics through the lens of developing relationships, personal stories, cultural influences and the developing ego.  A three-day Rite of Passage with each student’s parents is the capstone experience.

Course Title: The World As Classroom (5 credits)

Course Description: A 3-month individual internship focusing on service work in a part of the world that is of particular significance to the student and their developing interests.  This independent experience exposes the student to diverse cultures, broadening their horizons and deepening their understanding of their own world-view; it opens them to a myriad of aspects of the world while exploring their own cultural assumptions.  Students complete an ethnology project, which explores the dynamic relationship between history and the present. They focus on being a voice for positive change at the juncture where the students’ deep gladness meets the world’s need.  Further, students explore career possibilities and further language studies as well as learn specific job skills, identify their strengths and challenges re: work ethic, personal motivation and self-presentation.

Course Title: Being the Change (3 credits)

Course Description:  Students learn skills needed to “be the change we wish to see in the world.” (Gandhi)  They explore and learn to translate their dreams into action in the world by means such as studying theories which blast apart any pre-conceived ideas and cultural conditioning that limit rather than open up the field of conscious, active change.  This exploration exposes students to the power of setting intentions and reframing any position into one of possibility rather than limitations.  The course includes experiences designed to teach the formative power inherent in any transition.  Students learn to take a vision and see it through to a practical outcome (their solo internship) as well as study the power of reframing, setting intentions and life path visioning.  Imbedded throughout is an exploration of learning and transforming education to serve the creative power of each student.  They challenge the trance inherent in the question, Why Bother? and investigate useful tools to navigate and wake up from this trance, claiming the power to be and to effect the change dreamed of. 

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