What Makes Pioneer Project One of the Best American Gap Year Programs?
Though it appears that our program is a fairly niche offering, in fact it offers a wide variety of experiences for students. Though Gap Years are generally seen as opportunities to travel abroad, our program offers an unforgettable experience that can be right in your own backyard. As American students watch their college plans evaporate and find international travel off the table, many are asking which are the best American gap year programs?
As a member of the Gap Year Association, we like to think we are among the best options for American gap year students. Here's why.
The Best Gap Year Programs Should Be Totally Personalized
The best gap year programs offer freedom and flexibility for students. Though in the past our program has been very highly structured and we had much of it planned out before students arrived, we have decided to hand more of the autonomy to the students. We are able to arrange custom craft and homesteading workshops as well as wilderness expeditions in a flexible manner that can respond to evolving student interests. Students in our program will act as co-creators as opposed to passengers.
Looking for Adventure? The Best Gap Year Programs Are Adventurous
Students take gap years to have adventures, so the best American gap year programs should offer quite a bit of that! If students are interested in adventure after sitting indoors for much of the last six months due to coronavirus, we have a wealth of opportunity for them. We have been avidly exploring this area for the past eight years and have discovered many isolated natural treasures and secret spots that we frequent with our family. For bigger expeditions we have access to some of the most remote wilderness on the East Coast and love to explore it in a variety of ways.
One of our favorite things to do when the weather is warm is go on canoe camping expeditions where we find secret islands and set up campsites or picnics to pass some blissful hours or days. The lakes in our area are one of the biggest attractions and many of them offer impressive backcountry experiences.
Our area is also a mountain biking Mecca that attracts serious cyclists from around the region because of its diversity of offerings. From flowing singletrack to adrenaline pumping downhills, many trail systems are within an hour's drive of us. Meanwhile, the Great Smoky Mountains, America's most popular National Park, is an hour from our doorstep.
As avid travelers, when we are doing our homestead thing it is highly necessary for us to entertain ourselves with novel adventures frequently. So, we have built a wealth of knowledge about our local area that informs the various adventures we embark upon with the Pioneer Project. Though we are on the eastern seaboard and therefore don't have the exotic flavor of the American West for international locales, in many ways we are the best kept secret of the Southern Appalachians because of our remote location.
The Best Gap Year Programs Have Expert Instructors
Generally, if people have heard of Brasstown, North Carolina it is because of the John C Campbell Folk School. Indeed, ten minutes down the road from our campus is one of the most renowned craft schools in the world. The folk school offers over 900 classes a year and attracts students and instructors from all over the United States. In fact, it's the reason we found Brasstown and have remained here for so many years! Not only does our proximity to the folk school integrate us into this eclectic community, it also allows us to offer expert instructors for many of our crafts because so many artists have settled in the area.
The people who have settled here tend to be highly creative , intellectual, caring and skillful people who love community, excellent food, and nature. Few other rural communities could offer such an astounding array of craft education experiences as Brasstown, North Carolina.
Though we used to arrange every craft workshop before students arrived, we have opted now to assess student interest in different crafts and customize the program based on their preferences. Students will have a collective budget that they can use to choose their favorite options.
The Best Gap Year Programs Should Cultivate Real Skills
Covid-19 has sparked an enormous resurgence in interest for homesteading, gardening, and living-off-the-land skills. We've been doing that here for quite a long time and have a lot of insights to offer in that realm. Students get to take ownership of parts of our garden, learn about taking care of chickens, and get their hands in the dirt on a daily basis to learn all of this experientially. Moreover, they will be involved in preparing meals in creative , nutritious, and delicious ways using ingredients that they help grow and harvest.
The severe disruption in America's economy has given a lot of people quite a bit of anxiety about supply chains and the stability of many systems. The skills students learn here can help endow them with a confidence that they know how to take care of themselves in fundamental ways using only soil, shovels, seeds and sweat.
Part of the pioneering spirit is to learn how to be resourceful and resilient in the face of challenge. Our students learn these skills through doing them, not reading about them or watching a video. They are truly immersed in this way of life and can't help but leave feeling changed, more confident, more skillful, and more alive.