The concept behind the
Summer High Seas High School®

A project of the Hermann Lietz–Schule Spiekeroog/Germany


"The ship does not leave tracks in the sea,
but infinitely many in your heart."
Joseph Conrad

First, I would like to introduce the founders of the HSHS programme (which is also known as the sailing classroom): Dr. Hartwig Henke and his wife, Ute Hildebrand–Henke. Dr. Henke is principal of the Hermann Lietz–Schule Spiekeroog, a boarding school located on the North Sea–island of Spiekeroog. Detlef Soitzek is captain and owner of the triple–masted topsail schooner "Thor Heyerdahl".

The Hermann Lietz–Schule was founded in 1928 by Alfred Andreesen, a pupil and successor of Hermann Lietz. At the end of the 19th century Lietz criticised the traditional teaching methods in Germany. His solution was to set up boarding schools in remote areas of Germany, where pupils and teachers would live together, while the main focus centred on the personal development of each pupil. His basic educational plan was, already over 100 years ago, condensed into the formula "to learn with head, heart and hand".

The Hermann Lietz–Schule – located in a national park, surrounded by dunes and mud flats – developed Lietz’s basic idea according to modern conditions. The pupils not only have lessons, but also take part in guilds and work together with the teachers on group projects, which, on the one hand can be chosen according to personal interests, but, on the other hand, are vitally necessary for the social life at school. Some say that life at the Hermann Lietz–Schule is like the life on a ship anchored at a dock.

Thus, it was a natural progression to move the classroom onto a real ship. At the beginning, the trips on the Baltic Sea lasted only two weeks. At that time, the idea of transfering lessons totally into a sailing classroom evolved into the "High Seas High School": Since 1993 twenty–nine pupils from the 11th form sail together with an experienced crew on a traditional sailing ship. The trip lasts from October to May and passes across the Atlantic Ocean. Even though the route is changed annually, some destinations and courses are repeatedly included. The ship sails from Kiel to Santa Cruz (Tenerife) to the Caribbean, e.g. Trinidad, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Cuba. But also Equador and Brazil were visited once. On the return journey, the stopovers include the Bahamas, the Bermudas and the USA. On the return trip through the North Atlantic stage, the Acores are always a welcomed stopover. Ashore the countries visited, the pupils take part in excursions in the rain forest, climb volcanoes or attend language schools.

On board the pupils receive normal lessons, which is important so that they can continue with their studies at their regular schools when they return back home. Still, the contents of the lessons on board are strictly orientated toward the journey route and the countries visited. It is also our claim to include the students into working processes on board ship, which means that navigation and sailing are also included in the lessons. At the end of every stage the running of the ship is handed over by the captain and crew to the pupils for a short period of time.

Due to the success and enthusiasm of previous participants of the larger cruise, the Hermann Lietz–Schule Spiekeroog decided to develop a smaller High Seas High School for younger pupils (7th and 8th form): The "Summer High Seas High School" takes place for four weeks during the summer holidays and sails in the nautical areas of the British Isles and southern Skandinavia. Twice, the route taken had travelled clockwise around the British Islesand once anti–clockwise. In the Summer-holiday 2006 there will be a very special route: instead of rounding the British Isles we have decided on a nautical area, which was the area of influence and settlement of the Vikings about 1000 years ago: the Norwegian Sea between the islands of Orkney, Faeroe and Shetland and the Scottish mainland. Because of this the turn is called the "Viking’s Turn". From Kiel, the ship will sail past southern Norway and then via Bergen to Lerwick on the Shetland Islands. From there we will – wind and weather permitting – call in at the Orkney Islands, and – certainly a big highlight – at the Faeroe Islands in the far north. After this we will go to the Scottish capital Edinburgh and from there back to Cuxhaven in Germany.

By the way, over 100 years ago, Hermann Lietz also took part in similarly exceptional summer–trips with his pupils, recognizing their importance for the development of the pupil’s personality. He travelled to Lapland, Constantinople or Egypt with his pupils on foot, by bike, train or ship.

A short introduction to the Summer–HSHS programme is given below.

The team which leads this project are Juliane Jansen and Michael–Gerjet Stahl. Michael–Gerjet Stahl has led the three former voyages of the Summer-HSHS and in "normal life" teaches English and Biology at the Hermann Lietz–Schule Spiekeroog. Juliane Jansen, educationalist to be, works at the Hermann Lietz–Schule Spiekeroog in the areas of leisure and sport. She was a member of the crew of the Summer–HSHS in 2003 and 2005. Both are responsible for the preparation and implementation of the project and classes on board. In addition to that, both – supported by the crew members – will organise and implement the bilingual project lessons (English and German) on board. They will prepare the land excursions with the pupils and be available on board the whole time. The pupils will also be accompanied and looked after by the full–trained crew of the sailing ship "Thor Heyerdahl" including captain, first mate, engineer, boatswain and well trained sailors.

The triple–masted toppsail schooner "Thor Heyerdahl" was built in 1930 in the Netherlands. In the years from 1979 to 1983 it was rebuilt and converted into a triple–masted toppsail schooner by Detlef Soitzek – today captain and owner of the "Thor Heyerdahl" – and his friend Dipl. Ing. Günther Hoffmann. Detlef Soitzek was educated as captain licensed for long voyages and later absolved his education as a teacher. He is responsible for journeys on the "Thor Heyerdahl" since 1983. The ship is 54 yards long and 21 feet wide. The wooden masts are almost 32 yards high. It is well equipped with everything necessary for accommodation, catering, hygiene and safety on board according to modern standards and conditions. Nevertheless, life on board is considerably restricted in comparison to your everyday life and basic needs.

If you would like to read the experiences of previous participants, you can do so by clicking on Voyage 2002, Voyage 2003 and Voyage 2005 in the Archive page. More info can be found under Links or Contact. The Summer HSHS programme plans emphasis on the following five topics: Language acquisition, Sailing, Physical Education, Expedition and Safety (for more details see the navigation bar on the left).

The most important point is that the pupils must show interest and in having fun living with other people and proving themselves. Also, they should be willing to speak German outside regular lessons. Then the experiences in new situations and the experience to take responsibility will be a worthwhile and enriching challenge for the pupils. They will learn to value the importance of reliability, cooperation, friendliness and helpfulness in life on board. Most of the work on board must be carried out in groups and goals can only be reached together. It is very important to recognize when something has to be done and then to achieve it with others. On the one hand, this creates a good feeling of knowing when one is needed on board and on the other hand that one can really rely on others.


Dr. Hartwig Henke Ute Hildebrand–Henke
Kapitän Detlef Soitzek
Hermann Lietz–Schule
Nordseeinsel Spiekeroog
größeres Bild der Route durch Mausklick
Lesen auf dem Deckshaus
Projektleiter Michael-G. Stahl
Segelschiff "Thor Heyerdahl"