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We are delighted to offer the latest installment of our CAS Trip Leader spotlight series! These individuals, beyond their operational expertise, possess mastery in their respective domains and have an exceptional ability to impart knowledge and ignite inspiration among young minds. They bring the CAS Trips mission to life, and we feel so lucky to have each of them on the team.

Today, the spotlight is on one of our Prague Trip Leaders— Andy. With a diverse background in fine arts, Andy brings a wealth of knowledge and a keen eye for creativity to the world of experiential learning. He immerses students in the captivating realm of Prague’s art scene, leading thought-provoking workshops and engaging activities. Through the lens of art, he imparts a deeper understanding of the complex issues marginalized communities face, fostering empathy and a desire to make a positive impact.

Thanks for joining us, Andy! So, what brought you to the fine city of Prague, and how did you end up working as a guide for CAS Trips?

I’m from Nottingham and moved to Prague in 2016. I sort of fell into tour guiding but realized I had found something unique when I got hooked up with the crew from CAS Trips. 

My background is in fine arts. I had worked as a self-employed artist for years and also as an art teacher—so the educational aspect of tour guiding came pretty naturally. I had already been doing historical tours when I was introduced to CAS, and I pretty much just jumped right in. I started shadowing one of the more experienced Trip Leaders, Ashley. He was a great person to learn from, and soon I was leading activities independently. I discovered that I loved working with the kids, and now I’ve been at it for almost seven years.  

Can you say more about the move to working with students? What has that experience been like?

I have always liked working with young people, and I already had some experience with older age groups through my art classes and other workshops. Since doing CAS, though, it has been working with younger kids that’s new to me. And it has been great. They are fresh and fun and so engaged in the activities we do. Of course, it requires a particular skill set, but much of the work I had done through my art prepared me well.

You need to be able to think critically, problem solve, and plan, but also be able to react and adapt plans in the moment. Things are more unpredictable when you’re working with kids, and I like that. 

I’m sure the kids are excited about seeing Prague through a local artist’s eyes! Can you tell me more about the street art workshop you run as part of the program?

We begin with an introduction to street art, and I provide a bit of historical context, showing them some of the local streets while also adding in more of a fine art of perspective, discussing techniques and history. Then we get to the really fun part. I present them with the materials, and they begin creating their own unique work of art. They design a stencil, and then we paint. I explain how the paint works and offer some techniques for creating different effects. Mostly what I try to do is facilitate play and creativity, though.

I encourage the kids to let go of any expectations and remind them that there are no wrong answers and that it is all about having fun.

I let them know they have a safe environment to let their imagination run wild. 

We always receive fantastic feedback about your workshop. How has your approach to sharing your craft with students evolved over the years?

When I was in art school, as part of my foundation diploma, we had a term where every day we were doing something different— from furniture and textile design, printmaking, theater, and ceramics— I had a chance to try a little bit of everything and practice being creative outside of my comfort zone. That is the approach I try to pass along to students. 

There is no pressure. And if you’re unhappy with the final result — that is ok, too. I try to get them to see that it is about trying something new and you don’t have to be precious over it. That, in fact, it is good to make mistakes. Many kids who come on a CAS Trip are very academic and results-driven. They are focused on how things will be evaluated and like a clear outline of what is expected of them. Of course, that is great for lots of learning environments, but I aim to offer a space where they can let go and just benefit from the freedom. I am reacting to them, they’re reacting to me, it is all a lot of fun. 

It sounds like a great way to connect with the students. What are some of the other activities you enjoy leading in Prague?

Another one of my favorites is the homeless cooking challenge. The kids are tasked with working together to cook for over 50 homeless people, which always makes for a fantastic day. They must work together, budget, cook and serve at a refugee or homeless shelter. It allows them to get creative, overcome challenges, and do something meaningful. 

It is also an opportunity to dig into the issues that have contributed to people being in these situations and show the kids a less glamorous but very human side of the city. We use challenges, discussions, and worksheets to help the kids put themselves in the shoes of those they are interacting with. It is always really interesting to hear the responses. Sometimes you get tears, some offer compelling insights for being so young, and you can tell that the act of service makes the kids feel great. 

So obviously, your training as an artist informs your work as a tour guide. Does it work the other way around, too?

Yes, definitely.

I now find myself applying the IB methodology to my own art projects. When I’m planning through to the completion of the project, I find myself thinking in terms of the IB framework.

I like to start my projects with an action plan and ask myself the same questions I offer to the students, like “How do I know when I’m finished?” I use these strategies in my life. I try my best to give something meaningful to all the students on my trips, but I get a lot out of this job, too. 

A huge thanks to Andy for taking the time to share his insight! His dedication and passion help bring our Prague itinerary to life! You can check out his art here and follow him on Instagram to keep tabs on workshops, shows, and new creations! 

Stay tuned in the coming weeks and months as we share more stories from our trip leaders worldwide!