Why Hakuba, Why Now?

December 7, 2022 / 5 min. read

In March 2023, THINK Learning Studio and Hakuba International School will launch the first “Hakuba Forum” (in the ‘northern Alps’ of Japan), a purpose-driven gathering of leaders from some of the most exciting schools from across the globe.

Our year one theme — “Designing Schools as Centers of Well-Being” — supports our collective goal to connect innovative school leaders and explore future-ready ideas while collaborating on empowering schools to make a positive impact.

High on the agenda will be a focus on future innovation within education and how schools can keep pace with the exponential growth of tools within artificial intelligence (ChatGPT), robotics and augmented reality.



Ultimately, we seek to foster new and unique “regeneration” strategies for founders and leaders and the learning communities and networks they support.

We hope this gathering will increase trust and understanding between our collective schools. Coming together in person, we hope, can help build trust and understanding between individuals and teams. Such experiences will allow members of the “Hakuba Forum” to get to know each other personally, developing a better understanding of each other’s perspectives and motivations in creating and leading such incredible schools.

With regard to greater creativity and innovation, we believe that this personal commitment builds the foundation to foster creativity and innovation across a network of global schools.

As curriculum innovation and technology integration gathers pace across many regions — demonstrated by innovative project-based learning, place-based methods, and real-world learning strategies — our schools are positioned to respond to the significant challenges and opportunities in front of us. A network of schools committed to enhanced problem-solving and decision-making has become more crucial than ever in responding to this critical moment in our collective world.

Within global education circles, there is significant momentum in the air.

Teachers and educators are hungry for change and curriculum innovation; this was visible during our TLS team’s time at the GESS Conference in Dubai, in which Managing Director Rus Cailey shared a stage with Gavin McCormack (UpSchool), David Harkin (8Billion Ideas), Carl Morris (The Online School), and Simon Noakes (Interactive Schools).

Inspired by some of the confusion that tech has been causing many educators, panellist Simon Noakes commented: “I run a tech company, but I hate tech. Put humans first. Don’t just rush out and buy the latest shiny thing.”



Putting humans first is precisely why we are headed to the mountains of Japan.

Approximately two hours from Tokyo, Hakuba is not just known for snowshoeing and ice skating, as well as several incredible hot springs, it is also the home of Hakuba International School, a school being led by “Finding The Magic of Middle School” author and founding principal Chris Balme.

HIS was founded to disrupt education in Japan by introducing project-based learning across their primary and middle years curricula. Furthermore, HIS is a school that is fundamentally committed to fostering human relationships, facilitating genuine learning experiences, and embedding sustainability practices in all they do.

As we convene leaders from famous and emerging education institutions such as Green School, The School of Humanity, THINK Global School, and the PAST Foundation, we will collectively discuss the challenges facing education and the unique that the collective place-based, project-based, design thinking, and challenge-based learning movement has (and will have) across education.

“Hakuba Forum” participants aim to look at hacking the problem of large class sizes, the lack of access to technology, inequality, and the need to evolve our teaching training systems to generate trainee teachers skilled at multidisciplinary teaching. There is also a need to discuss the issue of schools attracting and retaining high-quality teachers in schools where the curriculum is constantly evolving and how we can collectively further impact the quality of education for our students.

In launching the Hakuba forum, we are considering the following:

  1. What do we hope to achieve by bringing together these schools?
  2. How will the forum benefit the schools and their students and differ from other conferences?

What we hope to offer:

  1. A deep exploration of what it means for a school to be purpose-designed as a “centre of well-being” through various experiences, presentations, conversations, and relationship-building.
  2. To accomplish this, we are intentionally offering participants the ‘regenerative’ space and time to genuinely interact, ask impactful questions, and share rich possibilities for our shared future. In other words, to experience “well-being” within an authentic learning community.
  3. After the forum, we hope a community will form and grow to help participating schools implement the ideas and strategies discussed at the forum. We hope there is a lasting impact so that the schools continue to innovate and make a positive impact.

Once our founding event is complete, we aim to open the “Hakuba Forum” up in future years to many other schools that are committed to dynamic curriculum creation that no longer keeps students as passive passengers in their education journey or limits schools to following trendy buzzwords that lack genuine impact over time.

For more information about the “Hakuba Forum”, please contact the planning team at: studio@thinkglobalschool.com.


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