We learn throughout our lives, but we’re only in formal education for a fraction of it in the beginning.

The way we learn throughout our lives is a constant cycle of self-reinvention and leaving the old things behind. It’s deeply human.

Heading towards a future full of machines finding more and more things to do, the most powerful thing we can do for our youngest learners is to empower them to learn in an intensely human way.


Identified by Joseph Campbell in his 1949 book The Hero with A Thousand Faces, the Hero’s Journey documents the path commonly taken by heroic figures in global mythology.

Speaking of being human, this is the Hero’s Journey. It’s a common story in almost every world mythology that describes the path of hero from a humble person living their ordinary life in their ordinary world to someone who conquers adversity from within and without and becomes the biggest, wisest, strongest version of themselves.

The Hero is Called to Adventure. They’re called to see the world in a way that they can’t unsee. Sometimes the door is slammed behind them, sometimes the pull forward comes from within. At this point the budding hero Meets their Mentor – someone or something that opens their eyes to a power they hadn’t imagined they could wield. This mentor starts them on their journey, but they’re not there to accompany the Hero the whole way. They then embark on a Road of Trials – to try, to fail, to get up, to learn. They Become the Hero. Stronger, wiser, bolder. At this point, they can begin their Return home. They’ve mastered what they needed to learn, and can be what their home needs of them – the Master of Two Worlds.

A quick Google search will unearth dozens of frameworks, processes and methods to run and manage project based learning in your classroom, but they all boil back to this common ancestor. Learn this core narrative, and you can apply it to any specific process any school you work with wants to use.

This sums it up pretty nicely.


It sounds familiar in a learning setting because we’ve seen it all before. Here are two examples of a cyclical learning framework we know and love mapped to the Hero’s Journey.

d.school Design Thinking

Kath Murdoch’s Inquiry Cycle


We’re going to work with 5 key stages to a Hero’s Journey for Project Based Learning. There are many pragmatic and logistical considerations at each stage (and they’re accounted for on the planning tool I’ve linked at the end of the post) but without this core pathway through the story, they’re little more than tickboxes on yet another curriculum document.

Inspire or present an opportunity. Learners engage voluntarily or by appointment.

Support provided to get started. Emphasis on change in the learner, not the mentoring itself.

Iterations of a project. Test & make mistakes, learning resides in overcoming them.

The learning comes to life, the project becomes real, tangible and valuable.

The learner returns to their “normal world” wiser and stronger to move forward.


On May 31st I facilitated some scratch-the-surface workshops with teachers from a cluster of primary schools in Perth. We used LEGO® Serious Play® as the method of exploring the ideas and building a shared core narrative to unearth the collective intelligence in the room.

Take a look at the outcomes, and download the canvas we used to structure our discussion.