My current placement is 58 School aka World of Inquiry School. It is a kindergarten through 12th grade school (the only one in the RCSD) and it is also an expeditionary learning school. Expeditionary Learning is a program model that schools can opt in by paying, which in turn gives the teachers of that school professional development and further support to the EL model. The EL model stresses student achievement, character, and goals. “We are crew, not passengers,” is a common phrase heard and read throughout the halls of WOIS. It is meant to instill ideas of responsibility, collaboration, and dedication to a shared goal/journey among everyone in the school. These ideas are encapsulated in the 10 Design Principles promoted by EL schools:
1. The Primacy of Self-Discovery:
Learning happens best with emotion, challenge, and the requisite support. People discover their abilities, values, “grand passions”, and responsibilities in situations that offer adventure and the unexpected. they must have tasks that require perseverance, fitness, craftsmanship, imagination, self-discipline and significant achievement. A primary job of the educator is to help students overcome their fears and discover they have more in them than they think.
2. The Having of Wonderful Ideas
Teach so as to build on children’s curiosity about the world by creating learning situations that provide matter to think about, time to experiment, and time to make sense of what is observed. Foster a community where students’ and adults’ ideas are respected.
3. The Responsibility For Learning
Learning is both personal, individually specific process of discovery and a social activity. Each of us learns within and for ourselves and as part of a group. Every aspect of a school must encourage children, young people, and adults to become increasingly responsible for directing their own personal and collective learning.
4. Intimacy and Caring
Learning is fostered best in small groups where there is trust, sustained caring, and mutual respect among all members of the learning community. Keep schools and learning groups small. Be sure there is a caring adult looking after the progress of each child. Arrange for older students to mentor the younger ones.
5. Success and Failure
All students must be assured a fair measure of success in learning in order to nurture the confidence and capacity to take risks and rise to increasingly difficult challenges. But it is also important to experience failure, to overcome negative inclinations, to prevail against adversity, and to learn to turn disabilities into opportunities.
6. Collaboration and Competition
Teach so as to join individual and group development so that the value of friendship, trust, and group endeavor is made manifest. Encourage students to compete, not against one another, but with their own personal best and rigorous standards of excellence.
7. Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion in all groups dramatically increase richness of ideas, creative power, problem solving ability, and acceptance of others. Encourage students to investigate, value and draw upon their own different histories, talents, and resources together with those of other communities and cultures. Keep the schools and learning groups heterogeneous.
8.The Natural World
A direct and respectful relationship with the natural world refreshes the human spirit and reveals the important lessons of recurring cycles and cause and effect. Students learn to become stewards of the earth and of the generations to come.
9. Solitude and Reflection
Solitude, reflection, and silence replenish our energies and open our minds. Be sure students have time alone to explore their own thoughts, make their own connections, and create their own ideas. then give them opportunity to exchange their own reflections with each other and with adults.
10. Service and Compassion
We are crew, not passengers, and are strengthened by acts of consequential service to others. One of a school’s primary functions is to prepare students with the attitudes and skills to learn from and be of service to others.
Every morning during homeroom, which is referred to as crew, my 7th graders chant the “Model Citizens Pledge” which assists in acculturating students in the World of Inquiry. It goes like this:
“We the crew of World of Inquiry
make this pledge for all Model Citizens.
We should all give service
and have compassion for others.
We will celebrate our discoveries
and wonderful ideas.
Through reflection we will learn
from our successes and failures.
While collaborating we will show caring
for diverse people and our natural world.
We are all responsible for our own learning.
Our education is our future.”
What this pledge reminded me of was the science chant that this cohort developed during summer camp and then revised for STARS. Of course this pledge includes more general practices that make for stronger learners and citizens. Similar to a practice utilized during STARS, students are responsible for connecting a part of the pledge to their lives. Since a design principle is chosen to be focused on each month, there is plenty of permutations of such reflection throughout the year for each principle.
When it comes to reflecting on achievement, students are tasked with guiding SLCs (student-led conferences). In these conferences between their crew adviser (homeroom teacher) and family, students must give information about their successes and failures in school. This was a really cool practice that gets students to engage in meta-cognition, as they need to pull out their strengths and weaknesses for each of their core classes and possible ways to improve. It also stimulates powerful conversations between students and their families concerning their performance.
Probably the biggest aspect to expeditionary learning is part of its namesake, expeditions. Expeditions occur twice a year, where the students are expected to investigate a question of interest that incorporates multiple disciplines. This year, my 7th graders are doing an investigation about the American Revolution. Since my CT is the only 7th grade science teacher and this is his first year at an EL school, the connections to science aren’t very strong and I haven’t had much opportunity to see what expeditions up close. From what I can gather, teachers are responsible for getting students access to resources but try to keep the investigation as open as possible. An authentic production is expected to be created at the end of the investigation. Last year, the 8th graders created a film about “What makes me, me?”, a discussion on race.
Hopefully this was a coherent and interesting summary of the Expeditionary Learning. I’ve been enjoying my time learning more about it and seeing the impact it has had on the school culture. The reason that WOIS developed into K-12 was that WOIS were disheartened by the harsh transitions that their students found in moving into other high school environments. I’ll end on a short video that I found on elschools.org
(where you can find even more info about EL), which gives a quick run-down of what they are about.