Expeditionary Learning (EL) Education is an innovative, award-winning teaching approach born 25 years ago out of a collaboration between Harvard’s School of Education and Outward Bound. Today, there are 152 EL credentialed schools across the US, including 9 partner schools in California.
Built on a foundation of traditional academic rigor that meets Common Core standards, EL helps schools make those standards come alive for students by creating stimulating age-appropriate learning environments, both in and outside the classroom. Designed with an emphasis on teamwork and shared values of respect, responsibility, courage and kindness, the goal of EL is to invigorate learning through a variety of innovative teaching practices including Learning Expeditions, which are long-term, in-depth, research studies that culminate in a high-quality product, presentation or performance.
EL’s customized approach helps schools grow and evolve by building on what is already working, while providing teachers with new tools and creative approaches to go deeper into subject areas and connect curriculum throughout the school year and across grade levels. This approach helps students become critical thinkers both in and out of the classroom and encourages them to develop meaning and purpose in their work.
We believe that the EL model brings together the best of all worlds for Manor students by emphasizing academic rigor, project-based learning, and social and emotional development. As the first school in Marin County selected for an EL partnership, we are fortunate to have the leadership of our principal, Peg Minicozzi, to guide us through this credentialing process. Peg’s experience in working with schools to implement new programs, including her work with Partners in School Innovation in San Francisco, makes her well suited to accurately assess this program and to successfully implement it at Manor.
EL teaches students to be leaders of their own learning. Through compelling topics connected to the Common Core standards, students learn skills and content through real-world projects. When students enter adult life they will be judged by the quality of their work and the quality of their character. With that in mind, EL focuses on three core areas:
Within this framework, students develop the tools to become flexible, strategic, independent learners who are prepared academically to succeed in any setting, including middle school, and to be able to tackle any new learning experience with confidence.
EL’s Learning Expeditions are the primary way of organizing curriculum. Based on a compelling topic derived from content standards, the goal is to help students to learn content area material through purposeful and meaningful research projects. Expeditions allow for deep study of a particular topic over a certain period of time and integrate many disciplines, from science and math, to social studies and the arts.
Students are engaged in inquiry, with the thread of the topic they are studying woven into each day and throughout the time period of the Expedition. Critique and feedback are important pieces of the process, with a key message to students that “your work matters.”
Learning Expeditions are built on six elements:
Learning Expeditions also allow for various types of learners to access the curriculum based on their strengths and goals as learners. This allows for built-in differentiation and enrichment for all levels of learners.
We are currently in the second half of our planning year with EL. The 2017-18 school year will be year one of a four-year process toward becoming a credentialed EL Network School. As part of this multi-year partnership, the Manor staff will work closely with an EL School Designer to fully adopt, adapt, and integrate the program.
During the credential timeline, we undergo a rigorous review process to hit key benchmarks and reach milestones. The support structure provided by EL will encourage us to move toward goals most efficiently, while holding all of us accountable in the process.
EL conducts a rigorous and comprehensive partnership selection process. Over the last school year, the EL Western Regional Director and the EL School Designer visited Manor several times to evaluate our readiness for this partnership. In addition, the Manor Leadership Team completed a comprehensive review as part of the application process. Because EL believes deeply in teacher leadership and voice, one of the requirements for a partnership with EL is that at least 85% of the staff must be on board. We are proud to share our teaching staff voted unanimously to partner with EL. Following that vote, at the end of last year, EL announced that Manor met all of the criteria for a partnership with EL.
We are grateful to the Ross Valley School District for their financial investment and ongoing support for Manor to partner with EL. Manor is the first school in Marin County to be selected into the EL Network
and we couldn’t be more excited to lead the way.
Professional development is one of the cornerstone’s of EL’s approach, allowing our teachers to gain and master new skills through on-site professional development workshops, personalized coaching, institutes and conferences, and observation of best practices from other schools. Manor has a designated School Designer who is on campus up to 30 days per year to provide 1:1 coaching in classrooms, support grade level planning and curriculum mapping, and lead staff development sessions. We are excited about the quality and depth of the customized training our team has already experienced, including site visits to other EL schools where we can witness firsthand the best practices and outcomes of the program in action.
We appreciate all that our parent community does to support our students and our school. As always, there will be opportunities for parents to be involved when and as much as they want to participate.
There are many qualitative and quantitative measures for how we will know EL is working at Manor. EL has a proven track record for improving academic performance; which is quantified through a rigorous review and assessment process where we will see overall academic achievement improve over time on a variety of measures.
As a community, we will know EL is working when our kids are finding new and exciting outlets for their curiosity both in the classroom and out in the field; that they are creating high quality work that they learn to present with pride and ownership; and that they are becoming good citizens and leaders who respect themselves and others, and who care about their community and the world around them.
For our staff, we will know it’s working when we experience that they are invigorated with new ways of teaching to help kids achieve inside and outside of the classroom. And, that they are inspired with new tools to help support our students to build character, meaning and purpose that will stay with them long beyond elementary school.
We will all know it’s working when we are working together as one school supporting a common vision and goals.
For more information about EL Education, please visit their website at www.eleducation.org