Expeditionary Learning is a powerful and inclusive model and is, at its essence, how humans learn.

 

Mary Lord
Ward 2 Representative,
D.C. State Board of Education

Expeditionary Learning

Capital City was founded as an Expeditionary Learning school in 2000. Our innovative learning expeditions allow us to teach all subjects through the lens of a broader topic so students learn in the context of the community and the world in which they live.

Through learning expeditions, students engage in fieldwork, community service and work with experts, to complete in-depth studies in one or more subject areas. Expeditions culminate with projects and exhibitions that demonstrate mastery of standards. During their senior year of high school, students will design their own personal expedition to further an interest or passion.

 

Sample Elementary Expeditions

Pre-K/Kindergarten Trash/Recycling Expedition

Pre-K and Kindergarten students explore their environment, learning about materials on our Earth and how those materials are affected by trash. Students study the habits of people with regard to the trash we produce, where it goes and how it affects our soil, water and air. Students take “trash walks,” visit our local trash transfer station and recycling center, collect and sort trash in their classrooms, and hear from experts about how much waste we have in our world and how it affects our lives. They create “trash maps” mapping what happens to trash when it gets thrown away.  Students then explore ways of reducing trash through reusing, recycling and composting and establish a composting center for the school. As a culminating project, students create public service announcements about trash and recycling.

 

3rd/4th Grade Rainforest Expedition

Through this expedition, 3rd and 4th graders develop an understanding of the temperate forest in which we live, compare the temperate forest to tropical rainforests in Central and South America, and then focus on how the foods we eat affect the rainforests using chocolate as a compelling topic. Fieldwork includes trips to Rock Creek Park, Amazonia at the National Zoo and Discovery Creek’s “A Look Through the Layers” program. Students explored the human impact on rainforest habitats through a case study about chocolate and cacao production. Projects include forming expert groups to research rainforest animals, painting a multi-layered picture of rainforest life and working in teams to design and implement a service project to raise awareness of organic, fair-trade chocolate.


 

Sample Middle School Expeditions

5th/6th Grade “Know Your Rights” Expedition

Students engage in two in-depth investigations exploring the complex themes of justice, racism, and activism. The first, “The Foundation of Our Rights,” investigates how the Bill of Rights established basic human rights for all Americans and how the Declaration of Independence created a legacy of activism.  Students translate the Bill of Rights into kid-friendly language and then participate in a “Day Without Rights” to gain personal connections with the frustration that acts as a catalyst for activism. In the second and larger investigation, “The Struggle to Apply Rights Equally,” the focus is on three major examples of civil rights activism spanning the twentieth century: the Women’s Suffrage Movement, Migrant Worker Rights and African American Voting Rights. Students search for parallels between these movements by examining who was affected, what the impacts of limited rights were, and what types of activism achieved change. Students examine the central activists in each struggle and as a culminating project, create a fictional activist character from one of the movements. Students create a portrait and materials to document the life of their fictional activist and present their characters at a final showcase.

 

7th/8th Grade Green Buildings Expedition

In this expedition focused on energy and conservations, 7th and 8th graders study green buildings. The expedition kicks off with a trip to the National Building Museum where students work together to build a structure with various “green” features. Students then participate in an energy audit training run by the Alliance to Save Energy, during which they conduct an energy audit of the school and put together a list of practical, no-cost changes that would reduce energy usage and save money. The “auditors” present their results to the school’s staff. Students also visit Sidwell Friends’ LEED Platinum-Rated building. The expedition concludes by publishing green building picture books and presenting a proposal to the Capital City Board of Trustees regarding important energy use and materials considerations for the facility.

 

 

Sample High School Expeditions

9th Grade Fish Ecology Expedition

In this 9th Grade Biology expedition, students study local fish ecology. They investigate why habitat preservation is important for any organism, how humans interfere with the survival of local anadromous fish populations, and the restoration methods available to help our anadromous fish resume their migration routes. Students conduct fieldwork in the Rock Creek Park and the Potomac River to measure water quality, soil composition, dissolved oxygen, ph levels and water speed. Students participate in a local shad restoration project, engage in lab work at school and maintain a daily “Eco-Journal.” The culminating project is the publication of a bilingual field guide of the fauna of Rock Creek Park for elementary-aged students.

 

10th Grade Injustice Expedition

10th Graders study history through the lens of justice/injustice. They engage in an in-depth investigation of injustice in world history and in their own lives. Students begin with a study of the Holocaust and then chose to further research an example of injustice in another country using primary and secondary sources. At the same time, students read related historical fiction. Students then identify a modern injustice that they want to interrupt and complete a project that includes a creative piece, an advocacy project, and a persuasive speech. Students have the opportunity to take action on an issue about which they were passionate and to turn their passion into service to others.

 

For more information on Expeditionary Learning, click here.