1st graders exploring bees. Photo of Capital City students courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

"EL Education is a powerful and inclusive model and is, at its essence, how humans learn."

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

Capital City was founded as an EL Education (formerly 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. Watch this EL Education video that was filmed at Capital City to see a snapshot of the amazing learning experiences that happen here every day.

In 2015, after a collaborative effort in creating a portfolio showcasing our practices and results in three main areas: Mastery of Knowledge, Student Character and High Quality Work, Capital City was approved as an EL Education Credentialed School. View our Portfolio to learn more about how Capital City infuses the EL Education model in every aspect of the learning environment. Examine our gallery of high quality student work, which will be constantly updated with current samples from our students.

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. Learn more about our school year 2019-2020 PreK - 12 expeditions below.

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Emergent Curriculum (PreK)
Emergent Curriculum (PreK)

Expeditions vary in PreK due to our Emergent Curriculum. Instead of delivering learning experiences around a preplanned topic, teachers develop high-quality, in-depth studies based on student interest. For example, during the 2018-2019 school year, PreK students expressed an interest in animals. Responding to this, teachers developed an in-depth study of animals that included age-appropriate texts, art projects and fieldwork. The study culminated in students walking to the Humane Rescue Alliance where they shared their learning through an original song and donated toys. 

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Birds of DC (K)
Birds of DC (K)

During this spring expedition, students explore animal needs, birds needs, and specifically D.C. birds. This culminates in students creating a product that helps birds. In order to meet this goal, students read multiple books about birds, visit Rock Creek Park and the National Zoo, bird-watch at Fort Slocum, and decide how they can help support the birds in our area. All of this will support students in the development of knowledge of physical characterics of birds and how we can help them survive.

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Give Bees a Chance (1st Grade)
Give Bees a Chance (1st Grade)

During this spring expedition, students learn that all living things need similar things to survive: food, shelter, and protection and that animals use their bodies to meet their needs. Students focus on bees of DC and how DC honey bees have the same needs as other animals. Students complete a scientific drawing of a honey bee and write a poem to share their learning. First graders also explore the connection between honey bees and humans, specifically: when honey bees meet their need for food, they are also helping human communities meet their own needs. The expedition culminates with an opinion essay about why honey bees are important. Students use their essays as speeches at the Takoma Park and Capital City Farmers Markets where they sell beeswax candles and greeting cards with the students’ scientific drawings and poems on them. In order to meet this goal, students read various texts, visit the national youth garden and a local apiary, as well as receive a visit from a bee keeper who works closely with bees. All of this will support students in their understanding of how animals use their adaptations to meet their needs and how animals and humans have an impact on each other.

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Schools and Community (2nd Grade)

In the fall, second graders complete the EL Education module, "Schools and Community."

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Thinking Like a Scientist (2nd Grade)

During this spring expedition, students explore the process scientists take in order to think about and interact with the world around time. Students learn about the physical properties materials around us have and how they change. They study how scientists observe, record, and report their findings in written, oral, and graph form and learn how to record these observations and changes in a scientific notebook. Students also complete a case study on two scientists who had a great impact on the world and then choose which they believe made the biggest impact. This culminates in students engaging in a debate on which scientist had the greatest impact on the world. In order to meet this goal, students read a combination of fiction and non-fiction books about the properties of matter and traits of a scientist, visit the Fairfax Children’s Science Center and Maryland Science Center and hear the experience of an NIH scientist. All of this will support students in the development of understanding of the structure, properties and interactions of matter and build their understanding of the process and steps scientists take in order to interact with the world around them.

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History of the Americas (3rd Grade)

During this spring expedition, students explore the causes of exploration and the consequences of settlement from the exploration and settlement of the New World, US settlement, and DC settlement. This culminates in students conducting a community asset assessment of the neighborhood(s) surrounding Capital City. Students create products (such as asset maps, posters, skits, slideshows, videos, letters to the editor, debates or others) highlighting local resources available to the broader Capital City community to share with local residents and decision makers. In order to meet this goal, students read a diverse set of complex informational and literary texts to build background knowledge of exploration, development and gentrification,  visit the National Museum of the American Indian and the Anacostia Museum, and decide how settlement currently looks in Washington, DC. All of this will support students in the development of understanding of the lasting effects of colonizers who are seeking to inhabit new land and native populations who already inhabit it.

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Untold Stories of Colonial America (4th Grade)
Untold Stories of Colonial America (4th Grade)

During this spring expedition, students explore power dynamics based upon class, gender, and race in Colonial America. This culminates in a written historical fiction narrative as well as a short recording or dramatization about an actual historical figure in Colonial Williamsburg. In order to meet this goal, students read from various primary and secondary sources, visit Mount Vernon and Claude Moore Colonial Farm, and create compelling arguments about social stratification in Colonial America. They begin this work by learning about the African empires that preceded European colonization and the slave trade, followed by a study on daily life for those who came to America unwillingly and/or without the same amount of power and wealth as those who founded the colonies. Building on this background knowledge, students write an accurate historical fiction about a figure who lived in Colonial Williamsburg and create a performance task dramatizing that person’s life. All of this will support students in the development of understanding how class, race, and gender were a major factor in who held power in Colonial America.

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A More Perfect Union: Game On (5th Grade)
A More Perfect Union: Game On (5th Grade)

During this fall Expedition, students create a high-quality, commercially produced board game that teaches their families about how the three branches of our government function, with a focus on the importance of voting and representation in the legislative branch. In order to meet this goal, students read excerpts of the Constitution, read a variety of informational texts, visit the National Mall, and participate in game-design workshops. All of this will support students in the development of a deep understanding of the features of the US government as well as skills to interpret informational texts. In Spanish II class, students learn and practice vocabulary related to voting and work on a unit about the importance of it.

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Revolt! (6th Grade)
Revolt! (6th Grade)

During this fall expedition, 6th Grade Humanities students continue their work with revolt and resistance through a documentary project. Students have the opportunity to choose which theme of revolt resonates most with them and create a documentary that demonstrates their ability to synthesize information as well as tell their own stories with revolt. Students will be exposed to themes focused on joy as resistance, productive rage as resistance, community building as resistance (addressing/eradicating colorism). Each theme provides students with opportunities to work through and become familiar with complex texts. They also introduce students to the dynamic ways that activism shows up inside and outside of the classroom. Throughout this expedition, students continuously read, watch, analyze, and write about current events concerning contemporary protests or revolts in our society and our global community. Creating the documentary will provide students with an entry point to their own activism, while giving them the chance to share their newfound expertise with our community.

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Humans: Masters of Disaster? (6th Grade)
Humans: Masters of Disaster? (6th Grade)

How do you empower yourself and others to become resilient (and where)? In the relatively short time that humans have been a part of Earth’s history, we have caused tremendous changes to our environment and the Earth's systems. In this spring expedition, students explore the relationship between resilience and sustainability: how we not only impact our environment, but are also impacted by it. Students investigate the climate, extreme weather and how our own city stands to change in the future. They are empowered to envision our community in the future. Students develop plans for how the district can best respond, adapt and innovate in the face of the changes to come.

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My Dream for America (7th Grade)
My Dream for America (7th Grade)

Students explore the American Dream from a variety of perspectives both past and present: those seeking the Dream, those pushing the dream through their activism, and those illuminating their quest through the arts. Using this knowledge, students create an online resource in an attempt to familiarize “everyday” Americans with the ongoing story of immigrants in an effort to promote empathy and unity. They work with partner NGOs to do an artistic or non-artistic piece of social commentary.

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Swimming in the Gene Pool (7th Grade)
Swimming in the Gene Pool (7th Grade)

During this yearlong expedition, students learn about the diversity of organisms, including humans, throughout the world. Seventh graders investigate the similarities and differences across the three domains of life, including the four kingdoms in Domain Eukarya, and 11 phyla in Kingdom Animalia. In the fall, students create and implement strategies to protect biodiversity within our local community. In the spring, students learn about Human Genetic Diversity and investigate the “why” and “how” of genetics shaping our lives and societies by strengthening Genvoz, a website that provides voice to teenagers of color living with genetic disorders.  Genvoz will continue to educate the community on genetic disorders, while providing a platform for professionals to defend for funding towards the National Institutes of Health.  In the 2019-2020 school year, scientists will contribute 20 additional genetic disorder pages, approximately 80 additional personal pages, and will initiate an app development team to launch the Genvoz App in May 2020.

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Designing the Future: Rights for All (8th Grade)
Designing the Future: Rights for All (8th Grade)

This yearlong expedition begins with a deep-dive into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Students also read The Giver by Lois Lowry. 8th graders examine guns in America with a focus on the 2nd amendment, the Black Lives Matter movement, and other platforms in which social protests have occurred in the past and are happening today. Building on student understanding of human rights violations that occur in the United States, students create a prototype that intends to solve or alleviate an aspect of a problem. Students implement the process of design thinking in science and MIT, where they apply the scientific method to engineer a prototype to solve a human rights problem. In Math class, students participate in “data talks” around Human Rights Centered data, which students can incorporate into their final projects to strengthen their arguments. Students share their prototypes and the design thinking they implemented during a TED Talk, as well as in proposals they present to human rights representatives from the DC area. 

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Wild DC: Anadromous Fish Factor (Biology)

In the Anadromous Fish Factor Expedition, students learn about Ecology through the lens of Anadromous fish in our local aquatic community. Through interactive fieldwork and work with experts in the field of fish ecology, students explore the history of Anadromous fish in our community and the impact the Anadromous fish life cycle has on our local ecosystem. Students also investigate the factors that affect biodiversity in our river community, the relationship between local organisms' populations and their environments, how the health of our watershed impacts organisms that live within it as well as human practices that will help restore and revitalize the local river community.

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Water is Life (Chemistry)
Water is Life (Chemistry)

Throughout the school year, chemistry students will be studying the global water crisis. In the fall semester students investigate tap water in the DC, Maryland and Virginia region, study elements and compounds in our water, and analyze the water treatment process. In the spring semester students team up with World History II and look at nuclear power. Students learn how nuclear power works, hear from nuclear engineers and anti-nuclear activists, and decide whether the US should use nuclear power as an energy source. Students will present their findings to experts using professional-level posters.

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Food Justice (Environmental Science/English III)
Food Justice (Environmental Science/English III)

During this spring expedition, students investigate issues of food justice in D.C. Their work culminates in organizing and hosting the city-wide Food Justice Youth Summit, where they present food justice workshops alongside other youth from around the region. In order to meet this goal, students read books, scientific journal articles and other research about their food justice topic and synthesize that information into a literature review, a data analysis/ project, a research paper and finally, their food justice workshop. Students visit Rocklands Farm, the University of the District of Columbia and a student-selected location, specific to their research topic. As students learn about the complex ways that our food system impacts communities and the environment, they simultaneously hone their ability to research, synthesize and apply information from a variety of sources and perspectives. Most significantly, they demonstrate their ability to advocate for change.

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Senior Expedition
Senior Expedition

As the capstone experience to their education at Capital City, 12th graders design their own independent senior expedition research project exploring a topic they are passionate about. Their research culminates in a 12-15 page research paper that includes background information, a clearly stated problem, possible solutions, and a counterargument/rebuttal section. This research paper is then distilled into a 50 minute panel presentation. In order to meet this goal, students locate and read 25 scholarly articles, identify and interview two professionals in related fields, and schedule an interactive fieldwork that allows them to experience their topic first hand. After completing senior expedition, students are ready to excel at college-level research and writing, and defend a provocative thesis with compelling evidence.