Our school is based on the Expeditionary learning model, a proven model for comprehensive school reform for elementary, middle, and high schools. It emphasizes learning by doing, with a particular focus on character growth, teamwork, reflection, and literacy. Teachers connect high-quality academic learning to adventure, service, and character development through a variety of student experiences, including interdisciplinary, project-based learning expeditions.
Expeditionary learning design
Expeditionary learning is built on ten design principles that reflect the educational values and beliefs of Outward Bound. These principles also reflect the design’s connection to other related thinking about teaching, learning, and the culture of schools.
The ten design principles are our best short statement of the philosophy of education and core values of Outward Bound and Expeditionary Learning. Drawn from the work of Outward Bound’s founder Kurt Hahn and other educational leaders, the principles focus our attention on what is important and give us something to return to when we need guidance.
Learning is an expedition into the unknown. Expeditions draw together personal experience and intellectual growth to promote self-discovery and construct knowledge. We believe that adults should guide students along this journey with care, compassion, and respect for their diverse learning styles, backgrounds, and needs. Addressing individual differences profoundly increases the potential for learning and creativity of each student.
Given fundamental levels of health, safety, and love, all people can and want to learn. We believe expeditionary learning harnesses the natural passion to learn and is a powerful method for developing the curiosity, skills, knowledge, and courage needed to imagine a better world and work toward realizing it.
10 design principles
THE PRIMACY OF SELF-DISCOVERY
Learning happens best with emotion, challenge, and the requisite support. People discover their abilities, values, passions, and responsibilities in situations that offer adventure and the unexpected. In expeditionary learning schools, students undertake tasks that require perseverance, fitness, craftsmanship, imagination, self-discipline, and significant achievement. A teacher’s primary task is to help students overcome their fears and discover they can do more than they think they can.
THE HAVING OF WONDERFUL IDEAS
Teaching in expeditionary learning schools fosters curiosity about the world by creating learning situations that provide something important to think about, time to experiment, and time to make sense of what is observed.
THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR LEARNING
Learning is both a personal process of discovery and a social activity. Everyone learns both individually and as part of a group. Every aspect of an expeditionary learning school encourages both children and adults to become increasingly responsible for directing their own personal and collective learning.
EMPATHY AND CARING
Learning is fostered best in communities where students’ and teachers’ ideas are respected and where there is mutual trust. Learning groups are small in expeditionary learning schools, with a caring adult looking after the progress and acting as an advocate for each child. Older students mentor younger ones, and students feel physically and emotionally safe.
SUCCESS AND FAILURE
All students need to be successful if they are to build the confidence and capacity to take risks and meet increasingly difficult challenges. But it is also important for students to learn from their failures, to persevere when things are hard, and to learn to turn disabilities into opportunities.
COLLABORATION AND COMPETITION
Individual development and group development are integrated so that the value of friendship, trust, and group action is clear. Students are encouraged to compete not against each other, but with their own personal best and with rigorous standards of excellence.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
Both diversity and inclusion increase the richness of ideas, creative power, problem-solving ability, and respect for others. In expeditionary learning schools, students investigate and value their different histories and talents as well as those of other communities and cultures. Schools and learning groups are heterogeneous.
THE NATURAL WORLD
A direct and respectful relationship with the natural world refreshes the human spirit and teaches the important ideas of recurring cycles and cause and effect. Students learn to become stewards of the earth and of future generations.
SOLITUDE AND REFLECTION
Students and teachers need time alone to explore their own thoughts, make their own connections, and create their own ideas. They also need time to exchange their reflections with other students and with adults.
SERVICE AND COMPASSION
We are crew, not passengers. Students and teachers are strengthened by acts of consequential service to others, and one of an expeditionary learning school’s primary functions is to prepare students with the attitudes and skills to learn from and be of service.
Thornton Creek and the ELOB model
Our school is based on the following philosophical assumptions:
- Staff hold high expectations for every student and support each student to achieve those expectations.
- Learning at Thornton Creek supports children to develop an understanding of and participation in their community through engaging, project-based learning.
- Developing the social emotional intelligence of children builds a respectful learning environment and is the foundation for significant skill acquisition.
- Classroom activities provide students the opportunity to take significant responsibility for their learning and assessment.
- Skill acquisition is a life-long process. Learning activities provide students the opportunity to discover how to learn.