Each year, students and teachers at The Franklin School of Innovation embark on Learning Expeditions. For most students, their first Expedition is unlike anything they’ve experienced in school before. Expeditions are multidisciplinary units in which students take a deep dive into a big question or problem. Teachers across different subjects collaborate to design Expeditions, giving students the chance to explore an issue from multiple perspectives and disciplines.
While each Expedition is unique, they include common elements. Every Expedition begins with a kick-off event, and includes research, field work, and a final student project. The final projects are designed for an audience beyond the classroom, and are presented as part of a Celebration of Learning. For example, for last year’s 9th grade Expedition, students worked in groups to learn how climate change is impacting our local community. As a final product, each group designed a Public Service Announcement (PSA), with a call to action in response to the climate challenge they studied. Selected PSAs were displayed live at a celebration at Pack Square.
This year, students are exploring a wide variety of questions in Expeditions. Here’s a peek inside the Expeditions across the school!
5th Grade: A Survey in FSI Expeditions
As our entry year, 5th grade provides the foundation and introduction to our school for many students. As part of that introduction, 5th graders engage in an in-depth study of Learning Expeditions. Students conduct interviews and analyze data including reflections, photos, and a collection of artifacts highlighting the learning, community service, and personal growth related to Expeditions across the school. They investigate concepts such as “What does it mean to be on expedition? What is a guiding question? How do expeditions impact us as learners and as people?” By the end of the year, students have participated in various capacities with other Franklin expeditions and looked at “expeditions” beyond our school. They create a final presentation for school administrators and google slides for incoming families documenting the highlights from this year’s expeditions.
6th Grade: Rules to Live By
FSI 6th grade students seek to answer the guiding questions: How do people create and follow rules to live better lives? and How do people communicate these rules to others? One of the rules students examine is Take care of each other. Toward that end, students travel in fieldwork groups to visit different segments of out community, including Irene Wortham Early Learning Center, IFB (formerly Industries for the Blind), and Ardenwoods Retirement Community. Students conduct interviews with various community members collecting stories and advice to find out about their rules for living and, ultimately, develop some rules to enhance their own lives. As a culminating project, students select an individual from their own community, and complete an Oral History Project, adding their subject’s rules for living to their collection of stories. Students share these stories with their families and with community members who participated in the Expedition in a Celebration of Learning.
7th Grade: “Technology, for Better or for Worse?”
Our 7th grade students dig into big questions around technology:
- How does technology change our culture and community?
- Who gets left behind as technology advances?
- How do machines really work?
To kick off the Expedition, students travel to the Asheville Museum of Science (AMOS), where they learn what goes into creating a museum exhibit. Throughout the Expedition, they unpack the impact of technology, looking at examples of how it has changed the lives of people for better and for worse. Students learn how machines work while investigating how the work of machines has changed the labor and lives of people. They study simple and compound machines, create accurate scaled drawings of a compound machine, and then build their own. As a final project, students work in groups to create a museum exhibit that highlights applications of simple machines that have changed the world. They return to AMOS for their Celebration of Learning, and present their exhibits to an audience of museum goers.
8th Grade: Water is Life
Students in 8th grade conduct an in-depth study of the role water plays in the development of communities throughout history. Understanding the history and science of water–biologically and chemically–is key to maintaining water quality and explaining how a water source can serve multiple needs and uses. Students investigate the meaning of the phrase “Water is Life” from historical, literary, and scientific perspectives. Students start local, with a deep study Hominy Creek, which runs along the back of the school’s property. Students collect and analyse water quality data, and participate in stream-cleans. Students then apply that local knowledge to global issues of water, conducting research on areas experiencing a water crisis. They will present their local and global understanding to community stakeholders at a Celebration of Learning in April.
9th Grade: It’s the End of the World as We Know It: Local Responses to Global Climate Change
FSI freshman investigate the guiding question: “How can little actions lead to big change?” Students learn about climate change science and its effect on our culture and people. They examine data and research related to climate change, and hear stories from vulnerable populations. Students dig into the text of the Paris Climate Accord, break it down into simple language, and then debate it. For their fieldwork, students get outside to hike and experience how the changing climate is impacting our local forests. They then interview local community representatives to hear about how a changing climate affects us all. As a final project, students use what they have learned through their research and interviews to create stories of climate change in Asheville, producing podcasts that include a specific call to action. These podcasts will be uploaded to iTunes and other sites and presented at a public Celebration of Learning.
10th Grade: Sustainability and Biophilic Design in our School
This Expedition is centered around the excitement of FSI’s new building project. Through this Expedition, students explore how sustainable and biophilic design can impact communities, and then propose sustainable and biophilic projects that could be implemented in our school. Students travel to the LEED-certified New Belgium Brewing, to experience sustainable design. They explore topics including: site selection (brownfield redevelopment/infill strategy), stream restoration, stormwater management, LEED certifications, recycling and composting, pollinator friendly landscaping, and water and energy saving technology in their operations. Students then work collaboratively within groups to propose ideas for sustainable and biophilic projects that can be implemented on our own campus. Selected projects will be presented at FSI’s annual Founders’ Day and Mud Run Celebration. Community members will be invited to vote for their favorite proposal. The winning proposal at Founder’s Day will be implemented by the 11th grade crews as a service project next year.
11th Grade: From Truss to Keys: Building a Home
This Expedition pairs learning standards across all four core subjects (English, math, science, and social studies) with a yearlong service project in which students raise money for and volunteer service hours to build a house with Habitat for Humanity. Students begin by examining bias and how we view issues in our society. From there, students move into more practical applications of homeownership and housing gaps in and around Asheville. Finally, students explore the history and the current state of nonprofits and their role in our community. Ultimately students are able to answer what our role is in our community to address issues and how they will participate as an active citizen.
- How does a person’s background influence current perception, bias, and opinions?
- Whose responsibility is it to take ownership of issues in a community?
- What tools do you need to lay out an argument for change?
- What does it take to own an affordable house in the Asheville area?
- What parallels can we draw between causes of homelessness throughout U.S. history to homelessness in Asheville today?
- What parallels can we drawn between how governments and individuals discussed and addressed the issue of homelessness throughout U.S. history and how the city of Asheville discusses and addresses homelessness today?
This Expedition is our most ambitious undertaking. FSI is the only public school that participates in the Asheville Habitat student build. Our students work hard to raise over $13,000 for each student build!
12th Grade: Independent Expeditions – Research Projects & Internships
Our seniors conduct independent Expeditions, in the form of an extensive Senior Project. Every student selects a topic of deep interest. They explore this topic through research, and complete a formal research paper. They then work with our faculty to find an internship with a local business. Students complete a minimum of 40 hours in their internship, along with 20 hours of related community service. As a final step, students prepare a multi-media presentation that incorporates what they learned through their research, internship, and service, and their reflection on how these actions have helped them prepare for their journey beyond high school. Students present to a panel including teachers, other students, school administrators, and community members. Senior projects reflect the individuality and creativity of our students, and have included producing an album, learning to be a blacksmith, and serving as a vet tech.