What is a Learning Expedition?
Learning expeditions are a central part of every EL Education school. In Learning Expeditions, teams of teachers design big projects that bring learning alive for students. Students explore real problems and big ideas that require them to conduct original research, think critically, engage in problem solving, and build character and academic skills. At Franklin, all Learning Expeditions include a component of service that is closely tied to what students are learning – giving students the opportunity to do real work that matters.
When teachers collaborate to design a Learning Expedition, they start with their curriculum. What are students expected to know and be able to do? From here, teachers look for common themes, and then come up with a big idea or problem that brings everything together.
Learning expeditions take multiple, powerful elements of the EL model and join them together: guiding questions, kickoff experiences, case studies, projects, lessons, fieldwork, experts, service learning, and a culminating event featuring high-quality student work.
This Year’s Learning Expeditions:
5th grade: “What is an Expedition?” Fifth graders observe, support, participate and reflect on the expeditions that are happening at the Franklin School of Innovation. Students conduct interviews, analyze data, and examine reflections, photos, and a collection of artifacts highlighting the learning, community service, and personal growth of these projects for FSI students. Students 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 will have participated in various capacities with each Franklin expedition. They create a final presentation for school administrators and students in other grade levels documenting the highlights from this year’s expeditions. This expedition builds excitement for future expeditions, and helps students understand what it really means to be “On Expedition”.
6th grade: “Rules to Live By” Students endeavor 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 in an effort to reach out to different segments of our community. Expedition groups visit Irene Wortham Early Learning Center, IFB Solutions (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. At the Celebration of Learning, community partners are invited to join with our students to see and hear the stories students have collected, and what rules students have chosen as guideposts.
7th grade: “Technology: For Better or Worse?” The forces created by machines propel us in many ways; literally when when we ride in cars and airplanes and figuratively as technology changes our way of life. In this expedition, students explore these figurative and physical forces. As they learn how machines work in science, they will learn how the work of machines changed the labor and lives of people. In math they combine art and precision to create accurate scaled drawings of machines, employing skills of real engineers. Across the curriculum, students unpack the impact of technology. They evaluate the claim “technology is good” by looking at examples of how it has changed the lives of people for better and for worse, asking questions such as “Who gets left behind as technology advances?” To bring things together and wrap up their learning, students create a museum exhibit that highlights applications of simple machines that have changed the world. They then present their exhibits at the local Asheville Museum of Science to an audience of museum goers and community members.
8th grade: “Water is Life.” Water plays a crucial role in the development of communities throughout history. It is a source of conflict, cooperation, and competition between stakeholders in a community. 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. For this expedition, students investigate the meaning of the phrase “Water is Life” from historical, literary, and scientific perspectives. The expedition begins with an in-depth case study of Hominy Creek, in which students collect and analyze water quality data, and engage in service learning stream clean activities. The expedition then expands from this close local look to an exploration of water crisis throughout the world. Local environmental organizations and community members are invited to the final Celebration of Learning to see and hear what students have learned through their expedition.
9th grade: “It’s the End of the World As We Know It: Local Responses to Global Change”
The 9th grade learning expedition begins with the study of climate change and its causes. Students continue by learning about its effects and impacts through a local lens as they interview experts from different industries in Asheville. They end by creating a series of informational podcasts that are shared through a “listening party”, where community members are invited to listen and learn. Students learn to make cross-curricular connections, craft effective questions, communicate effectively with the public, and create, edit, and publish podcasts for the whole world to hear!
10th grade: “E. Pluribus Unum – Out of Many One” This humanities-based expedition focuses on different issues surrounding immigration in the United States. Students will delve into the issue from multiple perspectives as it relates to the US, immigration throughout history, in their own families, and worldwide trends. Partnering with a local organization, Vecinos, students will discover how this issue is affecting their own community and ways that they can get involved.
11th grade: “Housing for All: How Does the Affordable Housing Crisis Impact our Community?” 11th graders take a deep dive into our community’s affordable housing crisis, learning what makes housing “substandard” and exploring the systematic reasons why a family might live in substandard housing. Ultimately students write and perform an original piece concerning the housing crisis in a coffee house-style celebration of learning. As students explore the multiple impacts of housing instability and affordability in our community, they als partner with Habitat for Humanity to hear the personal stories of what having a home means to families, and to see how an organization can make a difference. Students help raise funds for the Student Build (set for completion in April 2021) and contribute service hours with the Habitat Home Repair Team. Each year, students in 11th grade collectively contribute over 500 hours of service in partnership with Habitat!
12th Grade: Senior Projects. In their final years, students embark on personal “learning expeditions”, in the form of an intensive Senior Project. Students choose a topic of deep personal interest, and complete an independent research paper related to this topic. As part of their research, they complete a 40-hour internship, and 20 hours of community service. As a final step, they present formal, conference-style multimedia presentations to an audience consisting of school administrators and outside community members, sharing what they have learned and how the experience has helped prepare them for life after Franklin. Each year, senior projects span a wide range of subjects, from producing an independent music album to becoming a blacksmith, to working as a vet tech.
Examples of Expedition Projects
This video showcases student work from the 2018 9th grade expedition, “The End of the World As We Know It“.
In 2019, the 9th grade created podcasts. You can listen to them here: https://anchor.fm/fsiexpedition