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: “You Are What You Eat” Students will explore the cost of where their food comes from both locally and nationwide, as well as how environmental and social changes can affect affordability. Students will research local farmers to how local sustainability can benefit our community. Students will complete a multidisciplinary study of the social, economic, environmental, and historical investigation of some of the most common foods in our society. They will also interview local businesses in the greater Asheville area to gain a local perspective on how, and where, these places receive the foods they dish out, especially locally supportive organizations. In Math, students will compare the costs of local food productions vs mainstream supply chains and how that impacts the cost of living, in ELA, they will research local farms and businesses and how they maintain sustainability in our community, and in Social Studies they will study how social and environmental changes have or have not impacted the transition and availability of different food items nationally and locally.
7th grade: “Technology: For Better or Worse?” The forces created by machines propel us in many ways; literally 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.” This expedition teaches students about the history, cultural importance, economic importance, and current state of the French Broad Watershed. We will examine the effects of soil erosion and runoff pollution on its waterways and the broader community. The focus of this expedition is to challenge students to embrace the role of stewards and take on a more active role in maintaining and protecting the French Broad River Watershed. The final product of the expedition focuses on having the students research, design, and implement an erosion/runoff mitigation effort along our section of Hominy creek and other applicable spaces on campus to act as a community model for stewardship. Students will develop a deeper understanding of how vital our waterways are to sustaining our daily lives and communities in the greater Asheville area.
9th grade: “Centering Joy: Encouraging Wellness” In today’s world we often get bogged down on the monotonous motions of going to school or work, constantly bombarded with the next tragic or scandalous event in the news and inundated with notifications on our many apps on our devices about the next thing and the next. We forget to take a pause and enjoy things we like to do and love. Think back to the early part of the pandemic when we spent so much time at home during quarantine – many people took up new hobbies or pursued old interests that gave them joy. This expedition is bringing that back to students – to find joy in what they enjoy doing, what they’re interested in, and what they’re passionate about. Students will work with their teachers to pursue different paths of joy through focus groups ranging from the Makers (those who enjoy making things for others), Pleasure Seekers (problem solvers), Adventurers, Music Aficionados, and Nature Lovers. We aim to connect with local experts and organizations to provide opportunities for interviews, tours, and off-campus activities to enrich their understanding and appreciation of joyful things. We’ll culminate with an evening where students will share digital stories, roundtable talks, and public presentations with community members to share in encouraging wellness.
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: “Keep AVL Human: A Response to the Housing Crisis” Throughout the second and third quarters, 11th grade students are engaging in self-guided, community-focused learning that addresses the housing needs of the citizens of the city of Asheville and Buncombe County. Our Expedition culminates in a wide range of individual and collaborative projects that pushes students to engage authentically with local stakeholders and challenges them to think critically about the ways their learning can affect real-world problems.
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