I am struck with a few questions after meeting with representatives from a school that hasn’t even opened yet:
What does it truly mean to go on an expedition? What would we do and where would we go? What does it mean that we want to go exploring? Are we exploring new possibilities in Learning, or just perpetuating what it is that we have always known?
Truly revolutionary ideas come from breaking down walls or not putting them up in the first place. The Downtown Denver Expeditionary School is choosing not to put up barriers for their kids. When I met with them, they described something much more like “our city as the school.”
When your job as a student is to problem solve, you do great work from anywhere. One of the most profound ideas that came from this conversation was when they said, “We want kids to make things that are useful outside of ‘school’.”
When we make things for one another that are useful, objectively useful, there is no limit to what it is that we can do. Expeditionary schools don’t exist because somebody wanted to go on field trips. Expeditionary schools exists because someone wanted to solve a problem. They have an itch they wanted scratch.
And scratch it they are. Their kindergarten pre-registration was maxed out almost immediately. They are expanding the definition of academic rigor. They are building background knowledge with authentic case studies, giving the ability for students to explore content on their own. The thing that I’m most excited about, however, is what I would call “fluid expertise”. When the only person in the room that has expertise is the teacher and the only people that are learning are the students, we are missing out on the other expertise in the room as well as the expertise of industry and other “real world” leaders.
Matching students to the right expertise in a fluid process allows us to stop hoarding the expertise. We should be making connections for students rather than cutting them off. We should allow students to find both content and people, and enable the connection that happens in a mentored experience. We learn better this way. This is our expedition.