Launch is part of the national Expeditionary Learning network of over 150 member schools. At Expeditionary Learning schools, students go deep into subject matter through hands-on projects that investigate relevant, real-world issues. From these investigations, student create projects, produce events and present performances that demonstrate deep understanding of subject matter to audience members who are peers, family members, teachers, community members and experts.
More than just filling in bubbles on a standardized test, Expeditionary Learning motivates students to apply develop skills that they can apply in the real world, while also developing the critical capacities to defend their learning and outcomes. By making these connections with the real world, graduates from Launch are well prepared to succeed in college and beyond. Expeditionary Learning is driven by five core practices, which shape all that we do at Launch.
Five Core Practices
1) Learning Expeditions—In-depth, cross-curricular, standards-based studies that are project-based, incorporate fieldwork and are relevant to students’ lives. Expeditions are the primary way of organizing curriculum, and always address central academic standards. The subject matter of a learning expedition is a compelling topic derived from content standards. Learning expeditions feature linked projects that require students to construct deep understandings and skills and to create products for real audiences.
2) Active Pedagogy—Engaging, research-based, effective instruction focused on student inquiry and literacy across the curriculum. Teaching and learning are active and engaging in Launch classrooms. Common practices are used across subject areas and grade levels, such as: Protocols, Workshops, Mini-Lessons, Modeling, Representing Thinking, Questioning and Following Student Thinking, Using Exemplars and Models, Multiple Drafts, Revision and Critique, and Reflecting and Debriefing. Literacy skills serve as one of the primary vehicles for learning across the curriculum.
3) Culture and Character—Community, respect, safety, adventure, professionalism and family comprise the culture at Launch. School culture is developed and supported through a strong character-building program. Teaching practices and school wide structures ensure that all students are well known by adults and peers. Student achievement, culture and character are enhanced at Launch through the crew system, a unique advisory system that is a powerful tool for learning.
4) Leadership and School Improvement—Success at Launch is supported by strong and collaborative leadership that uses data to drive school improvement and links the EL philosophy to the school as a whole. Leaders create a professional community that focuses on curriculum and instruction as the primary vehicles for improving student achievement and school culture.
5) Structures—Clear structures are in place that provide time for both student and teacher learning and development. The schedule will integrate blocks of class time, opportunities for integration of the disciplines, and common planning time for teachers. Teachers will use extended preparation, common planning and structured professional development to analyze student data and determine instructional priorities.
“This kind of innovative school…is an example of how all our schools should be.”
—President Obama after visiting an Expeditionary Learning school in Washington D.C.