Washington Island School Showcases Expeditionary Learning

A number of Washington Island residents and parents headed to school on March 22 to find out about Expeditionary Learning (EL), the project-based curriculum that Washington Island School will be switching to next year.

Student Tara DeJardin shows off “The Workstation,” an invention of her own design, during Washington Island School’s “A Day of Expeditionary Learning” on March 22. Photo by Matt Ledger.

The Washington Island School Board voted unanimously to move ahead with Expeditionary Learning on Feb. 28, after exploring the option this year through visits to other EL schools and integrating EL concepts into its current classes.

The school invited the public to attend “A Day of Expeditionary Learning” on March 22, where teachers showed off exactly what EL is and how it works. The biggest difference between EL and normal classwork, according to third and fourth grade teacher Dani Kickbush, is that students get to take more ownership of their learning.

“It’s more the kids leading the learning experience,” said Kickbush. “It gives them a real purpose for learning. Instead of just learning because they have to learn, they understand they have to learn it for life.”

Kickbush’s students are currently studying the art of being persuasive, but rather than reading and writing persuasive essays they’re studying and making their own video advertisements for inventions they’ve created, which will eventually be uploaded to YouTube.

The commercials for items like “The Portable Table Garbage Can,” “The Workstation,” and “The Comfy Cradle,” are full of common infomercial lingo and are amusing to watch. While Kickbush played them back for the class to watch, the kids recounted how much fun they had making the commercials and their inventions.

“I like making these just because it takes a lot of skill, and you can’t just be like I’m gonna make one of these,” said student Tara DeJardin, inventor of “The Workstation.” “You have to think of the idea and it just takes a lot of skill and it’s really fun to do.”

“They get to do a lot more hands on stuff,” said Kickbush. “They love it; they’re enjoying it.”

Washington Island teachers will continue to visit other EL schools and receive EL training during the rest of this school year and the summer, with eyes on making sure the new EL curriculum is ready to roll out next school year.