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The Anatomy of an Expedition | Part 1

The Anatomy of an Expedition | Part 1
Posted on 11/13/2017
art hangingBy Kathy Greeley, Literacy Coach

If you are new to G&P, you might have heard people talking about “expeditions.” But what is an expedition? Are kids going exploring somewhere? While an expedition does involve exploration, there is a lot more to them than that.

At G&P, expeditions are in-depth units of study. They are interdisciplinary, meaning they weave together reading, writing, and research skills while studying important topics in science and social studies. We seek out and learn from experts in our community, we do field work using the world around as a classroom, and we create a high quality final project that shows what students have learned and are able to do. Ideally, we want this final product to not just be a school assignment, but to contribute in some way to our community.

When teachers develop an expedition, they first begin by thinking about the big, complex questions they want their students to explore. These are called Guiding or Essential Questions. For example, when the 2nd grade starts their “E Pluribus Unum or From Many, One” unit (E pluribus unum is the motto of the United States), students are asked to think about these questions:
  • Who are Americans and where did they come from?
  • Why did people come to America in the past and why do they come now?
  • What did people bring with them and how has that influenced who we are as a country today?
  • With so many different cultures coming together, how do we all get along?
In planning an expedition, teachers identify key academic knowledge and skills they want their students to learn. For example, in 2nd grade, all students learn how to write an informational text. Instead of learning these skills in isolation though, G&P students focus on writing about where their families came from, why they came here, and an important family tradition they brought with them. They brainstorm good questions to interview their families to gather information and learn how to take notes. They learn how to organize these notes and then to write a meaningful informational text that they share and celebrate with each other.

There are more parts to expeditions, too. So stay tuned for the next newsletter. But remember, that an expedition is far more than just a bunch of field trips. It is a thoughtful, challenging academic journey that helps students put the skills they are learning into meaningful practice.