Big Pine School is trying something different this year that administrators hope will get students more involved in the learning process and give staff more resources to help students succeed.
The Big Pine School District and Expeditionary Learning have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding for the 2011-12 school year.
As part of the program, school staff members will attend seminars and staff development programs and have access to resources from Expeditionary Learning to build more hands-on curriculum for local students.
The result of those efforts, School Superintendent Pamela Jones said, will be field trips and community service projects for students, as well as “crew” activities built to teach students how to work as a team with others.
Expeditionary Learning was formed as a collaboration between Outward Bound, USA and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The idea was to provide students with more experiential learning and increased academic rigor.
“Our ROP Chamber Class is very much like an expeditionary learning class,” Jones said, pointing out that students in that class can often be found around Big Pine, working on community service projects.
The Expeditionary Learning program is district-wide and will be applied to K-12 grade students.
Expeditionary Learning provides the campus with a school designer to work with staff on implementing new curriculum.
Teachers also have access to the Expeditionary Learning website, which provides resources from schools from across the county.
Jones said Big Pine School has also been assigned a “model school” from the Grass Valley area that will serve as an example as staff here implement the changes.
“They are going to work with us, just as we work with the students,” Jones said.
While teachers are attending staff development seminars, students are being eased into a different kind of learning experience.
Later this year, Jones said the school has planned a field trip for its math and science classes to go out to the Nevada Test Site to work on statistics and the University of Reno, Nevada to see how school-room practices translate into real-world uses.
“Students need skills for the 21st Century, and the skills are different now than they were, and that’s part of this,” Jones said.
As part of the Expeditionary Learning experience, students will take part in the “Crew period” each day. Jones said the class will be similar to a traditional advisory class, but will have an emphasis on students advising each other, and working on team building exercises.
“The student’s don’t quite know yet what it all means,” Jones said. “ My board (of trustees) is thrilled. This is perfectly aligned with our goals and we’re doing something within our own community.”
The Expeditionary Learning program is not free. Jones said the school is allocating some of its staff development funds for implementation this year, and will be looking for outside funds and grants in the future to keep the program rolling.
“It’s not a fixed cost every year, it depends on what staff development we participate in and how many staff members we send,” Jones said.
She added that some field trips, such as the Expeditionary Learning Science Bowl, come with cost-sharing funds from the program, while others, such as the trip to UNR and the Nevada test site, will be part of the school’s annual travel budget.
Jones said this year is the first year that the school is implementing Expeditionary Learning programs, and as staff progresses with its training and seminars, residents and parents should begin seeing changes at the school and more students taking an active role in community events and activities.