Expeditionary Learning

What is Expeditionary Learning?

The Expeditionary Learning model for schools has received national acclaim. Independent, third-party evaluations and internal assessments provide strong evidence that the Expeditionary Learning model delivers highly effective professional development, improves instruction and school culture, fosters significant improvement in student achievement scores across all ability levels (as measured by standardized tests and portfolios of student work), improves student attendance and behavior, and increases parent involvement.

Some of the structures that are in place to support student learning as part of the Expeditionary Learning model are:

  • Crews, which function as advisories for small groups of students. Our educators, working as Crew Leaders, will develop close relationships with students in order to build community, assist students in preparing for college, and develop strong relationships with parents.
  • Learning Expeditions that provide students with in-depth, investigative units of study across the curriculum that engage students in real-world learning experiences.
  • Fieldwork and Experts, which are vital aspects of the Expeditionary Learning model that provide opportunities for our students to work, serve, and learn outside of the classroom.
  • Enrichment Intensives and Academic Intensives, which are short-term courses centered on topics of specific interest to students.
  • Student-Led Conferences, which are twice-yearly presentations of work by students to the larger community that allow students to reflect upon and share their learning.
  • Exit Projects, which are required for students to demonstrate the synthesis of their learning experiences throughout the year.

Check out the EL Glossary to learn more.


Take an inside look of Expeditionary Learning at MELS!


At MELS students meet daily with a small group of peers in their grade, around 15 students, and a teacher. This safe space is called a crew.

During crew, students are able to build relationships with each other by doing initiates, journals, and debriefs.

In this video, you are able to see our 6th-grade crews discuss and demonstrate the power of integrated identity in school. By students being able to feel welcomed and encourage to bring their full selves to a learning space impacts them positively and significantly. Crew culture and its structure of support in EL Education schools provide the space and tools for belonging rather than just inclusion.

Learning Expeditions: 

Preparing students for beyond the classroom is critical. Our teachers strive to enlist our students with tools they can use in any situation even those that don’t seem very familiar to them. In Ms.Mill’s AP Bio class, students explored their case study “TALEN Gene Therapy”  with further analysis of gene editing or for genome editing in the sequences of DNA.

In the first video, you can note students analyzing a scientific document as a deep dive into content before the culmination on their final case study conversation.

In the second video, in the series in Mills’ AP Biology classroom where students deepen their understanding of the science content necessary for their final conversation through the use of their concepts and technical vocabulary association, personal scientific notebooks, and verbal collaboration.


Fieldwork, Experts, Enrichment Intensives, and Academic Intensives: 

Features the 6th-grade team of teachers and students (MELS Class of 2021) as they create the MELS Community Garden in a year-long culminating project.

More in-class experience examples :

Features Claire Wolff in her 10th grade Global History Class (MELS Class of 2017) as they analyze the role of a historian and a history teacher while analyzing primary historical documents and sources.