Expeditionary Learning in Lower School

Oct 4, 2017 | All School, Inquiry, Lower School News

Expeditionary Learning is one of the inquiry-based learning models used at Mount Vernon to intentionally blur the lines between real-life and school-life.

Grade 3 teacher Sophie Lintner says, “Going off-site into the community allows children to discover the world outside of the four walls of their classroom, cultivate empathy based on their observations, and foster curiosity. As we prepare students for the real world, we want them out in it. Most importantly, expeditions are fun! When kids are having fun, their engagement increases, curiosity is sparked, and learning deepens and sticks!”
Third graders set out on an Expedition to the Chattahoochee Forest to ponder questions such as:

  • What effect does weather have on our environment?
  • How do trees help the habitat?
  • What can you hear in the forest? What do those sounds tell us?

Students used math and science skills involving observation and inquiry as well as data collection, representation, and analysis. Student discoveries led to lessons on fractions and pattern predictions. Additionally, social studies topics of geographic factors influence on community development, lifestyles, and human adaptations as well as economic resources in an area.

Grade 2 students took a trip to explore the new Whole Foods in Chamblee. They were asked to record what they saw, what they thought and what they wondered. Infusing life skills, including applications from their “Healthy Me” unit into the experience, teachers guided them through the maze of food. Honing their observation skills, students looked up and around to engage with their environment. They each completed an observation journal to include thoughts, drawings, and questions, such as:

  • Is that a real swordfish sword?
  • Why is the cauliflower in big chunks of ice?
  • If this store is so new, how are there so many people here?
  • Expeditions afford students the ability to close the gap between school-life and real-life.