Character - SIERRA Norms

If you visit our school and ask students what makes our learning community unique, they will likely talk to with you about our SIERRA norms—the character traits that make us who we are at SELS. The acronym SIERRA stands for the six norms (strength, integrity, empathy, respect, responsibility, and adventure) and also embodies the incredible bio-region in which we live, combining sense of self, sense of community, and sense of place.

SIERRA Amulet Project

Samples from the SIERRA Amulet ProjectSamples from the SIERRA Amulet ProjectIn order to cultivate our SIERRA norms, help them come alive, and make them more tangible, we have undertaken the Amulet Project. At the beginning of their first year at SELS, students design and create a pouch in art class that encapsulates some physical materials that remind them of the norms. These pouches are displayed on the wall of our school library. Each week, we focus on a particular norm. Teachers or peers select a student or two from each crew who has really exemplified that week’s chosen norm. Students then share their amulets and some expression of the norm at our weekly community meetings each Friday. Sharing from our students is powerful and includes: readings, quotations, skits, interviews, and visual or performance art.

The SIERRA Norms


Possessing confidence to make the correct choice, even if not the popular one.

Looks Like: Standing up for others or self
Sounds Like: “I will/can do it” or "I believe in myself." or "I don't agree."
Feels Like: Confidence, courage, empowering


Maintaining congruence between your values, actions, and words is vital to developing trusting relationships.Students present their amulet to the school.Students present their amulet to the school.

Looks Like: Doing the right thing even when no one is watching you.
Sounds Like: "I know what I should do." or "I should do the right thing."
Feels Like: A nice, warm feeling or truth


Having an understanding of others’ feelings, abilities, and situations helps students better comprehend why people are action or responding as they are.

Looks Like: Comforting one another; a hug, hand on a shoulder, a listening ear
Sounds Like: “It’s ok, it happened to me too.” or "I'm sorry you're upset."
Feels Like: Togetherness, caring for others and others caring for you, security


Treating people well demonstrates appreciation of the rights of others, and willingness to participate in creating a culture built on safety and trust.

Looks Like: Good listening, treating people and objects well
Sounds Like: "I hear you." or "I am listening."
Feels Like: Peaceful, gentle, kindness


Developing the internal mechanisms that externally honor SELS’ values and culture is crucial to creating a civil and well-functioning school community.

Looks Like: People fixing their own problems/doing their best work/taking initiative/having focus
Sounds Like: “Are you ok? I didn’t mean to.” or "I know what to do." or "I know what the rules are." or "I'm going to try my hardest/do my best."
Feels Like: You did the right thing or you accomplished something


Confronting personal boundaries is a vital aspect of growth and development. As we nudge the edges of our comfort zone, we grow emotionally and intellectually.

Looks Like: Trying something new/risky
Sounds Like: Laughter or encouragement
Feels Like: Joy and freedom, or risky/scary or exciting

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Sierra Expeditionary Learning School
PO Box 2179
Truckee, CA 96160

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SELS is a 501c(3) non-profit corporation, Truckee Charter School Foundation, dba Sierra Expeditionary Learning School. Federal Tax ID: 27-1627347.

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11603 Donner Pass Road
Truckee, CA 96161
Portable buildings M3-M7

Phone: (530) 448-8115
Fax: (530) 448-8223
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On top of all the teaching and learning, I'm struck by the joy in the faces of all the children as they go about their quest for knowledge. Thanks to all the courageous and energetic people who had the vision to make this school a reality. With all the challenges the world faces today and predictions of disaster, these committed teachers/staff, these engaged families, and these beautiful children are a beacon of hope.

SELS embodies everything that I feel is important in my child's education and I am so grateful that she has the opportunity to learn in such an enriching environment. Teaching our children how to think and how to treat others is critical to their future success. I am thankful every single day for all the wonderful staff at SELS.

What an amazing place. It has been everything for my son that I had hoped he could experience in school. Great teacher, stimulating learning environment, and a deeply caring and nurturing place.

I am grateful that my child is encouraged to interpret concepts and think about how they apply to his life, not just memorize and repeat material. I love that SELS asks kids to think about who they are and how they contribute to the community, locally and globally.

I greatly appreciate that SELS is a heart-centered school that teaches ethics and values along with academics. That approach makes SELS a unique and special place.

I appreciate all the teachers and staff and their responsiveness. I also appreciate all the work the staff are doing to help the kids figure out how to fill each other's buckets!

Our son is bubbling over with excitement for learning. This environment is gifting him with life long skills to succeed. We are so thankful for this school.

All the Adults and students challenge each other the THINK!

SELS is amazing in the way they teach topics hands on and allow the children to learn in practical settings. We couldn't be happier seeing our son flourish so much! Thank you.

I am very grateful to the SELS staff for offering my 5th grader their hearts, as well as their knowledge. Better yet, they make learning fun and adventurous! My youngster is THRIVING at your wonderful school!!

We are thankful for many wonderful ideals and principles at SELS, but what really brings those into reality is the caring, hard-working teachers and staff. We wouldn't have thought that someone else would care as much about the whole education of our daughter as much as we do, but there is a whole team of such people at SELS.

I am so thankful that my 5th grade daughter is a member and student of this beautiful community and school. She is receiving a fantastic education with hands on learning, caring, understanding, creative, out of the box thinking and intuitive teachers. She feels included, important, confident and is growing tons in her knowledge and place in this wonderful community. Thank you SELS for being an amazing part of my daughter's education and Life!

I truly appreciate all the staff, students, parents and families at SELS. It is these people that make SELS so wonderful.
This has become a new 'family" for us!

I am so grateful for the amazing staff; they are the most amazing guides. It is an inspiration to watch them help our children learn and grow into thoughtful, independent, productive human beings!
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