One of the foundational credos of Expeditionary Learning is: “We are crew, not passengers.” This metaphor refers to a group in a boat on a long voyage, where everyone is needed to pull at an oar and no one sits by watching. In adhering to this motto, “crew” will be used to reference both individual classrooms and the entire school community. We strive to instill a sense of responsibility, participation, and cooperation among individuals, the student body, the school community, and the greater Truckee community. This motto represents our commitment to inclusion and action in the service of self and others.
Far more than a traditional homeroom, this tightly knit advisory group is a family unit that begins every single day of school with a morning meeting deepening relationships, team building, sharing, developing group norms, shaping and reshaping their culture. Teachers and students listen actively and attentively to one another. In crew, students re-define what it means to be a learning community that really supports and challenges one another. Because of our multi-age model, students have a chance to develop even stronger crew bonds over a two-year span in many crews.
At SELS, we believe that we are at our best when we are working together for the common good. To be of service to other people, other species, and to the earth is not a burden, it is an honor—at time when we get to shine through the act of providing.
Service is at the heart of our SELS Buddy program, where older and younger students are paired in a mentor/mentee relationship. So many times each day, and especially in their collaborative activities, older Buddies get to be their best selves by providing for, and showing care to, a younger member of the SELS community.
Learning Through Service in the Field and in the Community
While service such as volunteering at a senior center is a wonderful way to connect, service becomes service learning when SELS students studying the history of our community go to a local retirement home to make regular visits where they develop deep relationships, eventually interviewing and capturing oral histories from elders in our town. Taking the seniors’ stories and using them to deepen and broaden learning in the classroom, students now use some of the details and oratory techniques in their own speeches and chautauquas.
Cleaning up a local street would be nice community service. Restoring a creek habitat as part of a riparian zone study is service learning. With their new knowledge of local and invasive species, students roll up their sleeves, they make a plan based on water sampling and species counts. Students implement their plan and work to help the local watershed remain the lifeline for all the many living beings in our area.