What is 'Expeditionary Learning'?


SELS Kinder CrewSELS Kinder Crew

Expeditionary Learning (EL) is a framework for engaged teaching and learning.  It is a model of education that is trasforming schools.

Our model challenges students to think critically and take active roles in their classrooms and communities. We invest in the growth of our teachers and create stimulating and rigorous classroom environments. This results in higher achievement and greater engagement in school. EL works with over 150 schools and 40,000 students around the country with great results.


 At the heart of EL are learning expeditions, which are interdisciplinary units aligned with state and district standards. The EL approach is experiential and project-based, involving students in original research with experts to create high-quality products for audiences beyond the classroom. The EL approach to teaching has been proven effective time and again by third-party research, including studies conducted by the Rand Corporation, the Academy for Educational Development, the American Institutes for Research and the National Staff Development Council.

Expeditionary Learning is a national network of schools. 

EL partners with school districts and charter boards to open new schools and transform existing schools at all levels, pre-K-12, and in all settings – urban, rural, and suburban. Since its inception in 1992, EL has grown from a small group of ten schools into a diverse national network of over 165 schools across 30 states and the District of Columbia. As of 2012, there are over 4,000 EL teachers currently serving more than 45,000 students all over the United States!



This video from Expeditionary Learning will show you what we do and how we do it:


Expeditionary Learning from Expeditionary Learning on Vimeo.

EL schools are characterized by:

• Active instructional practices that build academic skills and student motivation

• Rigorous projects that meet state standards and are connected to real-world needs

• School cultures of kindness, respect, and responsibility for learning

• Shared leadership for school improvement

• School-wide commitment to improved teaching and leadership practice


Expeditionary Learning helps great teachers and leaders improve continuously. 

EL offers a comprehensive suite of professional development, coaching, and on-line tools to improve curriculum design, instruction, school culture, leadership, and assessment practices. EL’s content-rich institutes and school-based coaching support schools to be engaging environments where kids love to learn and teachers love to teach.


In Expeditionary Learning schools...

Learning is Active. Students are scientists, urban planners, historians, and activists. They investigate real community problems and collaborate with peers to develop creative, actionable solutions.

Learning is Challenging. Students at all levels are pushed and supported to do more than they think they can. Excellence is expected in the quality of their work and thinking.

Learning is Meaningful. Students apply their skills and knowledge to real-world issues and make positive change in their communities. They see the relevance of their learning and are motivated by understanding that learning has purpose.

Learning is Public. Through formal structures of presentation, exhibition, critique, and data analysis, students and teachers build a shared vision of pathways to achievement.

Learning is Collaborative. School leaders, teachers, students, and families share rigorous expectations for quality work, achievement, and behavior. Trust, respect, responsibility, and joy in learning permeate the school culture.

Visit www.elschools.org for more information,  
or read the EL flyer in English or en Español.



Most language for this page is by Expeditionary Learning ®

Send Appeal Letter

donate icon

Help us grow. We are dreaming big! Send out our donation letter

Donate via Check

Make checks payable to SELS and send to:
Sierra Expeditionary Learning School
PO Box 2179
Truckee, CA 96160

Donate Online


Setup a monthly recurring contribution for 12 months.

Monthly Options

NOTE: PayPal charges 2.2% of the donation as a transaction fee. If you'd like all your donation to go to SELS, please send us a check.

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

For Parents



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

Email: truckeecharter@gmail.com
Phone: (530) 448-8115
Fax: (530) 448-8223
Find us on a map


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!
Scroll to Top