Pathfinder K-8


Expeditionary Learning

The core of learning at Pathfinder K-8

Expeditionary Learning (EL) emphasizes learning by doing, with a particular focus on character growth, teamwork, reflection and literacy. Teachers connect high quality academic learning to adventure, service and character development through a variety of student experiences including interdisciplinary, project based learning expeditions.

In 1994 Pathfinder K-8 School embarked on an ambitious project to become an EL school under the model of Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound (ELOB); Pathfinder K-8 School adopted this model and started the journey with the resources and support of ELOB. In 1998 we moved to an adapted version of the EL model. Expeditionary Learning is now done throughout the K-5 grade bands. Middle School has implemented a modified version of expeditions that fits their 7-period schedule and humanities block.

Critical components of Expeditionary Learning projects include guiding questions, learning goals, an exciting kick-off activity and culminating event, project and field work, interdisciplinary activities, reflection, and assessment.

Learning Expeditions ask students to:

  • View issues and problems from a variety of perspectives.
  • Look for evidence and evaluate for bias.
  • Draw upon prior knowledge.
  • Examine, analyze, and investigate relationships between different ideas, people, events and concepts.
  • Connect what they’re learning to the real world.

Grade band teams (K/1, 2/3, 4/5, 6-7-8) select the expedition theme and integrate as much curriculum into the topic as possible. Prior to an expedition kick-off, teacher teams may present their expeditions for a peer critique and invite/encourage parent involvement in the expeditions. Expeditions always start with a big idea and are aligned with Washington State academic learning requirements.

Expeditions typically involve field work, projects, and unique learning experiences. Prior year expeditions have included: Puppetry Around the World, Struggle and Resistance, Canoes Upon Our Waters, Trees & Wood, Where In The World…, Space, and Habitats. 

The Main Components of a Pathfinder Expedition

Big Idea/Big Question: What big ideas are the students going to grapple with and why is it important for them to do so?

“The theme/topic of an expedition should be rich and complex enough to support well-developed guiding questions. It should also be concrete enough to be accessible to students’ experience and interest.” (ELOB)

Guiding Questions: Three to five questions that probe deeply and challenge students to think critically and that ask students to explore important ideas, problems and methods of inquiry that lie at the heart of a discipline, or a domain of knowledge. Guiding questions should be open-ended and meaningful (or can be made meaningful) to students. 

Learning Goals: At the end of the expedition; What will students know? What will they be able to do? How will it change them?

Kick-Off Activity: An event that clearly starts the expedition for the students.

Culminating Event: An event where students can share and explain their work to an audience.