Outdoor Expeditions

Kate Schmidlin, exped alum from 2007, completed a dream September 24, 2014 by through hiking the Appalachian trail in six months.
A Teacher's perspective:
The Expedition Academy is a culture in and of itself. Since its beginning, over 200 students have participated in the program and have helped shape what “Exped” is all about. The classroom is unlike any other, the environment is unlike any other. The common bond between the students and the teachers is that all are on a quest for learning and knowledge. The students facilitate what occurs and true learning takes place, both inside the classroom walls and outdoors in the wilderness. The Design Principle concepts are a backdrop for all that takes place on the trail and in the classroom, and the Habits of Mind established help lead the students to deeper and more critical thinking in all that they do. The adventure model that runs through all that takes place leads to a family environment that sparks true learning and ultimately a desire for both students and teachers for lifelong learning. It truly is a unique experience.

-Craig Foreman, Director and Co-Founder

An Administrator's perspective:
The advent of technological advancements has greatly shaped our society at almost every level from how we think to the nature and condition of our communities and how we live. Unfortunately, as society has changed, our schools continue to reflect the assembly-line manufacturing culture of years ago. The goals of these schools are to disseminate information and sort students according to aptitudes and IQ. Preparing young people for a productive life in the 21st Century will require dramatic shift in thinking about how we provide learning opportunities. Schools can no longer merely disseminate information but must design instruction in such a way as to engage students in meaningful activities that foster analytic and synthetic thinking.

Students know this. During the 1998-1999 school year, over 300 students at Theodore Roosevelt High School participated in focus groups and individual interviews in which they were asked to describe the type of work they are given in school and the type of work they would like to do. The overwhelming majority of students surveyed felt they were "learning the basics" but were not regularly challenged or interested in the work they were given to do in school. When asked to describe the work they perceived as "challenging" and "interesting," these students talked and wrote about work that would be connected to the real world, would require them to work closely with peers and with adults within the community, and would provide connections among subject areas.

The Expedition Academy at Theodore Roosevelt High School, Kent, Ohio has been designed to provide such opportunities for students. The specific intent of the academy is to broaden learning opportunities beyond traditional classroom parameters. The academy seeks to create an alternative learning experience through the integration of subjects with outdoor skills and community service. By challenging traditional assumptions about how students learn best, the academy creates a learning experience that cultivates the academic and interpersonal skills needed in the workplace.

Arden Sommers, Assistant Principal during Academy's beginning in 1999
Theodore Roosevelt High School

A Students' Perspective:
The Expedition Academy is not like your standard English and History class. Two grade levels are incorporated into one class, the sophomores taking the same advanced courses as the freshmen. The Expedition Academy wonders why things occur, instead of completely accepting what we are given as fact. High school is one of the major occurrences in people's lives, and obtaining the right way to think for your future is something that if learned early enough can be invaluable to those who choose to partake in it. A usual day in the Academy is a Socratic Seminar over the past nights reading, be it Herman Hesse's Siddhartha or Sophocles's Antigone. Here we sit and discuss the events going on in the book and look in- depth at the thoughts and actions being expressed. "Why are they doing this?" "What does this explain about human nature?" are normal questions during our classes. We use learning tools such as Blooms Taxonomy, a six-step thinking process that begins with the original obtainment of knowledge and shows you how to reach the highest potential with that knowledge. No tests are ever given, no points ever given out. The education system is set-up so that you are graded on effort, attitude, comprehension, leadership, and participation. Your teachers are your mentors, usually staying in the background during discussions and letting us talk our way onto startling conclusions.

But by far, the most exciting thing about the Expedition Academy is our wonderful trips. Our trips normally occur about once a month (with a break in the winter months), and usually entail packing up our rugged trail backpacks with food, stoves, tents, water bottles, and water purifiers and making thirty to forty mile treks over periods of three to four days through surrounding wilderness. These trips are a chance to show who you really are. Back at school we see each other for maybe three hours during classes, and then everyone disperses to the outside world. During our trips, we are completely alone. Through this, we gain a relationship with everyone on these trips not different from a family. We act as much like a family as any school group can. We deal with tough issues like a family, talking them out among ourselves until a solution is reached. The teachers who accompany us on these trips are more like our friends than guardians; we sit around campfires and tell stories of our lives, even inventing stories when none come to mind; we play games to keep ourselves accompanied as we are hiking a particularly tough stretch of land. These backpacking trips are the one time when we can truly get away from it all. The relationships formed on the trail are nothing short of amazing; it's amazing the friends you find when you are all scrambling for cover during a freak flash flood. Being exposed to the wrath of nature, and seeing what weather can do really forms an appreciation for Mother Nature herself. On the trail there are no cars, smoke, oil, or artificial lights; the light you do get is sure to be pure, un-adulterated moon glow. This is the most amazing aspect of our "family".

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