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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 27, 2019

This year, Glenwood Springs Elementary School (GSES) launched an exploratory program that provides adventure opportunities for students in the community, while providing much needed time for teachers to work intensively together. Every Wednesday, GSES teachers for an entire grade have an intensive planning professional development session as a team while their students go with the exploratory team.

The exploratory team consists of art, music, STEM, and PE/adventure teachers. Through this program, 5th graders have hiked Red Mountain in the rain with 5th graders; 4th graders have built snow shelters during their Roaring Fork Watershed expedition; 3rd graders observed the rock layers of Glenwood Springs Canyon during their geology expedition; 2nd graders also ventured into the canyon to observe, first-hand, the habitat of the bighorn sheep they had been studying; and 1st graders built tools that could be used during wilderness experiences.  

“We plan our adventures with three different focuses in mind: service, the Habits of a Scholar, and connection to classroom learning,” Emma Hughes Leake explained. Leake is a music specialist at GSES who has been a leader in launching the exploratory program.

GSES is an EL Education (formerly Expeditionary Learning) school, which means the school uses a broader definition of student achievement. EL Education explains this philosophy in the following way: “We believe that when a student is done with school and enters adult life, she will be judged for the rest of her life not by her performance on tests of basic skills, but by the quality of her work and the quality of her character.”

“Our core beliefs state that students should have a strong relationship with the natural world, as well as authentic, connected learning experiences throughout their day and school year,” GSES Principal Audrey Hazleton said. “This program incorporates both of these values into an intensive, engaging and memorable experience for students every six weeks.”

The model also offers significant advantages for staff as teachers as well.

“Having an intensive planning and professional development time every six weeks is a huge benefit to teachers. For three-hour sessions, small teams of teachers are able to dive into expedition planning, learn a new instructional concept, or spend time observing other teachers throughout the school,” explained Hazleton. “Teachers at GSES look forward to this time and typically leave with renewed energy and plans in hand.”

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