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Academics » Experiential & Project-Based Learning

Experiential & Project-Based Learning

Collaborative Problem-Solving in the Outdoors


Establishing an outdoor learning space can be an educational experience in itself. Students in third grade studied different types of shelters. Then they thought about the available materials and built models before building their class lean-to outside. Students in fourth grade learned about people indigenous to Colorado and studied their homes. Then they collaborated to design and build a tipi that they could use as an outdoor classroom. Students worked through an iterative process, assessing the quality of their design and making revisions until they arrived at a successful final product. There’s something magical and motivating about learning in a space you helped to design and build, and this was evident in students’ engagement.

Building Relationships Through Epic Adventure

Creating an inclusive environment that fosters a sense of belonging is a worthwhile goal for any school, and this is something that we aspire to do. But, is it really enough? Students and staff need to be comfortable engaging in processes of critique, trusting one another to be both supportive and challenging each other to improve. One of the ways we build this culture is through epic outdoor adventures. Students might go hiking or snowshoeing. In fifth and sixth grade, students go rafting. Then, in sixth grade, students from the elementary schools go on an overnight camping trip together to build relationships before they come together in the middle school. Good relationships require investment, but it’s worth it, because they create powerful foundations for deeper learning.

Poetry Slam

In fourth grade, students work through a poetry module that immerses them in the experience of thinking like writers. They study the book Love That Dog, which is a series of free verse poems, and learn about the different tools a poet uses. As part of this work, students visit the Lighthouse Writers Workshop and engage with professional writers to help them develop their skills. The module culminates with a poetry reading at Tommy Knockers, a local restaurant. Students read their final poems and share their individual writing journeys.

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