As a school designer for Expeditionary Learning, I have the pleasure of working with Detroit Achievement Academy. DAA is an Expeditionary Learning school, which means it is part of a national network of schools that implement the EL model, a framework for engaged teaching and learning. We work with school leaders and teachers to implement a rigorous, student-centered curriculum and to foster a school culture built on citizenship and quality work.
Walking into an EL school feels different than walking into other schools. In a given moment, you may see students deeply engaged in an expedition topic, and working on a high quality product that seemed impossible to produce when it was first presented to them. You may see the whole school engaged in their weekly community meetings, a time to build a culture of pride, success and celebration in both academics and character. Or you may see teachers deeply engaged in weekly professional development, analyzing student data or planning for their next expedition. Our schools are a place where learning has a purpose and students are part of a community that pushes them to be the best citizen scholars they can be.
It is these very things that permeate the building of Detroit Achievement Academy. In just six short months of being open, DAA has accomplished so much as an EL school! The school’s Habits of Character are taught daily to students and embedded into academics, and students honor one another for showing these habits. The school hosted their first Celebration of Learning, where first graders took on the role of herpetologists and presented their knowledge on snakes, and kindergarteners acted as tour guides of the school, explaining the most important places and people in the DAA community. This was a culmination of months of learning, and students felt immense pride in inviting their families and the larger community to share their work. The staff has dedicated many hours to ensure this kind of learning is happening, and meet daily to plan collaboratively and participate in weekly PD sessions to grow in their practice as EL teachers.
It has been very exciting to be DAA’s school designer, and I look forward to their continued success as an Expeditionary Learning school!