Daily Video

May 8, 2013

“Expeditionary Learning” Builds Problem-Solving Skills for Real Life

In an effort to engage students and prepare them for the rapidly changing world that meets them on the other side of graduation, some schools are turning to “expeditionary learning” to teach students to think in a focused, project-based environment.

This approach to learning means that students don’t switch topics when they switch classes; instead, all departments create their curriculum around a central theme.

One school that has implemented the “expeditionary learning” approach with great success is King Middle School in Portland, Maine; a public school with a diverse population and open admission. When students at King started their four-month expedition in October, they were told that by the end of the project they would “create a device that captures natural energy and transforms it into something that’s useful for people in some part of the world.”

To do so, the school took the students on an interdisciplinary in-depth study of wind power. In science class, they used robots to learn about the mechanics and design necessary to accomplish such a project.

In social studies, students learned about the politics of wind power, while in English class they read “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” the autobiography of William Kamkwamba of Malawi, who built a wind turbine to power his house.

At the end of the project, students designed their own natural energy devices and presented them to an audience of the peers and parents. Inventions ranged from a scrubbing pad that generated electricity to a crank flashlight.

While students may forget the particulars they learn in the classroom, teachers hope that this style of learning will teach students the skills they need to solve problems in the real world.


“Before this expedition, I kind of always thought of myself as, I’m good at writing and I’m good at reading, and that’s what I’m good at.This expedition has completely changed my idea of science. Science is doing and science is building, and science is creating,” – Liva Pierce, student.

Warm up questions

1. How do you best learn information? Through reading, hand-on activities, lectures, etc.?

2. What keeps you engaged in school?

3. What does “interdisciplinary” mean?

Discussion questions

1. What did you find most interesting about this video?

2. Do you think you would learn well in this type of environment? Why or why not?

3. What would you change about how schools teach students? Why?

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