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Project-Based Learning In Action | Explore! Community School

Project-based learning

Our project-based learning is constructed to represent the hopes, dreams, passions, interests, and problems of our collective community.  It is designed to help Explorers uncover and rediscover the world around them and the talents within them. We believe that every student deserves a curriculum that is engaging, relevant and rigorous, and we know that when curriculum is designed to be so a platform emerges where collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving flourish. We champion the idea that young people can positively and authentically impact the world in which we live.

These experiences support not only projects and places but also problems. Projects emanate from issues of real importance to students and adults in the community and connect learning to the world. Our projects highlight the ways in which Explorers can support change in their communities,  and also the way they can celebrate the diversity and strength of our community.

Well-crafted projects ask Explorers to:  

  • Utilize 21st Century Learning Skills including collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity and citizenship.
  • Actively engage in their learning and make important choices during the project. Projects make room for student choice and creativity while still demanding student mastery of essential content, enabling students and teachers to act as co-learners in the experience, rather than a traditional student-teacher relationship.
  • Publicly present learning as both process and product based. Projects show the development of Explorers’ thinking using strategies called thinking routines adapted from Karin Morrison, Mark Church and Ron Ritchhart’s text Making Thinking Visible.
  • Create authentic work which represents connections between content disciplines and the real world. Projects at Explore! exist to give students the opportunity to express their learning through multiple intelligences.
  • Demonstrate global competence through awareness and curiosity about how the world works. Projects are well-crafted when they allow students to investigate the world beyond their immediate environment, recognize perspectives (others’ and their own), communicate ideas effectively with diverse audiences, and take action to improve conditions in the world around them.
  • Share learning with a public audience, exercising habits of heart, mind, and voice. Projects which have an intended audience are more likely to make learning come alive. Students will be expected to share their learning with the public community in three community-based expeditions. They will participate in the collection of artifacts for the creation of individual portfolios.
  • Cultivate the spirit of craftsmanship through the process of reflection and revision. Strong projects give students the opportunity to view learning as a process.

Explore utilizes the Teaching for Understanding text to help create the framework for our projects. These projects are inquiry based and focus on creating understanding through the process of asking and answering questions. The following graphic represents the relationship between questions and units of study.


Academic Terms Examples Family-Friendly Terms
Throughline How can a diverse community exercise its independence, critical thinking, and creativity to affect positive change in the world?

(Does not change)

School Mission
Generative Question What is Beauty?

(Changes every trimester)

Explorations Unit
Essential Question How does our culture and society influence our perception of beauty?

(Changes weekly & is supported by guiding questions)

Weekly areas of focus

The Curricular Summit: The Curricular Summit is an opportunity for the family/staff project-based learning cohort to identify opportunities for students to engage in authentic problem solving while recognizing the outstanding work of organizations that have a positive impact on the community. In order to ensure student voice is adequately represented, teachers also facilitate classroom discussions based on summit questions. Explorers’ thoughts will be documented and analyzed as part of the greater trend analysis. Trends that emerge during this process will be used to construct the learning experiences for the following year.