TEA Academic Overview
- Typical Day
- Assessments of Learning
- Academic Work at Home
- Student Support
- Meaningful Academic Rigor and Deep Understanding: Learning Expeditions support the acquisition of knowledge ‘an inch wide and a mile deep’ in language arts, history and science. Our mathematics program instills discipline, heightens aptitude and builds confidence, while enrichment classes in the arts and foreign language and our unique “Guilds” nurture creativity, curiosity and craftsmanship.
- Small Class Sizes: Low student-to-teacher ratios create an intimate educational setting where each child is challenged individually, held highly accountable and known well by teachers, peers and the school community.
- Best Practices in Expeditionary Learning: Our inter-disciplinary classes, project-based learning, outdoor adventure and active pedagogy exemplify experiential learning. By researching, evaluating and implementing best practices in curriculum, instruction and assessment, as well as culture and character, we serve as a model and inspiration for education in the 21st Century.
- Born to Learn: Our students are excited to come to school. Through earnest engagement, reflection and gratitude, students demonstrate that they inherently possess the aptitude and desire to learn.
- Character is Built In: Character development serves as the foundation for each student’s personal, social and academic growth. Each student cultivates character by developing five character traits: courage, respect, community, discovery and craftsmanship.
- Developing Healthy and Environmentally Conscious Students: Participating in regular outdoor adventures and eating a nutritionally balanced diet enhance each child’s physical health, strength and self-confidence. Exploring the local ecosystems and engaging in environmental stewardship inspire each child to become a keeper of the natural environment.
- Preparedness: In addition to the academic skills, knowledge and habits of a scholar, each student gains the critical thinking, self-advocacy and self-reliance necessary to achieve success in higher education and beyond.
- We are World Citizens: Using the Lake Tahoe Basin as our classroom, each student attaches knowledge to something accessible, tangible and memorable – their local environment. As students discover that Tahoe and its inhabitants serve as microcosms of the world, they develop empathy, appreciation for nature and a global consciousness.
- Academic Achievement and Deep Knowledge: Teachers are experts in their field. They have the professional skills, life experiences, temperament and curiosity necessary to develop challenging and exciting curriculum, act as mentors, and engage students in a meaningful, scholarly learning experience.
- Role Models: Staff members teach by example as they demonstrate leadership, respect, courage and a passion for discovery. Through one-on-one and group interactions, they show children how to build a community and to achieve personal, intellectual, social, emotional and physical goals.
- Adventurous Leaders: Teachers integrate adventure into the curriculum, take intentional calculated risks during instruction and use constructive adversity to create a peak state for learning.
- Commitment to Diversity & Accessibility: We strive to incorporate the multi-cultural landscape of our community by offering after-school clubs and summer programs and by awarding scholarships to students who demonstrate merit and financial need. We recognize that doing so vastly enhances the social experience of our student body and fosters an environment that nurtures and sustains our commitment to social justice.
- Parental Involvement: We value parents as integral contributors to our thriving community, as they volunteer in the classroom, chaperone a field study, serve on the Board of Directors and undeniably enhance our educational environment.
- Community Involvement: Our school actively and consciously engages with the communities it serves. We use local experts to teach our students. We collaborate with local schools, have authentic, symbiotic relationships with local businesses and organizations and aspire to craft products that benefit the larger community.
Our schedule and structure promote academic rigor, intensive work in the four core academic areas (English language arts, math, social studies and science), high engagement and a nurturing school culture. The schedule is organized to allow students to take control of their time and to provide flexibility when necessary for fieldwork, projects and labs.
Yet, gone are the ringing bells, rows of desks and fill-in-the-blank worksheets. For all or most of the day, crew and teachers are engaged in challenging learning expeditions. They explore a topic in depth by working on projects that call for intellectual inquiry, physical exploration, and community service.
On any given day, a crew’s explorations may take them outside of the school building to do scientific research in natural areas, conduct interviews with experts or carry out a range of other field-based assignments. In addition to going beyond themselves, we also understand that introspection is an essential component of the learning process. Each day provides opportunities for quiet reflection - time for crew to write in their journals, gather their thoughts, and contemplate what they have experienced.
Our assessments of learning prepare students to do the kinds of work required in high school and beyond. Our students graduate 8th grade by successfully demonstrating their skills, abilities and knowledge through portfolios, exhibitions and performances, and mastery of Common Core State Standards. Students will also participate in standardized testing, which will allow us to compare their progress with other children their age.
- How thinking about significant issues and questions has grown
- How a range of knowledge and skills has developed
- The effort and progress that has been made in terms of character traits.
Students in high school prepare for and take the PSAT and SAT tests as well as subject specific SSATs and AP tests when and where applicable.
Students in grades K-5 typically have a very limited amount of schoolwork each night. They will focus on reading time, either with an adult or independently, math, vocabulary and spelling.
Students in the middle school and high school may have academic work to complete at home, depending on their level, productivity in school and the learning expedition. However, the overall goal for the Classroom Crew is to use time in school effectively. We believe time in school is meant to do school work, and time outside of school should be primarily reserved and utilized for play, personal interests and spending time with family and friends. If a student has difficulty managing the academic work at home, then the student and/or family may present this issue to the Crew Leader, who will work to find a resolution.
Formalized student-parent-teacher conferences are scheduled twice a year in elementary, middle and upper grade levels, at the mid-semester marks. These meetings enable the child to take ownership of and responsibility for academic achievement, character development and personal growth. This is a time for each family, student and Crew Leader to interact, review the student’s portfolio, reflect on and assess progress, and set learning objectives for the future.
Student Support Team (SST)
Our Student Support Team (SST) addresses any special cases that may arise regarding a student’s academic performance and personal, social or emotional well-being. Special cases may include, but are not limited to, instances that require counseling, testing, disciplinary action, remediation and/or accommodation. This team is intended to serve as an objective, expert group in order to provide support and guidance that can help each student find success in learning. This team consists of the student’s Crew Leader, an educational specialist / learning coordinator and/or counselor designated by the school and a school administrator.
Pre Kindergarten Program
Tahoe Expedition Academy offers a one-of-a-kind educational experience for three and four year old children. We mix an adventure-based approach with a learning environment that gives magical results. We create a constructive workshop environment where students have the opportunity to interact with the natural world and cultivate the language, numeracy and social skills that will support their academic success in the future. Our full day program allows the opportunity to create an environment of trust and a matrix of safety where students are known well by their teachers and peers. Your child will learn about science, hike through the woods, explore, and begin to discover who he or she is as a person.
- Adventure-based learning with an emphasis on science and outdoor discovery
- Kindergarten readiness with literacy, numeracy, and social development
- An environment of trust where students are known well by their teachers and peers
- A community that values life-long learning and hands-on education
- Staff with decades of experience in early childhood development
- 7:1 student to teacher ratio
At Tahoe Expedition, we celebrate the science of play. When a child “plays” they are, quite simply, learning, using their whole bodies. There is strong scientific evidence concluding that when the body is in motion, knowledge is assimilated more quickly. In turn, when play and academics are combined, learning is fun and knowledge is integrated by doing rather than simply hearing.
Pre-Kindergarten aged children are still learning how to interact with their world and the people in it. They are progressing from a home environment to a community without parent presence. This is a significant part of what they need to learn before Kindergarten.
Our program is designed to help your child develop positive social behavior in preparation for kindergarten and for the future. We provide activities to promote self-expression, collaboration, confidence and independence. Our goal is to help children grow emotionally and develop a positive sense of self and community.
Our philosophy is the outdoors provide a vast landscape for learning. Academics are not just taught in the classroom. Learning for the young child includes: physical (fine and gross motor skills), cognitive, emotional, social and language development. Each component is essential to the overall growth of your child.
Our unique program entails outdoor discovery and adventures to encourage these developments. The school location provides convenient access to adventure hikes, outdoor recreation, and hands on experiments with nature. Each activity promotes curiosity, discovery, community, empathy, self responsibility, and confidence. The result is a lifelong love of learning.
Want to Come Explore with Us?
Kindergarten – 8th Grade Academic Programs
Learning Expeditions Drive Our Curriculum
Learning Expeditions are the defining pieces and central components of an EL school’s curriculum. Our Learning Expeditions integrate the subject areas of science, social studies and language arts for grades K-8, and our Crew Leaders use Learning Expeditions to guide daily instruction in these areas. To ensure we follow an ‘inch wide-mile deep’ approach, Learning Expeditions are designed to be interdisciplinary studies, rich with literacy skills. They require research, critical thinking and collaboration. Also, Learning Expeditions are vertically aligned throughout all grades using the four primal elements - fire, earth, air and water - as compelling topics. Typically, each Learning Expedition lasts one semester, and each Classroom Crew journeys together on this academic excursion.
High School Program
Tahoe Expedition Academy utilizes our unique natural setting as base camp to create an experiential academic environment where students journey toward personal summits as courageous and respectful world citizens.
Using a constructivist, experiential and worldly approach, Tahoe Expedition Academy High School aims to prepare students for high-level academic achievement, to develop in students sound character and to encourage students to explore their backyard, the nation and the world in search of adventure. The three pillars of TEA’s PreK-8 Program—academics, character and adventure—continue to drive the high school curriculum, our field studies in the natural environment and our students’ active engagement with local, national and international communities.
Our high school builds upon each student’s foundation of knowledge, personal interests and academic skills by diving deep into traditional subjects of math, science, social science and English. On field studies, in particular, these subjects are taught in conjunction with one another through project-based, place-based curricula. Moreover, students engage with a comprehensive enrichment program that promotes foreign language acquisition and the arts as well as athletics and adventure programs that cultivate grit, discipline and teamwork.
- High-Level Academics and Inspiring Art Programs: Core subjects of science, math and the humanities are the backbones of the curriculum; academic skills like critical thinking, researching and public speaking are taught across the curriculum; foreign language acquisition facilitates national and international travel; the arts enable students to develop creativity and inspiration.
- Adventure, Athletics and Nutrition: Adventure and exploration are integrated into our academic and athletic programs; adventure-based sports like rock-climbing, sailing, mountain biking, biathlon and skiing provide students with healthy avenues and exciting opportunities; team sports like soccer and lacrosse foster teamwork and community; emphasis on physical well-being and nutrition enable students to achieve their potential as athletes.
- Character, Citizenship and Service: Character building guides each student’s personal growth and builds a strong community of learners; local, national and international field studies allow students to develop into world citizens; hands-on engagement with communities provide ample service opportunities.
All children are exceptional scientists. Tahoe Expedition Academy’s Science Program offers multi-faceted opportunities for students to interact and learn from their environment.
By using Lake Tahoe as Base Camp, students work within the dynamics of the natural world to identify and develop conclusions about the fundamental processes that shape our reality.
Developing the ability to look at the world with a scientific perspective and think in terms of independent and dependent variables is a premise that guides each child’s learning experience. The aforementioned allows students to gather and intellectually process evidence that will support their future understanding and acquisition of knowledge.
Throughout the course of their education, children have the opportunity to work with instructors and experts, who consciously engage them in investigations that focus on the acquisition of perennial knowledge and archetypes that are central to the human condition. Examples of concepts and processes that are investigated include, but are not limited to: cyclical progressions, phase changes and the states of matter, the Mechanical Laws, cosmology, biologic adaptation and specialization, competition, ecological biomes, genetics, tectonics, energy and matter…
Tahoe Expedition Academy’s Science Program provides opportunities for serendipity through practical application within the disciplines of Physical, Life Earth and Space Science. Students initiate investigations in a manner that excites the mind and inspires their desire to have new experiences and make discoveries.
The art program is designed to give students a hands-on understanding of different art materials and their uses. Through teacher lead demonstrations we construct a knowledge base for children that allow them to be confident and effective in their own explorations. Throughout the year the classes will re-visit 2-D and 3-D practices as a means to best suit the assignment and develop a personal sense of style. Students use the same processes professional artists use to make professional finished artwork such as firing a kiln, carving a wood block or building their own canvasses. Each child reflects daily on their work and compiles a personal portfolio of works that are exhibited in a public venue at the end of the school year.
Our Music Program features a comprehensive examination of the rudiments of music theory, hands on song memorization and participation, and an exploration of the fundamentals of rhythm. Our students also participate in a grade specific recording, featuring the songs they have mastered as a class and eventually will give a live performance featuring these songs. Students at TEA are encouraged to participate in music class through the lens of their own unique gifts. Field trips out into the community as a class are always fun and much appreciated by those who experience them. At the end of the year, our students release a full length CD as a testament of their mastery of each selected song.
Students will be introduced to the Spanish language, Hispanic culture, and geography. The Spanish program uses a variety of educational techniques for language for acquisition. These educational activities and techniques vary to correspond with the student's age, Spanish level, and individual learning intelligence/ style.
Activity instruction is given orally in Spanish, to encourage students to listen and start recognizing the Spanish sound system. Students will be able to recognize a sound system that differs from English and with immersion into the Spanish program they will gradually be able to comprehend a variety of common Spanish words and sentences used in a comfortable learning environment. When students begin to comprehend the Spanish alphabet and sound system, they will be asked to orally imitate the sounds of the Spanish alphabet, common words, and eventually full sentences in Spanish.
Students in grades 6-8 will be encouraged to do hands-on learning and research on Spanish-speaking countries and to present the information they discover to their peers in a visual and informative way. The Spanish program encourages and values multiculturalism and leads students to inquire and discover information about cultures that our different and similar to our own. The TEA Spanish program encourages students to foster an intellectual curiosity and a love of learning a foreign language. Fun, games, activities, and outdoor exploration are all tools that are used to facilitate excited and active Spanish learners. As students knowledge of Spanish continues to grow, conversational activities among their peers and teacher will be used to help students practice and become comfortable speaking Spanish to others. Spanish grammar will also be introduced as students continue building their Spanish vocabulary knowledge.
TEA students can look forward to spending a significant amount of time in the field (about 1/3 of our school days) conducting fieldwork, completing service learning, exploring and pushing their physical limits and intellectual boundaries. For younger students many of these experiential opportunities will take place in close proximity to the Academy’s facility and campus. For students enrolled in second grade and up, they can look forward to more adventurous “rite of passage” experiences in the Lake Tahoe Basin that promote trust, cooperation and community. The latter runs the spectrum between three-day, two-night car camping trips to five-day minimalist wilderness backpacking adventures – all of which have a designated purpose in addition to a thirst for adventure.
For students in high school, the scope of our adventure takes them to regional, national and international locales. We conduct extended field studies with a highly intensive focus on academics, character development and/or adventure beyond the shores of Lake Tahoe. Students test their comfort zones, push physical limits and learn important skills about travel, backpacking and the pursuit of intellectualism throughout the West, the nation and the world.
By taking part in such adventures, our students reach the limits of their zones of proximal development and, in doing so, they engage their fight or flight mechanism and thus initiate their long-term memory bank. The learning experiences students have during these adventures, then, stick with them for years to come.
The thesis of our school is based on each student’s willing participation in adventure. We believe facing challenges and overcoming calculated risks and adverse situations promotes and enhances academic achievement and character development. All of our students are expected to participate in the adventures we design, and they are given a grade for their participation and involvement.