Our Approach

Our three pillars – academics, character, and adventure – provide anchor points for all of the work we do with our students. We are proud of these guiding principles, which we value equally in our mission, to foster meaningful student engagement and achievement.




Our Pillars Explained by Students and Teachers

Learning Expeditions Drive Our Curriculum

We partner with EL Education, which now includes 170 schools and nearly 50,000 students nationwide, to collaborate with a professional network of schools and educators and to validate our program. EL Education is a proven model for educational reform that has gained national recognition.

EL Education Model and Terminology

EL Education schools design meaningful curricula that provide students with real world, high-level academics. They create educational experiences that result in lasting knowledge, sound character and useful, transferable skills.
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Learning Expeditions

Expeditions make content come alive for students, with kick-off and culminating experiences, compelling topics, guiding questions, learning targets (based on state and national standards), hands-on fieldwork, experts, local case studies, service learning and authentic products.
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Building Character Values

At TEA, we are crew, not passengers. We guide ourselves, lead others, and explore our local ecosystems and communities. Our unique approach to learning promotes the habits and character values essential to academic and personal success in high school and beyond.
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Adventure-Based Learning

Adventure is an integral component of our program and we have intentionally created more regularity, accessibility and intensity of our students’ adventures inside and outside the classroom.
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Nature is Good for Kids

A Snow Creek Pond Case Study

As parents, we know that nature is good for kids. Green Spaces Make Kids Smarter. At our elementary and middle school in Lake Tahoe, they can explore, create, play and get dirty. They can observe wildlife, develop physical strength and stamina and make some meaning of their young lives. As educators, we know nature is ‘really good’ for kids, especially when use it as a classroom to make intellectual, ethical and meaningful connections with the natural world. Read more in this blog from one of our teachers to see how a local pond helped our students build confidence as scientists, help do good for their community and maybe get a job in the future. These first graders did the work of scientists. Read More ->

Core Subject Areas

In addition to learning core academics and the arts, students regularly engage in multidisciplinary projects to gain a deep understanding of the subject matter and to look at topics from multiple perspectives. In this respect, we teach both breadth and depth – breadth in the sense that students learn a wide range of content and skills and depth because they regularly have the opportunity to apply the learning in real world contexts. Our core subject areas include English Language Arts, Math, Science, STEAM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Art/Math), Social Studies and Enrichments. 

Each student in the participates in art, music, and physical education each week as enrichment subjects, with significant time dedicated to these subject areas. In these classes, many of the assignments, skills, and content are taught outside of the context of the expedition. When possible, these subject areas align with Learning Expedition topics and add depth to fieldwork, case studies, and service.We offer an after school Spanish club for lower school students who are interested in gaining exposure to Spanish language. This additional service is offered for a nominal fee.

Sample Kindergarten - 6th Grade School Schedule

8:25 - 8:40Crew MeetingCrew MeetingCrew MeetingCrew MeetingCrew Meeting
8:40 - 9:00Word WorkWord WorkWord WorkWord WorkWord Work
9:00 - 9:45Writer’s WorkshopWriter’s WorkshopWriter’s WorkshopWriter’s WorkshopWriter’s Workshop
9:45 - 10:30Reader’s WorkshopReader’s WorkshopReader’s WorkshopReader’s WorkshopReader’s Workshop
10:30 - 10:50RecessRecessRecessRecessRecess
10:50 - 11:00Snack / Read AloudSnack / Read AloudSnack / Read AloudSnack / Read AloudSnack / Read Aloud
11:00 - 12:15MathMathMathMathMath
12:15 - 1:00LunchLunchLunchLunchLunch
1:00 - 1:55ArtExpeditionArtField WorkGuilds
2:00 - 2:50MusicPEMusicField WorkFriday Forum
2:50 - 3:05Closing CiricleClosing CiricleClosing CiricleClosing CiricleClosing Ciricle

You can see that our Lower School day has many similarities to a traditional school day. Our students spend significant time learning reading, writing, and math. We address the same Common Core Language Arts and Math standards, Next Generation Science standards and National Council for Social Science standards that other schools address.

Every day begins and ends with a crew meeting and closing circle. This is a way to make every child feel included, to greet one another and to center themselves in the learning environment, to resolve any social issues, to address any concerns and to come together as a community.

Our experiential teaching style also impels teachers and students to go into the field to learn from experts using a hands-on approach. Teachers work with students to build background knowledge around their topic during expedition time and then take the students into the field to see the real life application. They return to the classroom to make sense of their experiences and learning.

Guilds are mixed age classes focusing on life skills such as sewing, blacksmithing, dancing, ceramics, stewardship. Students choose their guilds in the beginning of each semester and enjoy mixing up the social dynamic through fun Friday Afternoon activities.

Friday Forum is our end of the week ritual. The entire Lower School gathers “campfire style” in the woods behind the school to share their learning, to reflect upon the week, and to give appreciations to their peers.