Connecting Real World Experiences with Best In Class Academics
We describe our Tahoe High School program as an expedition-based learning experience. We start with a solid academic foundation that rivals the best private schools in the country. Next, we move our students beyond traditional classrooms with a hands-on, project-based approach. We focus on fun and engaging problem-solving challenges – called Learning Expeditions – that extend the definition of a classroom out to the real world. It’s much, much more than occasional field trips or travel-abroad programs. Our High School students spend 30+ days in the field, actively engaging with experts on incredible projects and adventures that challenge them in unexpected ways. What are the benefits of our approach? Scroll through our 7 learner outcomes below to see.
Fluency in STEAM
In order to be prepared for the future professions, TEA students develop an understanding of the fundamentals of “STEAM” (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics). With the help of teachers and experts and the engagement with a STEAM heavy curriculum, students learn how to produce usable scientific data, develop a creative mindset, understand the design process to solve problems systematically, gain a solid grasp of fundamental math concepts and skills, and comprehend the interdisciplinary nature of these subject areas.
Critical Thinking, Persuasive Communication Skills and Multimedia Know how
Critical thinking is fostered throughout core and enrichment subjects alike, as students are empowered to ask why, to question everything and to make educated, thoughtful choices in their lives. To provide students with the foundations they need to express their thoughts and opinions, rigorous coursework in the humanities, including literature, reading, creative writing, art and music, help students learn powerful storytelling and narrative techniques that serve them well in any field of study. Students also learn how to speak well before a wide range of audiences and to produce a variety of multimedia content in order to share their messages beyond the school walls and to have larger impact on the world.
Multicultural Understanding of History, Creativity and Action in the Arts and Humanities
By gaining a solid liberal arts education in history, arts and the humanities, students are able to recognize global trends patterns, comprehend diverse perspectives and acquire a clear sense of where humans have come from as a species. From geography to history to economics to foreign language to the arts, students become well-versed in social, artistic, political, economic, religious, geographic, environmental and ethical constructs. A sound understanding in these intellectual areas informs their interactions with the world and enables them to take direct action to create authentic products and inspires them to engage with and advocate for other human beings through service and real world work.
Strength of Character
Character development and leadership training are important elements for academic achievement, social emotional learning and ethical development. At TEA, “We are crew, not passengers, who do good for ourselves and for others.” Each student is a member of a crew, which are small, supportive groups, where each student is known well and engages in the proactive cultivation of character and leadership. In Crew, students learn how to meet adversity head on and have the courage to “survive and thrive” when things get tough and when more than book smarts are required. Through ongoing and integrated adventure, service and fieldwork, students learn how to calculate and manage risk and show resilience.
Citizenship and Service
At TEA, citizenship, service and ‘doing good’ are not add ons or afterthoughts, but are embedded into all facets of the program and ingrained in daily school life. Truly, TEA students learn how to show compassion and empathy, to become stewards of the land and to advocate for themselves as well as others in their own back yards and beyond.
World View and Appreciation for the Natural World
TEA students are experts in adventure, fieldwork and learning by doing. By spending 20-30 days and nights in the field each year on multiple day and overnight trips, TEA students gain comfort and connectivity with diverse people and societies, the world around them and the ability to navigate it. They work with industry experts and professionals in real world work and tackle real world problems in the process. By traveling locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, students gain the benefits of having a firsthand understanding of the world, gaining a deep understanding of subject matter and learning what to do when things go wrong, as much as when things go right.
Creative Problem Solvers
To create solutions for real world problems, students engage with projects and courses of study that enable them to think critically and work outside of the classroom walls. By doing the work of professionals alongside industry experts and by applying their learning in meaningful ways, students learn how to apply, synthesize, evaluate and create. Over the course of their study, TEA students develop a strong portfolio of work that shows what they are capable of doing – something that will serve them well for college and beyond. As importantly, students develop a growth mindset when approaching complex issues, develop lasting understanding of content and skills and become the kinds of individuals who embrace challenges head on and who can overcome adversity with both grace and humility.
Making a Positive Impact in the World
In the fall of 2016, the senior class of Tahoe Expedition Academy was asked to design a class service trip on their own. As a crew, they decided that with the turmoil in the Middle East and the refugee crisis in Europe, they would travel to Greece to volunteer with PRAKSIS, a non governmental organization that provides social and medical services for refugees. The goal of the trip was to understand and help refugees forced to flee their own country to find safety elsewhere.
At the culmination their Learning Expedition titled “Move, Adapt, or Die: The Life and Times of a Syrian Refugee,” students produced this short documentary film, which illustrates the challenges of current Syrian refugees in Greece. They also created a Facebook page to spread awareness of the plight of refugees in Greece and to support the PRAKSIS aid organization and all of the volunteers they met along the way. If you are interested in supporting PRAKSIS, their donation portal is here with details on how your support would be used.
HIGH SCHOOL ACADEMIC PROGRAMMING - FOUNDATIONS COURSES
These classes are directly aligned with National Standards for the core content areas (Math, Science, History, English). These classes include individually-paced opportunities as well as one-on-one and small group instruction. Teachers target specific skills within these classes to support Learning Expeditions through foundational class content. These courses are integrated into the Learning Expeditions and taught with a two-year looping cycle.
9th and 10th Grade Courses
9th and 10th grade students will participate in the following courses: Physical Science, Math (students will be placed into a math class based on their previous math course. On the first day of school, students will complete a baseline test to ensure they are in the appropriate course), Human Geography, English Literature and Composition.
11th and 12th Grade Courses
11th and 12th grade students will participate in the following courses: Applied Physics & Engineering, Math (students will be placed into a math class based on their previous math course. On the first day of school, students will complete a baseline test to ensure they are in the appropriate course), U.S. Government and English (Creative Fiction & Nonfiction Writing)
LICCS (Life in College & Career Seminar)
These are required, age and developmentally-appropriate life and college skills seminars aimed at preparing students for succeeding beyond high school. Parent and community members will be tapped as experts and facilitators of LICCS, but each seminar series will be directed by TEA faculty. Seminar examples include, but are not limited to: health education, PSAT-SAT-ACT test prep, writing conventions (MLA, APA, etc.), social media safety, college counseling and career planning, budgeting and personal finance.
These courses are an essential component of both student choice and academic support. Intensives are courses lasting from five to eight days in which students are engaged in either an in-depth study of a topic or intensive academic support. They are offered at the end of the fall semester so that students failing one or more courses have the opportunity and support to complete their work. Students passing all courses choose from a menu of multi-grade level intensives.
Semester-long, interdisciplinary curricula that use a topical lens and specific case studies to explore content in depth and engage with real-world learning, problem solving and skills development.
Individual Senior Expeditions
Students in 12th grade create and pursue their own integrated course of study during the last semester of their senior year called the Senior +Impact Study, which tackles a real-world problem. This long-term academic endeavor can involve international travel, language acquisition and volunteerism or other opportunities within respectable and faculty-approved boundaries and is intended to provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate what they are capable of doing and producing to have a positive impact on their lives and the world. The student’s Crew Leader serves as a point person and mentor for this capstone project, which is required for graduation.
Field Studies, Experts and Service
Learning Expeditions embed and integrate field studies, experts and service learning into a larger curriculum unit. Beyond the classroom walls, students engage in acts of service, locally, nationally and globally. During field studies, they collaborate with local organizations, engage with relevant experts and contribute to their community through entrepreneurship and volunteerism. By giving and intentionally directing their efforts, intellect and resources to where it can benefit the greater good, students become active citizens in their communities. Advisors and teachers guide students through this process during their school career, which culminates with a Senior Project.
The Elective Program extends learning beyond the core subject areas and provides opportunities for students to express creativity, to develop artistic skills and to bolster their confidence in the arts, music and design. The elective courses within this program give students the resources and instruction to develop as visual and performing artists. Collectively, the elective program awards students with opportunities to produce authentic work collaboratively and independently, to engage with experts and professionals in this field and to present their work before authentic audiences. Throughout the school year, student performances and art are exhibited and appreciated broadly in Tahoe area communities.
Weekly opportunities for students to leave campus and pursue topics and activities of their choice. These learning opportunities include: Externships (require establishing a mentor outside of TEA for a specific opportunity (i.e., High Fives Foundation)), Internships (require establishing a mentor within TEA for a specific opportunity (i.e., Teacher’s Assistant)), and Trainings ( Classes and trainings outside of school that allow students to learn specific skills (i.e., WFR, pilot license, boat captain licensure, etc.))
MEET OUR AMAZING HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS
Our faculty and staff empower students to question, think, explore and lead. Relationships between our students and teachers are paramount to creating a community of care, service, and commitment. To learn more about our faculty and staff please click below. In addition to “crew-specific” teachers, we have a dedicated music, art and student support staff for our High School students.
Mara Jenkins | Dean of Students History Teacher, 11/12 Crew Leader
Mara Jenkins was born and raised in Oregon. Whether it was skiing Mt. Hood, traveling the world with her family, hiking the Pacific Northwest or camping up and down the West coast, Mara spent her childhood taking advantage of the beautiful world around her. Mara attended the University of Oregon to earn a Bachelor of Arts in History. After graduating, she moved to Tahoe where her husband grew up and enrolled at Sierra Nevada College to continue her education. Mara earned her teaching credential in secondary social studies as well as a Master of Art in Teaching from Sierra Nevada College. Her master’s thesis focused on using primary and secondary sources to teach about social injustices throughout history. Mara is passionate about connecting history to current events and sharing the passion for learning that she enjoys with her students. Mara has worked in a variety of settings including at a middle school in Eugene, Oregon for at-risk students, teaching a Women’s and Gender Studies introductory course at the University of Oregon, interning at Incline High School, and volunteering for the nationally ranked We The People program at Incline High School.
Nilo Bill | High School Math and Science
Having received his PhD from Oregon State University in geology and climatology after receiving his undergraduate degree from University of Miami, earning a triple major in Geology, Anthropology and International Studies, Nilo draws from a diverse array of academic disciplines. The pursuit of knowledge has brought Nilo to do fieldwork all over the world, from Alaska to Labrador and most notably, extensive time in Antarctica. Recently, being named a National Geographic Explorer allowed for him to work on solutions to problems associated with the decline of the Earth’s ice sheets in the country of Iceland. If you walk into Nilo’s classroom you will likely find students engaged in hypothesis driven science or discussions surrounding scientific epistemology, or, how scientists know what they know. Nilo believes that an eye toward his students’ future is important while maintaining a healthy dose of fun and adrenaline along the way.
Jess Svoboda | High School Math and Science
Jess Svoboda is a local teacher who came highly recommended by the staff and administration at Sierra Expeditionary Learning School. Jess’ formal training is in science education and she has credentials to teach all four of the sciences, with her specialty being microbiology. She has experience teaching advanced levels of HS science and working with kids in outdoor settings.
Laura Quarin | ELA/Humanities
Though originally from Canada, Laura’s love of exploration and travel have taken her all over the world. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology, a Graduate Diploma in Education and a Master’s Degree in Athletic Administration, Laura has been fortunate to live and work in Canada, Australia, Panama, Egypt and now the United States. She has taught a variety of academic subjects, served as an athletic director in two countries and most recently worked as the humanities specialist and principal at a small school outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. Her experience in Canada allowed her to contribute to a unique school environment. She specialized in tailoring academic programs to fit students’ individual academic and personal needs. There, Laura developed and implemented strategies to allow curriculum, content and learning to be accessible to students of all backgrounds. Laura enjoys working with youth and inspires them to grow towards their unique potential. She is a lifelong learner who follows her curiosity into historical non-fiction, through travel to new places and in a wide variety of life experiences. Laura is thrilled to continue living out her passion for actively exploring the outdoors in the beautiful Tahoe area. She is particularly excited about the opportunity to work closely with students in supporting their personal and academic growth, as part of the inspiring TEA community.
Mark Henasey | Music Teacher
Mark graduated with a Music Education degree from University of Massachusetts Amherst. He enjoys performing music and teaching students of all ages. His teaching methods are diverse and oriented towards each student’s specific musical personality. He spent nine years as a Faculty Instructor for the Summer Institute for the Gifted teaching music courses at Princeton University, UCLA, Drew University and Bryn Mawr College. He also worked as a high school music director for a private boarding school for seven years. His original compositions have been featured on University of Princeton radio (WPRB 103.3) and his projects have opened for many international touring acts including Ween, The Wailers, Bernie Worrell (P-Funk and Talking Heads) and Vernon Reed (Living Color).
Charlotte Semmes | Art Teacher
Charlotte was born and raised in Maryland, outside of Washington D.C. She studied Fine Arts and Anthropology at Skidmore College in upstate New York. Directly following her graduation in 2004, she took a cross-country road trip with her best friend, eventually landing in San Francisco. There she pursued her longtime passion of working in textile and apparel industries while intermittently traveling and volunteering with youth in the visual arts. In 2011, Charlotte received a teaching fellowship in a newly evolved Design research program at UC Davis where she completed her MFA in Textiles. Realizing the joy she found working one-on-one with students, she acquired her California teaching credential in Art. She trained at a Waldorf-inspired high school in Sacramento and taught for one year in the Central Valley before joining her husband in Truckee.
Michelle Moran | Spanish Teacher
A graduate of UC Davis (BA) with a Major in International Relations and Minors in Spanish and Anthropology and a MA in Cultural Anthropology from the Universidad de las Américas, Puebla, Mexico, Michelle has been a bilingual teacher for over 25 years. Michelle has studied, worked and lived all of her adult life in or around the Spanish language. Michelle’s teaching background includes pre K through college formal classroom instruction though she has also directed her own private language school “Learn Spanish Now!” while teaching students of all ages throughout the greater Northern California, Nevada County and the Tahoe regions for the past 17 years after she returned to Northern California, from Mexico in 1996 to marry her true love and start a family. Michelle’s passion for all things Spanish and the art of teaching allows her to constantly implement her dream of connecting people in the world while helping them realize their goals, strengths and passions through learning and language every day. She currently also lives her family dream in Tahoe with her husband Mark and their three boys, Clay, Jason and Carter.