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Greenfield Expeditions have the power to transform students’ life trajectories by exposing them to career pathways and passions that influence their future choices. These immersive, project-based mini-courses guide students to choose pathways in high school and college that align to genuine interests grounded in lived experience, and they equip students to enter college with deep self-knowledge and purpose, ultimately boosting their confidence and persistence. During Expeditions, students conduct research, participate in field visits, and collaborate with experts to learn deeply about a specific discipline such as marine biology, neuroscience, architecture, or engineering. Each Expedition culminates in a school-wide, interactive showcase where students present or perform what they have learned to their families and school community. 

Greenfield Expeditions are implemented across several Achievement First schools. An extensive toolkit is available to support schools who wish to adopt the practice. 

  • Learning Strategies & Habits
  • Postsecondary Knowledge & Assets
  • Integrated Identity
  • Academic Knowledge & Skills
  • Career Prep and Work-Based Learning
  • Project-Based Learning
  • Inquiry-Based Learning
  • Resource Toolkit

What Makes this Model Innovative?

Relevance
Greenfield Expeditions expose students to real-world learning within authentic contexts, helping them develop an understanding of their personal interests and goals.
Affirmation of Self & Others
Expeditions promote self-discovery by allowing students to “try on” different careers and passions, helping them build a sense of purpose grounded in lived experience. Culminating showcases provide students opportunities to learn from and celebrate one another.
Connection & Community
Expeditions foster hands-on collaboration among peers and teachers and provide opportunities for community connection through visits to professional workplaces and consultation with experts. Showcases also invite community members to celebrate students’ learning.

Goals

Greenfield Expeditions are designed to provide students with the chance to deeply explore their passions, identity, and personal why, which helps them realize their best selves in school and in life. Why Expeditions?

Academic Independence

Students develop a growth mindset and a narrative of self-efficacy by experiencing rapid growth during Expeditions. They make choices about their learning and presentations while navigating challenges, collaborating in groups, and managing complex tasks. Students also learn self-advocacy and help-seeking from both familiar and unfamiliar adults.

Academic Preparation

Students draw on lessons from Expeditions to help them in academic classes, particularly those related to goal setting and presenting in front of diverse audiences.

Personal Why

Students deepen their understanding of their passions and life direction by “trying on” different selves and engaging in self-reflection.

Social-Emotional Strength

Students develop greater self-awareness about how to approach learning and respond to challenging and novel contexts. They also develop a better sense of who they are as individuals and as part of a group and learn how to navigate group dynamics.

Experience

Three times per year, students spend two weeks immersed in project-based learning experiences that align to a professional career. These mini-courses follow a predictable sequence of student experiences beginning with the Greenfield Expedition launch, followed by visits to professionals in the field and visits from guest educators to the classroom, and culminating with a showcase of learning and personal reflection. Unit Plan: Neuroscience – Grade 6 See below for more details about each of these experiences.

 

Students participate in hands-on learning about a new topic by exploring and beginning to apply the skills required for the profession, learning key terminology, and studying examples of the work in practice. For example, after discussing examples of strong graphic design products, they spend time designing their own logos. Launch Lesson: Graphic Design

Students travel into their community to learn from experts within authentic professional contexts. For example, students studying astronauts might visit a science center to learn how to program a Mars rover, build replicas, and learn what is required for life to help them plan a mission to outer space.

Professionals visit the classroom to share expert advice with students as they prepare for their culminating showcase. For example, students studying neuroscience might be visited by a university professor who helps them dissect sheep brains to study their parts.

Following their deep -dive into a career, students prepare a performance or presentation to help them share with their peers and families what they have learned during the expedition. Showcase: Architecture Students also think through effective ways to present for their given audience and engage in dress rehearsals and feedback sessions with their peers.

To conclude an Expedition, students engage in personal reflection on what they learned about themselves and others. Student Reflection: Neuroscience

Supporting Structures

Despite being one of several key elements of the Achievement First Greenfield School Design model, Expeditions can be implemented as a standalone practice. Schools interested in implementing Expeditions may wish to pilot them with one classroom or grade level before scaling the practice to include the entire school.

Schools must condense or cut curriculums to carve out space for lessons and activities related to Expeditions. 

Expeditions provide students with the opportunity to focus on content that extends beyond core academics. As a result, schools must think ahead to plan what academic or enrichment content may be cut or condensed to make space for them.

To support the planning of Expeditions, schools can take advantage of an open-source catalog of offerings for 5th through 7th grades and a resource outlining the fundamentals of instruction for expeditions. Offerings List Fundamentals of Instruction

Students are assessed on their pride and insight, both of which drive toward their personal why and social-emotional strength. Goals and Assessment Overview

Expeditions rely on a strong school or classroom culture to support the schedule changes and immersive experiences present in the model.

For Expeditions to run well, it is important that the school culture is strong enough to support changes to the typical schedule as well as other key model components such as field visits, hosting guests in the classroom, etc.

Expeditions should feel special and should celebrate student growth and positive risk-taking during every stage of the experience.

A strong Operations Leader is required to run point on logistics, as well as dedicated teachers to lead Expeditions.

Expeditions require a school-wide effort with careful coordination among the people in the following roles:

  • Owner: This person serves as the Expedition point person and project manager to ensure that the team remains on track. See the launch planning guidance. Quick Start Guide
  • Greenfield Expedition Teachers: School-based teachers lead these Expeditions. In the model, Expeditions replace science, social studies, and enrichment and are taught by those teachers. 
  • Academic Leadership: This role may be held by a single school leader or divided among several individuals. It involves ensuring that teachers are prepared to lead their Expeditions and providing ongoing coaching and support.
  • Operations: This is a crucial job in executing Expeditions because they are run very differently from typical school days.

Teachers—especially those with less experience—may require professional development on top of individualized coaching to execute Expeditions at a high level. Teacher Training Scope & Sequence

Expeditions require schools to allocate ~2.5 hours in the daily schedule for two full weeks, three times per year, in addition to time for planning.

Expeditions happen three times a year, although schools could choose to run them once or twice instead. Because they require ample planning time, the first usually does not occur until 6–7 weeks into the school year. 

During Expeditions, core academics are shifted so they take place in the morning and full afternoons are dedicated to the Expedition project for the full two weeks. At Achievement First schools, the teachers leading career Expeditions are generally given the morning of Expedition days to prepare.

Showcases, which are held on the final day of the two-week mini-course, can be held during the school day or during the evening in order to allow more parents and family members to attend.

Family and community partnerships are critical to strong execution of Expeditions.

The purpose of Expeditions is to immerse students in authentic, real-world experiences that connect them to the professional world and to their greater school community. As such, family and community partnerships are foundational to strong execution of this practice in the following ways:

  • Field Visits: These allow students to visit and interact with community partners working in specialized fields.
  • Expert Speakers: Field experts visit classrooms to teach lessons and provide advice to students as they consolidate their learning and prepare showcase presentations.
  • Trip Chaperones: Families can chaperone field lessons, connecting them both to the school community and to the broader community of professionals with whom their children are engaging.
  • Showcases: Classrooms can invite guest speakers and the professionals they visited in the field to attend showcases, which deepens trust between the school and community partners. Additionally, showcases bring families into the school to witness what their students have been exploring.

Each Expedition requires a dedicated space for the duration of the experience.

Expeditions often require space to store projects that are in progress, which should be taken into consideration when assigning groups to the spaces they will use for the duration of the two-week experience. Space Selection Guidance

Additionally, Expeditions require space for culminating showcases, which may be structured in various ways, including the following:

  • Whole-School Showcase: This structure is a 2-hour event with showcases occurring at staggered times, to allow families and students to sample a variety of Expeditions.
  • Individual Expedition Showcase: In this structure, students and families remain in the room where their student is presenting. This is less of an operational lift and can be completed in 30–60 minutes.
  • Student-Only Showcase: Some schools hold a dress rehearsal of the showcase during school hours for students only.

Most Expeditions require 1:1 computers and classrooms with stable Wi-Fi.

Students often spend time on the Internet accessing materials and videos related to their learning Expedition, especially when they are exploring fields like graphic design. Schools should plan to conduct a technology needs assessment when planning for each Expedition in order to allocate the necessary resources properly.

Expeditions have many moving pieces that require strong project management, preferably owned by a single person.

Project Planning: Given the many elements of Expeditions, the person running operations must be a strong project manager. We recommend that they design and maintain a shared project plan with all relevant stakeholders.

Student Selection: At Greenfield, students are able to apply for their Expedition of choice from a set of five options. If schools choose to take this approach, they must clarify the application and selection process. One option is to select students for each Expedition based on the persuasiveness of their application letter.

Budget: At Greenfield, schools budget $1,600 for each Expedition. This cost can be reduced by forging relationships with community partners who can serve as guest speakers or host field visits.

Materials: Expeditions all have consumable and reusable materials. The first round of Expeditions tends to cost more because schools must purchase new materials, but subsequent Expeditions tend to cost less because reusable materials have already been purchased. Schools typically create a centralized materials list and a set of materials ordering guidance to handle supply reorder requests. Ops Planning Tracker Material Ordering Guidance

Transportation & Permission: Field visits require the coordination of permission slips, health forms, student rosters, and transportation to multiple places during Expedition weeks. 

Expeditions benefit from having clear, regular communication systems with families to keep them up to speed on what’s coming and how things have been going.

Schools should consider methods for communicating with parents about upcoming Expedition requirements, chaperoning opportunities, showcase dates, and even student and family shoutouts for excellent work.

To support strong Expeditions, schools should observe facilitation of Expeditions and provide ongoing coaching and support.  

Teachers receive the following types of support and development:

  • Before and during each round of Expeditions, schools should provide professional development to support teachers through each stage based on the experience level and specific needs of the group. 
  • School leaders should plan to conduct walkthroughs to assess the strengths and needs of Expedition facilitators and provide ongoing coaching and support. At Greenfield, teachers are observed twice per week during Expeditions. Coaching Guide
  • Teachers might be encouraged to rehearse certain Expedition lessons to ensure that they are executed at top quality.

Schools must condense or cut curriculums to carve out space for lessons and activities related to Expeditions. 

Expeditions provide students with the opportunity to focus on content that extends beyond core academics. As a result, schools must think ahead to plan what academic or enrichment content may be cut or condensed to make space for them.

To support the planning of Expeditions, schools can take advantage of an open-source catalog of offerings for 5th through 7th grades and a resource outlining the fundamentals of instruction for expeditions. Offerings List Fundamentals of Instruction

Students are assessed on their pride and insight, both of which drive toward their personal why and social-emotional strength. Goals and Assessment Overview

Expeditions rely on a strong school or classroom culture to support the schedule changes and immersive experiences present in the model.

For Expeditions to run well, it is important that the school culture is strong enough to support changes to the typical schedule as well as other key model components such as field visits, hosting guests in the classroom, etc.

Expeditions should feel special and should celebrate student growth and positive risk-taking during every stage of the experience.

A strong Operations Leader is required to run point on logistics, as well as dedicated teachers to lead Expeditions.

Expeditions require a school-wide effort with careful coordination among the people in the following roles:

  • Owner: This person serves as the Expedition point person and project manager to ensure that the team remains on track. See the launch planning guidance. Quick Start Guide
  • Greenfield Expedition Teachers: School-based teachers lead these Expeditions. In the model, Expeditions replace science, social studies, and enrichment and are taught by those teachers. 
  • Academic Leadership: This role may be held by a single school leader or divided among several individuals. It involves ensuring that teachers are prepared to lead their Expeditions and providing ongoing coaching and support.
  • Operations: This is a crucial job in executing Expeditions because they are run very differently from typical school days.

Teachers—especially those with less experience—may require professional development on top of individualized coaching to execute Expeditions at a high level. Teacher Training Scope & Sequence

Expeditions require schools to allocate ~2.5 hours in the daily schedule for two full weeks, three times per year, in addition to time for planning.

Expeditions happen three times a year, although schools could choose to run them once or twice instead. Because they require ample planning time, the first usually does not occur until 6–7 weeks into the school year. 

During Expeditions, core academics are shifted so they take place in the morning and full afternoons are dedicated to the Expedition project for the full two weeks. At Achievement First schools, the teachers leading career Expeditions are generally given the morning of Expedition days to prepare.

Showcases, which are held on the final day of the two-week mini-course, can be held during the school day or during the evening in order to allow more parents and family members to attend.

Family and community partnerships are critical to strong execution of Expeditions.

The purpose of Expeditions is to immerse students in authentic, real-world experiences that connect them to the professional world and to their greater school community. As such, family and community partnerships are foundational to strong execution of this practice in the following ways:

  • Field Visits: These allow students to visit and interact with community partners working in specialized fields.
  • Expert Speakers: Field experts visit classrooms to teach lessons and provide advice to students as they consolidate their learning and prepare showcase presentations.
  • Trip Chaperones: Families can chaperone field lessons, connecting them both to the school community and to the broader community of professionals with whom their children are engaging.
  • Showcases: Classrooms can invite guest speakers and the professionals they visited in the field to attend showcases, which deepens trust between the school and community partners. Additionally, showcases bring families into the school to witness what their students have been exploring.

Each Expedition requires a dedicated space for the duration of the experience.

Expeditions often require space to store projects that are in progress, which should be taken into consideration when assigning groups to the spaces they will use for the duration of the two-week experience. Space Selection Guidance

Additionally, Expeditions require space for culminating showcases, which may be structured in various ways, including the following:

  • Whole-School Showcase: This structure is a 2-hour event with showcases occurring at staggered times, to allow families and students to sample a variety of Expeditions.
  • Individual Expedition Showcase: In this structure, students and families remain in the room where their student is presenting. This is less of an operational lift and can be completed in 30–60 minutes.
  • Student-Only Showcase: Some schools hold a dress rehearsal of the showcase during school hours for students only.

Most Expeditions require 1:1 computers and classrooms with stable Wi-Fi.

Students often spend time on the Internet accessing materials and videos related to their learning Expedition, especially when they are exploring fields like graphic design. Schools should plan to conduct a technology needs assessment when planning for each Expedition in order to allocate the necessary resources properly.

Expeditions have many moving pieces that require strong project management, preferably owned by a single person.

Project Planning: Given the many elements of Expeditions, the person running operations must be a strong project manager. We recommend that they design and maintain a shared project plan with all relevant stakeholders.

Student Selection: At Greenfield, students are able to apply for their Expedition of choice from a set of five options. If schools choose to take this approach, they must clarify the application and selection process. One option is to select students for each Expedition based on the persuasiveness of their application letter.

Budget: At Greenfield, schools budget $1,600 for each Expedition. This cost can be reduced by forging relationships with community partners who can serve as guest speakers or host field visits.

Materials: Expeditions all have consumable and reusable materials. The first round of Expeditions tends to cost more because schools must purchase new materials, but subsequent Expeditions tend to cost less because reusable materials have already been purchased. Schools typically create a centralized materials list and a set of materials ordering guidance to handle supply reorder requests. Ops Planning Tracker Material Ordering Guidance

Transportation & Permission: Field visits require the coordination of permission slips, health forms, student rosters, and transportation to multiple places during Expedition weeks. 

Expeditions benefit from having clear, regular communication systems with families to keep them up to speed on what’s coming and how things have been going.

Schools should consider methods for communicating with parents about upcoming Expedition requirements, chaperoning opportunities, showcase dates, and even student and family shoutouts for excellent work.

To support strong Expeditions, schools should observe facilitation of Expeditions and provide ongoing coaching and support.  

Teachers receive the following types of support and development:

  • Before and during each round of Expeditions, schools should provide professional development to support teachers through each stage based on the experience level and specific needs of the group. 
  • School leaders should plan to conduct walkthroughs to assess the strengths and needs of Expedition facilitators and provide ongoing coaching and support. At Greenfield, teachers are observed twice per week during Expeditions. Coaching Guide
  • Teachers might be encouraged to rehearse certain Expedition lessons to ensure that they are executed at top quality.

Supports Offered

Transcend supported the design of Greenfield Expeditions and created a toolkit where users can access various resources to pilot, adopt, and adapt the model.

Greenfield Resource Toolkit
Free

This toolkit contains a comprehensive set of resources to support the rollout and implementation of Greenfield Expeditions, including: planning materials and templates, curricular and instructional materials, rubrics, sample schedules, teacher training tools, observation tools, family communication guidance, and so much more.

You can also find information on other parts of the comprehensive Greenfield School Design, including Dream Teams and Goal Teams.

Reach

41
Schools
15000
Students
75%
Free or Reduced Lunch
97%
Black & Latinx

Impact

Greenfield Expeditions are used across many schools in the Achievement First Network alongside a suite of other practices that together lead to dramatic impact on student achievement. Below are just a few examples of the excellence achieved by students in Achievement First schools.

  • Since Connecticut began Common Core-aligned assessments in 2015, Achievement First students have improved their proficiency by 21% points in math and by 15% points in ELA.
  • Achievement First high schools are among the best in the state of Connecticut. U.S. News & World Report ranked Achievement First Hartford High #3 and Achievement First Amistad High #12.
  • Achievement First Bushwick in Brooklyn, New York, was named a 2019 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. It is a prestigious award granted to schools showing overall academic excellence or excellent progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
  • Achievement First students in Rhode Island far outperformed their in-state peers and scored 5% higher in ELA and math than students in Massachusetts, which is widely considered to have the best schools in the United States.

Contact

Saya Taniguchi
Transcend, Partner