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Design Principles

Expeditionary Learning is built on ten Design Principles that reflect the educational values and beliefs of EL Education.  These principles also reflect the design’s connection to related thinking about teaching, learning, and the culture of schools.


  1. The Primacy of Self Discovery: People discover their abilities, values, passions, and responsibilities in situations that offer adventure and the unexpected.
  2. The Having of Wonderful Ideas: Curiosity about the world is fostered when learning situations provide something important to think about, time to experiment, and time to make sense of what is observed.
  3. The Responsibility for Learning: Children and adults are encouraged to become increasingly responsible for directing their own personal and collective learning.
  4. Empathy and Caring: Learning is fostered best in communities where students feel physically and emotionally safe and where students’ and teachers’ ideas are respected and where there is mutual trust.
  5. Success and Failure: All students need to be successful if they are to build the confidence to take risks.  But it is also important for students to learn from their failures, to persevere when things are hard, and to learn to turn disabilities into opportunities.
  6. Collaboration and Competition: Students are encouraged to compete not against each other but with their own personal best and with rigorous standards of excellence.
  7. Diversity and Inclusion: Both diversity and inclusion increase the richness of ideas, creative power, problem-solving ability, and respect for others.
  8. The Natural World: A direct and respectful relationship with the natural world refreshes the human spirit and teaches the important ideas of recurring cycles and cause and effect.
  9. Solitude and Reflection: Students and teachers need time alone to explore their own thoughts, make their own connections, and create their own ideas.
  10. Service and Compassion: We are crew, not passengers.  Students and teachers are strengthened by acts of consequential service to others.
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