Washington Island School District settles on new curriculum

Aug. 20, 2013

Besides the usual lessons of reading, writing and arithmetic Washington Island School District students will be learning how to be good citizens this fall.

Last month the school district moved away from its original plan of implementing Expeditionary Learning for the 2013-14 school year. Expeditionary Learning (EL) is both the name of the program that engages students in project-based outcome expeditions and the professional development company that created it.

The consensus between EL and the district was that the company could not meet the school’s needs.

After the announcement was made official, Superintendent Tim Raymond hosted a three-day retreat for the district’s teaching staff titled “If not EL, then what?”

Raymond said he wanted to gather input from the staff about what educational initiatives have been tried in the past.

“It was an exploration of where we have been,” he said.

What came out of the three-day retreat was that the district is a certified Tribes school.

Tribes is a research-based positive behaviors system that promotes building relationships between staff and students, and between the students themselves, she said. Tribes is meant to put protective factors in place that help students feel safe, under the belief that students are less likely to take part in riskier behavior if they have a safe environment.

“So Washington Island was part of a state Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention Grant, and one of the things that I had written into the grant was Tribes training,” said Christine Kleiman, Safe and healthy Schools Coordinator for CESA 7.

Kleiman trained the Washington Island staff four years ago and a second training session took place the following summer. Now she will train people who have been hired since the initial training.

To receive the grant, the four school districts that applied as a consortium had to show that there was a need within the schools for such training.

The goal is to “have relationship first before we can have learning,” Kleiman explained. “Once you have a school that is implementing the Tribes process of building those relationships, then it goes deeper into promoting experiential learning.”


Experiential learning is similar to Expeditionary Learning in that students get firsthand experiences as they learn.

“We learn best by experiencing something first,” then dive in and study the material, Kleiman said.

Part of that learning process is working on projects as a group and playing on the strengths of each student.

Raymond said the community-building aspect of Tribes mirrors Expeditionary Learning’s Crew. Students participating in Crew work as a team on school assignments or projects.

Raymond said Tribes also addresses a district’s need for a Response to Intervention system.

According to Kleiman, teachers are supposed to work with students as a whole to discuss issues that they may have as a group or as an individual.

When students understand each other, there is less bullying and more learning can take place, she said.

“It’s important to remember that children are children. They are human beings, and meeting their needs at the door at the beginning of each day and each school year can mean so much for kids and their learning,” she said.

Contact Samantha Hernandez at svhernande@doorcountyadvocate.com or (920) 743-3321, Ext. 112.

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