Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School

Grades: 6-12

Our Insights

What’s Special

Camping and field trips; progressive approach

The Downside

May not appeal to those seeking a traditional curriculum

Launched in 2010, Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School (MELS) is a progressive school that sends its students out across the city and beyond, and brings in experts to give science, history and other subjects real-life relevance.

The school is the brainchild of co-principals Pat Finley and Damon McCord, who wanted to provide Queens middle and high school students with an education that’s not focused on textbooks. MELS is one of a dozen schools in New York City run in partnership with NYC Outward Bound.

Projects are interdisciplinary. For example, 6th-graders collected pollution data (building math skills) and studied different types of engines (using science) as part of a project on how to build a better taxicab. They then designed engines, with help from Cooper Union students. In a project entitled Invaders, children learned about Genghis Khan in social studies and invasive species in science. As part of their work, students mapped and trapped the invasive Asian longhorn beetle in parks.

MELS is a 6th-to-12th-grade school, Finley stressed. Teachers have time to aim for depth over breadth. “We try to structure everything in our curriculum with a long-term view of learning,” he said.

Fieldwork is a given in many classes. Students may visit Wall Street as part of Algebra II & Trigonometry, or Google to study workspace design. An English class prepared interviews they would conduct with immigrants before visiting an immigration center.

The school focuses on character development. Every student is a member of a “crew” that meets daily, consisting of about 16 classmates and a teacher. One of the most anticipated crew events is a four-day backpacking trip for 6th-graders that includes ropes courses and an overnight hike.

The school is proud of its mix of Asian, black, Hispanic and white students from all walks of life. “I don’t think there’s an unscreened school that is more diverse,” Finley said. “We keep our kids and have high rates of success moving them out of high school and beyond.” More than 90 percent of 8th-graders stay for high school, including one who was admitted to Stuyvesant but chose to stay at MELS.

Some parents may worry that the field experiences could come at the expense of more traditional work. One indication of this may be the low-average scores on the state math exam in middle school. Finley believes this type of learning works well with all students but said, “It may not be the choice for all families,” such as those looking for a “more traditional model that focuses on test scores.”

By the time kids graduate, most are ready for college-level work. The co-principals think this is due to the school's emphasis on literacy and delving deeper into subjects, including science and history. “In middle school we’re not doubling up English and math [periods] because that’s where testing is,” Finley said. “We want our kids thinking as historians and scientists too.”

The school grapples with how to mesh Regents requirements and Advanced Placement classes with field experiences. “AP has a very different view of kids and learning,” Finley said, “but we do think it’s important to try.” High school students do a bit less fieldwork than middle school students.

MELS has a healthy selection of sports and arts, and an award-winning high school speech and debate team that has gone to state and national competitions.

The Queens Metropolitan campus in Forest Hills is bright and inviting. MELS shares the building with Queens Metropolitan High School and a District 75 school for students with disabilities.

Graduates have been admitted to a wide variety of colleges that reflect the range of academic strengths of students. “We have a child who got a full ride to Rensselaer, and an early admit to Yale, learning alongside students who are not scoring as high on standardized tests,” Finley said. “We do work to serve all types of students.”

SPECIAL EDUCATION: MELS offers team teaching classes and services for special education students in regular classes. Students in self-contained classes participate in crew, art and physical education with the general education students, and do some expeditions with them.

ADMISSIONS: The middle school is open to District 28 students. Priority goes to Queens residents. The school strongly recommends a visit first to make sure the school is a good fit. “If you don’t want your child to go on a four-day backpacking trip, it’s not the school for you,” Finley said. (Lydie Raschka, interview and web reports, June 2018)

School Stats


How many students graduate in 4 years?
How many students with disabilities graduate in 4 years?
Average daily attendance
How many students miss 18 or more days of school?
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
From the 2020-21 School Quality Guide and 2020-21 NYC School Survey


Number of students
611 Citywide Average


Low-income students
Students with disabilities
Multilingual learners
From the 2020-21 Demographic Snapshot

Safety & Vibe

How many students were suspended?
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
How many students say that some are bullied at their school because of their gender or sexual orientation?
From the 2020-21 NYC School Survey and 2019-20 NY State Report Card

Faculty & Staff

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
Years of principal experience at this school
8 Citywide Average
Number of students for each guidance counselor or social worker
226 Citywide Average

Teachers’ Race/Ethnicity

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
Are teachers effective?
From the 2020-21 NYC School Survey, 2020-21 School Quality Guide, 2019-20 NY State Report Card, 2021 Guidance Counselor Report and this school's most recent Quality Review Report

Advanced Courses

Which students have access to advanced courses at this school? Learn more



Computer Science

Not offered in 2019-20



Advanced Foreign Language


AP/IB Arts, English, History or Social Science


AP/IB Math or Science



From unpublished, anonymized data from the 2019-20 school year provided by the New York State Education Department, brought to you by

College Readiness

How many students graduate with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?
How many students take a college-level course or earn a professional certificate?
From the 2020-21 School Quality Guide
How many students filled out a FAFSA form by the end of their senior year?
From the 2020-21 FAFSA data released by Federal Student Aid, brought you by
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data · More DOE statistics for this school

Programs & Admissions

From the 2021 High School Directory

Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School

Admissions Method: Open


From the 2021 High School Directory

Language Courses

French, Spanish

Advanced Placement (AP) courses

AP English Literature and Composition, AP Biology, AP Calculus AB

Boys PSAL teams

Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Volleyball, Wrestling

Girls PSAL teams

Basketball, Cross Country, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Softball, Swimming, Volleyball

Coed PSAL teams


Read about admissions, academics, and more at this school on NYCDOE’s MySchools

NYC Department of Education: MySchools

Contact & Location


91-30 Metropolitan Avenue
Forest Hills NY 11375

Trains: N/A

Buses: BM5, Q11, Q21, Q23, Q52-SBS, Q53-SBS, Q54, Q55, QM12, QM15, QM42


Principal: Damon Mccord

Parent Coordinator: Ashley Barcia


Other Details

Shared campus? Yes

This school shares the Metropolitan Educational Campus with two other schools

Uniforms required? No
Metal detectors? No


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