Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School
Interesting field projects; interdisciplinary approach
May not appeal to those seeking a traditional curriculum.
Launched in 2010, Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School believes in hands-on learning in the classroom and beyond. The school sends its students out across the city and brings in experts to give subjects, particularly math, science and technology, a 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 thats not focused on textbooks. The 11 expeditionary schools in New York City are run in partnership with the organization Outward Bound.
Most work, particularly in the middle school, is organized around two or three "expeditions" a year, all interdisciplinary and many involving sustainability. A project on building a better taxicab had students collecting pollution data in math and studying different types of engines in science. The 6th graders then designed engines, with help from Cooper Union students. In the expedition 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 Asian longhorn beetle in parks. That study extended to physical education as the students learned about viruses and played a game pitting HIV against T-cells.
In most classes we visited, students seemed engaged and enthusiastic about fieldwork. In English for, example, they eagerly sought out instructions in preparation for interviews they would conduct with immigrants. Students seems a bit less involved as they studied a diagram of the reproduction system as part of their consideration of birth control pioneer Margaret Sangers in the "Great Power, Great Responsibility "expedition.
The school focuses on character development. Every student is a member of a group, called a CREW, consisting of about 16 classmates and a teacher. Every day starts with a CREW meeting. One of the most anticipated CREW events is a five-day back packing trip for 6th graders that includes an overnight hike, and ropes courses. One student told us, "You dont have to be a nature person to really enjoy the trip."
Some parents may worry that the field experiences could come at the expense of more traditional work. "We do think this type of learning works well with all students," McCord says, "but it may not work well with all families." However the co-principals say MELS students have done well on tests so far, due, they think, to the school's emphasis on literacy and delving deeper into subjects, such as science. The school is grappling with how to mesh Regents requirements and Advanced Placement classes with field experiences, but does plan to provide AP courses. High school students do a bit less fieldwork than middle school students.
The Queens Metropolitan campus in Forest Hills is new, bright and inviting. MELS shares the building with Queens Metropolitan High School and a District 75 school for students with disabilities.
Special education: MELS offers team teaching classes and services for special education students in regular classes. It also has some self-contained classes. Students in those have a CREW, take art and physical education with the general education students, and do some expeditions.
Admission: The middle school is open to District 28 students, with few, if any, openings for those outside the district. Most middle school students stay on for high school, leaving hardly any slots for incoming 9th graders. Priority for those goes to Queens residents who attend an open house. (Gail Robinson, February 2013)
About the students
About the school
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About the leadership
About the teachers
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How does this school serve English Language Learners?
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Programs and Admissions
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Biology, AP English Literature and Composition
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