Join the EL25 Challenge. Make a donation to EL Education by 12/31, and your gift will be matched!
Header image

25 Years of Getting Smart to Do Good

  • Date

  • Author

    April Hattori

In the letter to EL Education friends, Scott Hartl, President & CEO of EL Education, reflected on our network's 25 years of impact and kicked off a year of celebration.


Dear Friend,

Whether your school year is just beginning or well underway, I hope it is off to a good start!

This fall marks an important moment in the life of EL Education: the kickoff to our 25th year. Back in 1992, EL Education (then known as “Expeditionary Learning”) won a national design competition to develop “break the mold” schools with a vision of joining character and scholarship to make the world a better place.

By the following year, the first 10 Expeditionary Learning Schools opened, including two--King Middle School in Portland, Maine and Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning in Denver, Colorado--that are still part of our network. In the intervening decades, we have served hundreds of thousands of teachers and over one million students in EL Education network schools and developed a language arts curriculum that has been downloaded 8.7 million times by teachers in 44 states. 

Through this quarter century of work, our organization has had one mission: To create classrooms where teachers can fulfill their highest aspirations and students achieve more than they think possible, becoming active contributors to building a better world.

As an organization, we are lucky to be inspired every day by the work of EL Education schools and partners, from rural Scintilla Charter Academy in Georgia and Grass Valley Charter School in California as well as in cities such as Rochester, New York’s World of Inquiry. It is no coincidence--or surprise--that Capital City Public Charter School, a Credentialed EL Education network school, is the subject of the very first case study published by the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional & Academic Development.

I hope you will join us in some special #EL25 activities to recognize the work of these schools and many others as we highlight our abiding focus on “getting smart to do good:” 

  • October 27-29, Chicago. The EL Education National Conference will feature keynote speaker Sydney Chaffee, National Teacher of the Year.  Sydney is a 9th grade Humanities Teacher at Codman Academy Charter Public School an EL Education Credentialed School in Boston, Massachusetts.
  •  The EL Education Better World Project will support projects that exemplify students joining character and scholarship to contribute to their communities and the world, and to build bridges of understanding across differences. Applications are open through September 30th.
  • Friday, May 4: EL Education Better World Day. Join thousands of students and teachers across the nation in a celebration in local communities and on social media. Schools will be sharing the ways in which they are inspiring teachers and empowering students to create a better world. Stay tuned for much more information to come! 
  • Multiple opportunities to support the work of EL Education through a matching gift campaign and the EL25 Gala honoring our founding President Greg Farrell next spring.

All of these events and activities will celebrate the joining of scholarship and character to create a better world. Recent examples from the EL Education family, among many others, include:  

  • What does it mean to see the world through the eyes of a younger student, or of an aquatic invertebrate? Fifth graders at Genesee Community Charter School in New York grew their compassion, leadership, and responsibility along with their stewardship in a K-5 expedition based on the Smithsonian One Cubic Foot project that included multiple visits to their study site along the Genesee River.
  • How does the EL Education Language Arts Curriculum challenge students to connect their learning to the broader world and help solve real problems? After reading A Long Walk to Water, the 8th grade students at Sierra Expeditionary Learning School in California were inspired to learn more about water issues and motivated to make positive change, culminating in raising funds to build water wells in Sudan.
  • How can the adult community make meaningful connections across differences? At Two Rivers Public Charter School in Washington, DC, the “Share Your DC” expedition engaged parents and staff in a shared expedition. Sessions tackled bias, stereotype, identity, and the common experience of living in DC, with final products that included a book and a photography exhibit.

The work ahead is not easy. But despite the difficulties we face as educators and as a nation, I feel deeply hopeful as I write this, knowing as I do the daily courage of teachers who believe in the best that their students have to offer every day, and students who will, in response to those beliefs, do more than we think possible. 

Please join us as we continue to strive to “get smart to do good” in the coming year.  I look forward to sharing #EL25 with you.

Onward!