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Andrew Withers: Leader in expeditionary learning

The Grass Valley School District is extremely thankful for the ongoing support of our students, families and staff. The holiday season is approaching and the month of November is a great time to reflect and acknowledge all that we are thankful for. We have been through so many challenges together during the last two school years and we are very happy to have you as a part of our Grass Valley School District family! In our district article this month we would like to highlight the work of Grass Valley Charter School.

Grass Valley Charter School is rooted in the expeditionary learning education model which was born nearly three decades ago. Currently in our 23rd year of implementation, the motto “We are crew, not passengers” is brought to life daily. In the United States there are approximately 165 authorized expeditionary learning education schools and only 40 of these are fully credentialed. Of those credentialed schools, just 14 schools are certified as a mentor school. Grass Valley Charter School is honored to be among the leaders in expeditionary learning education and we would like to celebrate the recent recredentialing of our school’s program. Ensuring continuous improvement, recredentialing is conducted every five years and involves providing evidence of implementation and its impact on student achievement.

The Mission of Grass Valley Charter is to inspire students to achieve high standards, create quality work, and to embrace life-long learning and service through expeditionary learning education. Central to this work student achievement includes the Mastery of Knowledge and Skills, strong Character, and High Quality Work created by students.



Nationally, Grass Valley Charter School is known for purposeful field experiences. Fieldwork engages students in the active collection of data as scientists while adventures build character traits such as compassion, perseverance and stewardship. On any given day students could be meeting with an expert ornithologist to work on bird banding or they could be collecting data on the prevalence of tobacco marketing to teens. Through these experiences learning comes to life. When students return to the classroom, they are able to work together to make sense of their data and experiences to apply their learning. Frequently these demonstrations involve the creation of a culminating project that benefits our community. Students regularly present to decision makers advocating for improvements within our Nevada County community. Furthermore, and in collaboration with experts in their field, students frequently create trail signage celebrating aspects of our community, including the flora and fauna of Wolf Creek, as well as Coyotes along Hirschman’s pond. At Grass Valley Charter School, students learn through doing. They are comfortable taking risks, making mistakes, and getting dirty, all in the pursuit of greater knowledge and understanding. At the heart of Grass Valley Charter School, students showcase their high-quality work and service to others with academic standards that are brought to life through real world applications.

Fourth grade student Asher Kulp shared, “We do Fieldwork so we can have fun and learn about things at the same time. We go over learning targets before and after each Fieldwork. I feel excited and nervous at the same time.”



Sixth grade teacher Tracey Hockinson shared, “There is a supportive culture at GVCS for both staff and students. The whole child is considered; academics and social emotional successes. Fieldwork is a key to supporting our EL program, where learning takes place outside of the classroom walls.”

At Grass Valley Charter School the expectation is that when a student graduates, they should be well on their way to becoming an effective and productive citizen, who not only envisions a better world, but possesses the tools to help create that world. As students culminate their education, we know that success isn’t dependent upon their test scores, but on the quality of their work and character. We are confident that our Grass Valley Charter School students and families find evidence of our commitment to these ideals and that our students will make a positive impact on the world.

The Thanksgiving holiday is just one week away, we hope you are able to enjoy it with your close friends, neighbors and loved ones. Our school district community has so much to reflect upon and show our appreciation for. Excellent teaching, learning, relationships, and meaningful connections have taken place in our first four months of this school year. We hope all of our district family members enjoy the holiday and we look forward to reconnecting and hearing about your time away when we return. Happy Thanksgiving!

Andrew Withers is Superintendent of the Grass Valley School District

Fourth grade fieldwork at the Bennett Street Meadow — bird banding with local ornithologists to better understand the species of birds and their habitats as part of their Bills and Gills Expedition.
Provided photo
Second grade fieldwork at Yuba Gap to study local geology.
Provided photo

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