The Catholic EL School Difference La Diferencia de la Escuela Católica EL
“Be doers of the word, not hearers only.” – James 1:22
As Catholic educators in the 21st century, we believe that our children must become courageous agents for good in our world – active doers of the Word, not passive hearers only. Our young people are needed, now more than ever before. With one eye toward our rich Catholic traditions and the other scanning the horizon of innovation, we boldly ask the question: what more can we do to better form enlivened, intentional disciples with the character and skills to change the world? We believe that EL Education is part of the answer.
As an Archdiocesan Catholic school, we have partnered with EL Education, formerly Expeditionary Learning, to enhance the depth and caliber of the education we offer, and expand our view of what is possible in Catholic schools. As one of only two Catholic EL schools in the nation, we hope to serve as a model of what Catholic schools can be and inspire others to follow our lead.
What does it mean to be a Catholic EL School?
We believe the mission of a Catholic school is to educate the whole person – to form good people with the skills, character, and faith to live fulfilled, mission-driven lives that glorify God. As a Catholic EL School, we fully deliver on this mission. We engage students in growth-oriented, character-building, purposeful, academic work; work that allows students to produce pride-worthy, high-quality work of consequence; work that is rooted in the pursuit of truth, beauty, and goodness in ourselves and in the world around us. Through targeted professional development, innovative school structures, and ardent intentionality to improving our classroom practices, we facilitate real-world encounters and authentic learning experiences for our students that open their hearts and minds to their own potential and give them an opportunity to put their learning and their very lives in service of others and our God. Through our work, we seek not only to produce “smart kids,” but to form good kids – young people with deep faith, sharp intellect, healthy habits, large hearts, and rich knowledge to themselves and their dignity in the eyes of God.
How are we different from a traditional Catholic school?
As a Catholic EL school, we strive to be a community where everyone – students, teachers, & families – are honored for their dignity and unique gifts, challenged to become the greatest version of themselves, supported to reach their highest aspirations, nurtured in their souls, and inspired to achieve more than they thought possible. To accomplish this, we rely on the consistent sustenance and spark that comes from prayer and the sacraments, as well as our steadfast commitment to the Catholic schools’ legacy of rigorous, mastery-oriented, values-driven learning. However, we also rely deeply on many unique EL structures and practices that make our vision a reality.
CREW | Crew is both a community structure and a pervasive ethos. Crews are small, adult-led groups of students within the larger community where everyone is known deeply and cared for – they meet everyday and foster character growth and healthy relationships. But equally important is the spirit of “crew,” a pervasive mindset of collaboration and communality: “We are crew, not passengers.” Through Crew, students learn to be compassionate, contributing community members who rely on one another, create together, and celebrate one another’s success, while also discerning one’s unique gifts and talents through frequent opportunities for prayer, solitude, and reflection.
Learning Expeditions | Learning Expeditions are long-term studies that connect classroom learning to real-world issues. Instead of studying chemistry from a textbook, students in our schools work with experts and community groups to study the health of the water in our local river, then produce and present a report about their findings to a local foundation in order to educate the public. Through learning expeditions, students encounter meaningful issues, conduct real fieldwork, grapple with large questions, produce authentic work for an audience beyond the school, and use their learning to impact the world.
High Quality Work | High Quality Work is the fulfilling result of dedicated effort and deep learning, like producing and publishing a student-created children’s book of tales from South Sudan or creating postcards and a website detailing the history of our local Catholic church & neighborhood. Through the creation of high-quality work, students learn to create excellent work that is worthy of genuine pride and celebration. This kind of work both arises from and gives rise to a culture of craftsmanship, revision, & perseverance.
Acts of Service | Acts of Consequential Service strengthen the community and open the heart. Through engagement in meaningful service-learning that is connected to their classroom expeditions, students expand the limits of their generosity and learn to be active participants in their community who use their learning to make a positive, productive difference in the lives of others, without expecting anything in return.
Habits of Scholarship & Student Ownership of Learning | Habits of Scholarship name the character traits of successful learners and people, & form the foundation of robust character education and a culture of student ownership. As part of this culture, three times per year, students prepare and direct their own "Student-Led" parent-teacher conferences, and at the end of 8th grade, students present a “Passage Presentation” to a panel of family & community members defending their readiness to graduate and be sent forth. These structures support and encourage students to develop these necessary traits to become responsible leaders of their own learning and of their lives.
Adventures & Excursions | Adventures and excursions into the outdoors – a core tenet of Outward Bound, the organization that gave rise to EL Education – take students out of their comfort zones and immerse them in the beauty and immensity of the natural world. Through adventures into nature, wonder and curiosity are born in students, as well as strong personal relationships and communal bonds. Students learn to confront their fears, help one another, be present to their surroundings and their community, and marvel at the beauty of creation.
Professional Development | Professional Development is an investment in the training, growth, and formation of educators. Through intentional and directed professional development, teachers are equipped with innovative, research-based strategies to facilitate incredible learning opportunities for kids, while being honored for the interests, expertise, and creativity they bring to their work with their students. Through excellent PD, teachers are supported and challenged to become the best educators they can be.
We believe that through the partnership between Catholic Schools and EL Education, EL has the opportunity to unite with a large network of high-achieving, mission-driven, character-focused Catholic schools. Catholic schools, through this partnership, are equipped with the educational strategies and professional support necessary to deliver on their inspiring mission. At a Catholic EL school, students are transformed from passive recipients of knowledge about the world, to active agents within it, using their learning in the classroom to do good work beyond it. Through their work and their prayer, their triumphs and their failures, their active collaboration and their reflective silence, they will come to a greater knowledge of and love for themselves, our world, and our God.
Annunciation Catholic School is located in the historic Cole neighborhood of Northeast Denver, at the northern end of the River North Arts District, on the corner of Lafayette St. & 36th Ave. Contact us for more info or stop in for a tour!