What Students are Up To

Students at WELS take one interdisciplinary class at a time that spans 4-6 weeks. This allows us to dive deeply into subject matter and engage in truly authentic project-based learning in service to our community. Check out some of the awesome things our students are accomplishing!

This innovative school model was developed using funds granted by The Safeway Foundation in partnership with our local Burien Safeway. Some of the activities in the expeditions below were made possible by funds granted by the Highline Schools Foundation

Expeditions Throughout the Year

Expedition 0

During the first Expedition of the year all WELS students took our Outdoor Leadership Institute course. This course focused on preparing students to be successful leaders at Waskowitz Outdoor School. We had an all school overnight retreat at Waskowitz, studied different philosophies of education and teaching strategies. In the end students created, practiced and taught lessons related to outdoor school.

Below is a slideshow of the overnight. Enjoy!

Photos from WELS Overnight

Expedition 1

Climate Change and the Media

In order to promote awareness about climate change problems and solutions, students in “Climate Change and the Media” wrote articles, created podcasts, and designed a website. Students learned how to conduct interviews in a training session from KUOW RadioActive, and we received financial support from donors so that students could utilize their own recording equipment. Lynda Mapes, the environmental writer for Seattle Times, also visited the class to share her experience and advice.

Visit the following link to explore our super cool website and hear the podcasts:


Current Events

In current events students identified a need for more community voice, especially the voice of youth, in the training of police. After several field trips to newsrooms and after inviting many guest speakers into the classroom, students decided to speak directly to power by giving speeches at the Burien City Council meeting. 

Update: there was such an outpouring of support for our students that they will continue their work in February to partner with community stakeholders to make the student-led training of police a reality. 

Video of the Speeches

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Financial Fitness

You know how math teachers always say that we have to learn math because it applies to everyday life as an adult? Well, in Financial Fitness we took that to the next level. Students focused on studying the ins and outs of money management and what it will take to keep a balanced budget to afford the life they want to lead. 

Expedition 2

Cultural Geography

In order to help the wider Highline community better understand the unique culture of WELS, students created several products using different media -- a video for the website, a brochure for the local high schools, a slide presentation and a music video. 

After diving deep into the elements that make up culture, students came to consensus on a coordinated message, met with counselors from the district to get ideas, and then created their products. Check them out below!

Slide Presentation

WELS Culture (Student Video Project)

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Music Video

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Public Health

In this course students investigated local public health issues from the perspective of an epidemiologist using statistical methods and scientific practices and concepts. Students will investigate how public health-related data is collected and analyzed. With this analysis students will construct evidence-based explanations of health related phenomena. In addition to promoting students’ mastery of math and science content, this course aims to increase health literacy and to promote access to public health career pathways.

Resistance and Resilience

Students ruminated on the theme of Resistance and Resilience found in multiple communities throughout history in the United States and the Greater Puget Sound Region. Case studies included the Japanese American Internment, Farm Worker Rights, and Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State. Historical thinking skills focused on the ideas of continuity and change and using the past to make sense of the present. 

Expedition 3

Algebra Unplugged

During this course WELS students learned algebra concepts and then designed and ran a math fair for middle schoolers from Big Picture and CHOICE. All the games were designed to teach algebra concepts. There was a raffle, prizes, candy, and a whole lot of fun. 

WELS Math Fair

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In the ULEAP course students partnered with Urban Environmental Education (UEE) graduate students from Antioch University to explore the urban environment, how it affects us, and what we can do to improve it. WELS and UEE students developed and implemented community impact projects related to urban animals, vacant lots, nutritional inequities, homelessness, and public parks.

Expansion and Invasion

In this course, students investigated the past 200 years in United States history, specifically looking at the ways in which America grappled with questions of expansion and invasion. Through a combination of experiential, hands-on learning and teaching in the Living History program at Waskowitz Outdoor Education Center, and classroom-based learning, students looked at decisions the United States made to invade lands, expand territory, and spread American ideology.

Snowshoe Trip

At the beginning of the second semester students went on a three day snowshoe trip near Snoqualmie Pass in order to further develop outdoor leadership skills.  

Snowshoe Trip Highlights

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Expedition 4

Student Led Police Training

Born from the ideas and community support we got in the Current Events class earlier in the year, students developed and led an Implicit Bias and Student Interaction training for all Highline Safety and Security Officers in the district. 

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Healthy Living

 In Healthy Living students will explore various aspects of health and fitness. This includes learning about nutrition, exercise, mental health, and healthy relationships. Students will plan and implement projects that improve the health of our WELS community.

Coding and Robotics

Many students love video games, but how many really understand what it takes to make one? In this coding class we will pull back the veil on Computer Science and reveal to students the underlying fundamental math that makes everything tick. Using an easy to learn block based language, students will learn to create images, animations, and interactive video games that are driven by algebra. Through the process of developing their video games, students will discover how computer programmers use the coordinate plane, functions, and logic to create games.

Artists in Action

Artists in Action explores self-expression across the performing arts, with a focus on dance and movement-based performance art. Students both study and critique the works of others and participate in or produce art themselves. 

Graphic Novels

From Super-Heroes to Revolutions, students in this class will survey several different graphic novels and their authors in order to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the genre.

Expedition 5

Energy and Community

In this course we will investigate how we consume and utilize energy individually, as a school, in Washington, and globally. We will discuss the costs and benefits of
renewable and non-renewable sources of energy, and we will examine the impacts our society's reliance on energy has on communities and on our climate. In order
to propose solutions and enact change, we will engage with energy and environmental policy at the state level.

Urban Development

In this class students used an interdisciplinary lens to look at topics in Urban Development. Through utilizing skills and concepts from both Geometry and Sociology, students explored the built environment, looked at problems related to the design and development of urban areas, and investigated design solutions to identified problems.

Expedition 6

Urban Agriculture

In this class students studied Urban Agriculture through skills and concepts from Geometry, Environmental Science, and Chemistry. Students will be planned, built, and cultivated a new garden at WELS. Food from the garden will support WELS families and the local food bank.

Children's Books

This course develops student literacy and history skills as well as working relationships with the local elementary school. By the end of this course students will individually plan and deliver a 30-minute story time to kindergarten through second grade students. Children’s books will cover topics from environmental justice to historical movements in order to provide students with an anthology to pull from when they are creating their story times. Students will need to tie in knowledge from Teaching Academy in order to understand how to captivate a young audience as well as design developmentally appropriate material. 

Waskowitz Advanced Leadership Institute (WALI)

WALI is a week where all WELS students participate in a week of outdoor adventures to take their leadership skills to the next level. It's a way celebrate our success from the year and strengthen our community.