By Halley Griffin Daily News staff writer
July 10, 2009
Summer Clayton is ready to start from the beginning.
Clayton began her tenure as director of the new Palouse Prairie School of Expeditionary Learning on July 1.
"I think one of the things that I'm really, really excited about is being able to start from scratch," Clayton said. "As a small school and as a small community, we can move forward in the way that aligns with our vision. It's shared leadership at its best, and I think that's the way school should be."
Clayton comes to Moscow after working in Atlanta schools for more than 12 years. She last worked as an instructional coach, a role similar to that of assistant principal, in a small school district made up entirely of charter schools.
The elementary schools within the district were based on the same expeditionary learning outward bound model as Palouse Prairie will be, in which all aspects of student learning are incorporated into different units, or "expeditions."
If students are studying presidential elections, for example, their reading, writing, math and science class lessons will be election-related as well.
A past unit Clayton worked on was "history through the eyes of the media." Students studied radio media when they learned about the Great Depression, incorporating math by making Depression-era family budgets.
"I think one of the things that make these expeditions so successful is not just the learning that takes place on the part of the students, but also on the part of the parents (and) the community, because everybody wants to be a part of it," she said.
Clayton said Palouse Prairie probably will wait until spring to implement its first "expedition," because of the sheer volume of work involved.
Despite the hard work, Clayton is passionate about this learning model, which she said would be impossible to give up now that she's found it.
"Teachers are teaching kids to take responsibility for themselves and their learning," she said. "It empowers kids."
Palouse Prairie was one of just two expeditionary learning schools looking for a director when Clayton began submitting applications.
"I did not want to go to a non-(expeditionary learning) school," she said.
Clayton said the movement is growing but job satisfaction is so high within the model that the turnover rate is low.
"Teachers like working there, administrators like working there, so they don't want to leave," she said. "So teachers don't move very often."
Clayton will live in Moscow with her partner and son.
Palouse Prairie is a free public charter school, located in the old Brown's Furniture Building on South Main Street. The school has seats available for fall in all grades but kindergarten.
Halley Griffin can be reached at (208) 882-5561, ext. 239, or by e-mail at