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Challenge 21 at Excelsior

The Challenge 21 Model

The Challenge 21 Model

The Challenge 21 curriculum is focused on the California standards as well as an established set of 21st century skills:


Life and Character Skills

Initiative, Goal Setting, Planning, Flexibility, Leadership, Responsibility

Communication and Collaboration Skills

Writing, Presenting, Questioning, Teamwork

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills

Identify Problems, Evaluate Options, Justify Arguments, Synthesize Information

Information, Media, and Technology Skills

Research, Analyze, Organize, Evaluate, Use Resources Effectively

Creativity and Innovation Skills

Imagine, Brainstorm, Design, Create, Invent
Graphic of Challenge 21 program skills
Challenge Units

Challenge Units

Our Challenge Units are carefully crafted to integrate concepts across content areas. Challenge 21 allows us to provide inquiry-based, differentiated opportunities for students to demonstrate and share what they have learned through meaningful, authentic opportunities to apply their knowledge. The units always involve some sort of real-life work so that the students are able to see connections between disciplines, and the units are designed to be somewhat open-ended so that the students can creatively challenge themselves to exceed the expectations. Many units are also designed to provide our students with opportunities to develop skills that lead to voice as a citizen. We often collaborate with members of our local community who share with our students the application of skills within their fields of expertise.

At Excelsior, a strong focus on inquiry-based learning has led our staff to think outside the box as they plan instruction in all content areas. Many additional innovations have been developed as a result of the commitment the Excelsior staff has to the Challenge 21 model and mindset. Excelsior School was very proud to be recognized as a 2016 California Gold Ribbon School for our Challenge 21 program. 

Students building models.
Students in American History poses.
Students dressed for Greek Day.
Students sharing their learning.
Students creating a roller coaster.
Student using an iPad.
Students using Virtual Reality goggles.
Challenge 21 Program Highlights

Challenge 21 Program Highlights

  • Alignment to District Vision - The Eureka Union School District vision can be seen in action each day at Excelsior, where we strive to provide all of our students with a dynamic education that focuses on important 21st century skills. Excelsior School was named a California Gold Ribbon School in 2016 in recognition of our Challenge 21 program.

  • Grade Level Challenge Units - Each student at Excelsior participates in multiple Challenge Units and/or Inquiry-based projects each year. Grade level Challenge Units are carefully crafted to integrate concepts across content areas. These units allow us to provide differentiated opportunities for students to demonstrate and share what they have learned through meaningful, authentic opportunities to apply their knowledge and learn important future-ready skills. 

  • Classroom Technology - Our classrooms provide 21st century learning environments where technology is an integral part of daily instruction and learning. Each student at Excelsior is provided a Chromebook and a Google account so that they can easily access digital tools that enhance the adopted curriculum. Many of our adopted programs include technology-enhanced components. Technology is used by students as they research, analyze, organize, evaluate and present information. Students also use available technology for modeling in mathematics and science. 

  • Creativity and Innovation Lab - Excelsior students have access to the Creativity and Innovation Lab during recesses and with their classes. The Creativity and Innovation Lab was designed to provide our students with endless options to explore and create. Students in the C&I lab can be seen building marble runs or electric circuits, programming Dash robots, creating beautiful artwork, knitting, and/or using Scratch to learn coding.
Examples of Challenge Units at Excelsior

Examples of Challenge Units at Excelsior

The following are examples of some of the recent Challenge Units developed for students at Excelsior:

4th Grade

  • Biome Challenge Unit - Students act as museum curators to research and construct a biome museum, including displays related to their biome and the animals that live there.
  • The Last Mission Challenge Unit - Students work in groups to create and design the 22nd California Mission, including detailed plans and models of their missions.
  • Cinderella Challenge Unit - Students research Cinderella stories from a variety of cultures and then apply the components of the classic fairy tale to publish their own creative Cinderella story.

5th Grade

  • Summer Vacation Challenge Unit - Students plan a summer vacation across America to visit several historic sites.  The plan includes a detailed itinerary with information about their route, mileage, destinations, and budget.
  • Author Study - Students read and analyze several books by an author. They conduct research about the author and write a critique of the author’s works, then compose a short story in the style of the author.
  • Health Plan Challenge Unit - Students work in teams and to research, plan and create a personal training, nutrition, and fitness plan designed to promote life-long health.

6th Grade

  • Gameboard Business Challenge Unit - Students act as game board business owners to design and market a board game to teach others about an ancient civilization.
  • STEM Challenge Unit - Students engineer STEM projects and display their work to teach others about reverse engineering or Rube Goldberg concepts.
  • Energy Challenge Unit - Students research, create and produce an educational video or presentation to teach others about sources of energy.