RootED Challenge Based Learning

RootED Program

The RootED program is a partnership between Appalachian GEAR UP and Constructive Learning Design striving to connect students and educators in western North Carolina with community partners to address and solve authentic, local challenges. This program engages students to apply experiences gained from postsecondary education back into their home regions and communities.

The Model

The Challenge Based Learning Framework is divided into three interconnected phases: Engage, Investigate, and Act. Each phase includes activities that prepare you to move to the next phase. Supporting the entire process is an ongoing process of documentation, reflection, and sharing.

challenge based learning appstate

Engage – Through essential questioning learners move from an abstract big idea to a concrete and actionable challenge.

Investigate – The learners plan and participate in a journey that builds the foundation for solutions and addresses academic requirements.

Act – Evidence-based solutions are developed, implemented with an authentic audience, and then evaluated based on the results.



Who Participates?

This year-long, powerful learning experience supports educators in designing and delivering learning experiences that connect their students with their communities to solve challenges. The program is open to current and future high school and higher education faculty. Participants will work with peers and coaches to design and deliver one or more community-focused learning experiences for their students that integrate academic content with the future-ready skills students need to succeed in college, careers, and life.  

Participants are selected from current Appalachian GEAR UP LEAs including  Ashe, Madison, and Yancey counties as well as from Appalachian State University and Wilkes Community College. The program serves approximately 25 educators and their students. Students must be in the current Appalachian GEAR UP cohort. 

RootED Benefits:

The RootED learning experience includes the following:

  • 8 days of professional learning
  • 2 day summer kickoff event 
  • A study visit to another school to observe community-connected learning in action
  • Personalized coaching
  • Support in building community partnerships
  • Individual stipend
  • Connections with fellow innovative educators from around western North Carolina
  • Travel expense reimbursement 
  • Additional teacher planning time 
  • Reimbursement for cost of materials

Tentative 2019-2020 Schedule

In addition to activities in and outside of the classroom, educators will attend the following events:

  • August 1- 2: Summer Intensive

  • September 27: School Study Visit

  • November 18: Fall Professional Learning Session 

  • February 14: Winter Professional Learning Session

  • March 27: Sprint Professional Learning Session

  • June 25-26: Summer Culminating Event


Students will...

  • Learn collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity skills that will prepare them for higher education, careers, and engaged citizenship in their communities
  • Demonstrate accountability and ownership of their learning in preparation for postsecondary success


Teachers will...

  • Learn the what, how, and why of designing experiential and community-focused learning experiences that connect students and communities
  • Develop relationships with fellow educators, community partners, and coaches to support an ongoing community of powerful learning
  • Design and implement their own challenge-based learning units


Community Partners will...


  • Collaborate with students and educators to tackle community challenges;
  • Prepare students for work, higher education, and citizenship


Have questions?  Contact your RootED program leaders, Doug Thompson ( ) or Jim Beeler (