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  • Cliff Geis-Poage

All About Phenomenon-Based Learning

WIHS wants to redesign the traditional high school experience, partnering with students to explore their passions and interests as part of our curriculum. But what is Phenomenon-Based Learning, and how does it differ from the typical experiences of students in Whatcom County?



Originally designed in Finland, a geographically small nation that consistently out performs the rest of the world on academic assessments, PhenoBL is an inquiry-based approach to examining real world happenings that excite or inspire students. Learners investigate problems and curiosities from multiple perspectives and vantage points in real contexts, along with the associated disciplinary skills. A student who is passionate about sustainable food sources may be in the field with one of Whatcom County's many farm-to-table producers, reading about the politics of organic food, and advocating for sustainable school lunches. As new ideas and insights are gained, students reveal a deeper understanding of the topic, as well as new levels of mastering associated skills and competencies.


Phenomenon-Based Learning gives students and teachers the opportunity to explore, collaborate and create. Students still reach learning standards, but do so in an authentic context where their skills transfer to life-long applications instead of paper and pencil learning.


  1. WIHS bases our curriculum on Phenomenon-Based Learning principles, designed by teachers. We believe this approach engages students more deeply in their learning, equipping them with a greater sense of agency as well as deeper skills as they move forward in life. PhenoBL also supports the development of a positive cultural identity, closely aligning with the First Persons Principles of Learning. Interested in learning more about PhenoBL? Read more at EdWeek blogs.

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