Helios Guiding Principles

Our guiding principles are the foundation for our thinking about program design and curriculum for gifted children.

Excellence and Rigor

  • Learning is rigorous, meaningful, and authentic.  It requires perseverance, questioning, craftsmanship, imagination, self-discipline and significant achievement.  Experiences are structured to require the learner to take initiative, think critically, problem solve, make decisions, and be accountable for the results.
  • Educators engage learners intellectually, emotionally, socially, soulfully, and physically.

The Having of Wonderful Ideas

  • “The having of wonderful ideas” is the essence of intellectual development.  Students’ ideas, thoughts, questions and insights are valued and integrated into daily teaching and learning.
  • Learning situations provide compelling, and intellectually rich matter to think about, multiple and varied opportunities to explore and experiment, and sufficient time to reflect, synthesize, and make sense of what is observed and experienced. In this way, knowledge is constructed, deepened, and transformed by students.

Success and Failure

  • A primary job of the educator is to design learning experiences where students learn from natural consequences, mistakes and successes.  Educators work to help students overcome their fear, take risks, and discover they have more in them than they think.
  • All students must experience a fair measure of authentic success in learning in order to nurture the confidence and capacity to take risks and rise to increasingly difficult challenges.
  • Similarly, it is important for students to experience failure, to overcome negative inclinations, to prevail against adversity and to learn to turn challenges into opportunities.

The Responsibility for Learning

  • Learning is a personal, individually specific process of discovery, and a social activity. Each of us learns within and for ourselves and as a part of a group.
  • Every aspect of a school encourages young people and adults to become both increasingly responsible for directing their own personal learning and to participate in the collective learning.

Collaboration and Community

  • Students take responsibility for working together, building knowledge together, changing and evolving together and improving together.  Learning becomes a transaction between all participants.

Respect and Kindness

  • Learning is fostered best in small groups where there is trust, sustained caring and mutual respect among all members of the learning community.
  • Relationships are developed and nurtured;  learner to self, learner to others, and learner to the world at large.
  • Meaningful community service is integrated into the curriculum, fostering a heightened sense of community and civic engagement, while valuing compassion, kindness, and personal responsibility.


  • Educators present opportunities for learners to explore and examine their own values.
  • Educators help students develop self-knowledge, as it is important both in and of itself and also as a foundation for having strong relationships with others.
  • Educators  come to know themselves as multilayered persons in a diverse context.

Empathy and Perspective

  • Educators teach in such a way that students learn to better appreciate others’ values, perspectives, and motivations, and so that they can develop the ability to take another person’s point of view into consideration even when it conflicts with their own.
  • Educators strive to be aware of their own biases, judgements, and preconceptions, and how these may influence the learner.

The Natural World

  • Educators model caring and respect for the environment.
  • Educators provide students with direct and respectful experiences in the natural world that shape lifelong attitudes and values toward natural environment.
  • Educators teach about recurring cycles and cause and effect.


Inspired by Expeditionary Learning, Kurt Haun, founder of Outward Bound, and tenets of project-based learning.