Doing The Homework: How To Prep For The Eagle Rock Experience

Our 63rd semester has drawn to a close, with ER-64 set to arrive in just about two weeks. So we thought it most appropriate to outline a plan of action for our incoming students.

In preparation, Eagle Rock’s Outdoor Education department has turned its full attention to the next batch of classmates and the upcoming wilderness course. In all, we’ve invited 18 new students — who from now on will be referred to as ER64 — and every one of us is excited about the energy this group will bring to our community.

The first trimester is an important transition experience for new students beca use it often marks a huge shift from what they were doing before arriving at Eagle Rock.

For one thing, there’s a ton of information to be absorbed about our unique culture and systems. Our staff and continuing students spend a lot of time helping get new students through the initial trimester, all with the goal of becoming acquainted with them and helping them become successful in this new community-focused educational and living environment.

One of the most significant aspects of this first trimester is the New Student Wilderness Orientation course — a 24-day wilderness expedition that takes place off campus. For this trimester, ER64 are going to travel to the Gila Wilderness Area in southern New Mexico. Students will carry everything they need on their backs, sleep under tarps and cook all their own meals. They will be living within a small group comprised of eight fellow students and three instructors.

Eagle Rock School Wilderness Orientation

During the course they will also participate in a Continue reading…

Here’s Eagle Rock’s Take On The Common Core

Common_Core_Image_oneOne of the hottest topics right now in the field of politics and education is the Common Core — that set of college- and career-ready standards for students from kindergarten through 12th grade that were developed by education leaders and governors from 48 states.

In one state — Louisiana — the topic is so hot that its governor recently went to court asserting he’s protected from questioning under oath in a legal dispute over his administration’s actions that are said to undermine the Common Core standards in that state.

With a focus on English language arts, literacy and math, most states (43) have adopted the standards, with a goal of ensuring high school grads are ready for college courses or can successfully enter the workforce.

They are distinct from previous state standards in that a non-state organization created them for all states to use rather than each state deciding to use their own. The advantage was to eliminate a variety of standards and improve the quality across many states.

Common_Core_Image_threeI once attended a National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER) event where Vicki Phillips, director of education for the Gates Foundation, suggested that teachers need a common set of tools to reference if we are going to take advantage of teacher effectiveness research. For Vicki Phillips, Common Core answers the question: Effective toward what end?

Proponents of the Common Core believe that teaching toward these standards will better prepare students for college level work and entry into career pathways and civic engagement. In their view, the added value of establishing some national continuity serves all students across the United States to the degree that states voluntarily adopt the standards. For the supporters, the quality of the standards and the consistency of adoption from state to state make the Common Core the greatest lever for educational reform.

The arguments against the Common Core are widely varied and sometimes contradictory. For example: Continue reading…

News From the Rock — Summer 2014

Believe it or not, we just this month wrapped up our 63rd trimester and our students returned home on Aug. 9.

As a result, it’s a different atmosphere here on campus as contractors work feverishly to maintain our facilities, new staff members settle in, and our veteran staff begins planning for the upcoming academic year — when they’re not catching up on some well-deserved rest.  While all this is going on, let’s take a quick peek at what I only halfway jokingly like to call, “The Summer That Was.”

Working with teenagers can be a messy business, and this summer was certainly no exception to that axiom. A few of our students made decisions that resulted in their dis-enrollment and some others struggled as that process played out. There were moments when it felt like things were falling apart.

However, true to the spirit that is Eagle Rock, the low points tested our conviction and pushed us into action. Our community has tremendous resilience and through hard work, well-placed hope, some good ideas, a little vulnerability, some forgiveness, and a few heartfelt apologies, we ended the trimester with a wonderful group of graduates and we’re headed in a positive direction.

As a side note, anyone who thinks the answer to all of the educational woes in this country lie in some sterile set of standards or one-size-fits-all solution to the “problem of the day,” has not spent enough time in schools. The answers, growth, insight — and ultimately the deep learning — often occur in the conflict. When we stay present with each other, magic can happen. Such is the messy but transformative nature of living smack dab in the middle of a community.

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Despite the challenges, some wonderful things also occurred this summer: Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Assists A Pair of Big Picture Learning Students

Our Professional Development Center, which is known for its unique ability to facilitate school reform initiatives, recently collaborated with Big Picture Learning in South Burlington, Vermont, on a one-of-kind event on service- and project-based learning.

In particular, our focus was on helping two students — South Burlington High School seniors Olivia Decell and Ella Downey — facilitate the Service Thesis Project Conference, which was held in the spring at Burlington College in Vermont. The event was designed to help high school students create relevant and exciting Service Thesis Projects and help educators implement service/project-based learning into their classrooms.

Service Thesis Project Conference

Service Thesis Project Conf. attendees.

At the May 2014 conference, participants shared ideas and had the opportunity to observe some very good examples of successful thesis projects. That’s one of the things we do best; Eagle Rock has been working with Big Picture Learning in a variety of capacities since 2006, so we’ve quickly acquired and honed our knack for such conferences and get-togethers.

In fact, over the past few years, we have helped several schools develop conferences that have become an engine of self-renewal for students and staff.

In this latest endeavor, our Professional Development team facilitated the Continue reading…

Saying Goodbye To Six Eagle Rock Faculty Members

Goodbye-Image-Eagle-Rock-FacultyA half dozen of our faculty members are moving on, as they say — departing our campus for new ventures, but doubtless with a look behind at what they accomplished and experienced during their times here at Eagle Rock.

It goes without saying we’re going to miss them, and it’s also probably unnecessary to say we wish them well, because they’ve been receiving hugs, handshakes and tears since they announced their plans. It’s fairly obvious we want the best for them in their new pursuits.

Among those departing are Karen Ikegami, Holly Takashima, Berta Guillen, Ike Leslie, Jonna Book and Denise Lord. For each of these faculty, we’re devoting space below focused on what transpired for them professionally while here at Eagle Rock, and where they’re off to — or where they’ve already arrived.

Karen Ikegami came to Eagle Rock in 2008 as the math instructional specialist and also became the Juniper houseparent that same year. Karen is staying in Colorado and is working at Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver. She will be the Wallace Fellow Principal Resident and will be working on getting leadership training and her principal license through Get Smart Schools.

Holly Takashima started here stint here in 2011 as the English fellow, and then was hired as the English instructional specialist, becoming the Lodgepole houseparent in January of last year. Holly has moved to Nashville to be with partner Brandon, and has been hired on at John Overton Comprehensive High School, teaching American literature to high school juniors.

Berta Guillen became the Societies and Cultures fellow when she joined the Eagle Rock School staff back in 2008, and was soon thereafter hired on as the Continue reading…