Meet The Eagle Rock Grad Who Sailed 27,000 Miles Solo

Matt Rutherford graduated from Eagle Rock way back in August of 2001 (ER 24 as we call it around here), and according to Robert Burkhardt, our founding head of school, this former student is being quite productive these days.

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It’s been a bunch of busy years for Rutherford, who prior to leaving Eagle Rock articulated three distinct and immediate goals for himself during his final POLs (Presentations of Learning):

  1. Ride a mountain bike across Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.
  2. Sail alone across an ocean.
  3. Start and run a not-for-profit organization focused on addressing important environmental issues.

Well, after leaving Eagle Rock, Rutherford did ride his mountain bike across those three Southeast Asian countries. He did sail across an ocean (in fact, he became the first person in history to complete a nonstop, single-handed voyage circumnavigating North and South America; that’s 309 days and 27,077 miles on the ocean without stepping ashore even briefly to stretch his legs). And he did start a not-for-profit organization that’s deeply focused on positively impacting the environment — the Ocean Research Project aims to identify new, lower-cost methods of conducting ocean-based research.

Burkhardt said he tried to get in touch with Rutherford last month to find out what this grad was up to these days, and the former student’s voicemail recording announced he wasn’t taking messages. It suggested callers ring back after Feb. 1.

By Feb. 3, Rutherford’s voicemail box was Continue reading…

Meet The Team: Eagle Rock School Learning Resource Instructional Specialist Beth Ellis

Beth-Ellis-Eagle-Rock-SchoolBeth Ellis is the Learning Resource instructional specialist and Aspen house parent along with her partner, Janet. In her decade at Eagle Rock, Beth has taught a number of classes, participated with restorative justice and discipline committees and worked on the professional development team for instructors. She’s also headed affinity groups and our gay/straight alliance, and generally helped staff and students work through technological, personal, curricular and design issues.

Below are some other tidbits about this active and valued Eagle Rock staffer:

Eagle Rock: What else do you do here at Eagle Rock?

Beth: My job is perfect for me because I get to do so many different things – I’m always learning and challenged. I’m currently working in collaboration with the Estes Valley Public Library to integrate our collections and share our resources.

Eagle Rock: What did you do prior to coming to work for Eagle Rock?

Beth: Before Eagle Rock, I was working as a freelance graphic designer for Catt Lyon Design. And I was a community organizer for the Environmental Community Organization (ECO) in Cincinnati, Ohio. Weeks before I arrived at Eagle Rock, I won a national design award from the Society of Environmental Graphic Design for my work on the Eagle’s Stadium in Philadelphia (see: Monumental Scrims). And the day I arrived at Eagle Rock, the softball team with whom I played in Cincinnati was vying for a national championship.

Eagle Rock: What attracted you to Eagle Rock?

Beth: My work in Cincinnati with communities that were struggling with industry in their neighborhoods helped me understand how education can empower people to know and advocate for their rights. I saw a direct correlation with an educational system that wasn’t serving the community’s needs and its ability to Continue reading…

On the Slopes, the Eagle Rock Teacher Becomes the Student

Falling is one of the ways of moving. ­– Merce Cunningham

Spiritual development is an important component of Eagle Rock’s 8+5=10 philosophy.

Which is why we begin each trimester with Week 0 — a time when returning students and staff take time to reflect on the previous trimester and set the tone for the trimester to come. In the midst of Week 0, individual student living houses set goals, share intentions and build relationships at house retreats.

While we did spend a significant amount of time on goals and reflection, students and staff from Aspen and Juniper Houses also had the opportunity to hit the slopes at Beaver Creek Resort near Avon, Colo. Boarding the buses well before dawn on a cold mid-January morning, we bundled beneath hats and lots of layers and traveled three hours southwest of campus for a day on the mountain.

Now, if you’re like me, you’ve never seen the appeal of attaching a couple of sticks to your feet and sliding down a really big hill. On the other hand, I’m also not one to shy away from new experiences. While I still had anxieties about breaking an ankle, making a fool of myself and freezing to death because of not wearing enough layers, I was feeling pretty great about learning something new, especially alongside our students.

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Eagle Rock students getting ready for a day on the snow at Beaver Creek with SOS Outreach.

When we finally arrived, staff from SOS Outreach — a nonprofit that that uses adventure sports to foster self-confidence, leadership skills and positive decision-making in the clients it serves — met with us and helped our students get Continue reading…

Eagle Rock’s PDC Supports The Evolution of Education in Vermont

In the fall of 2010, I was working at Big Picture South Burlington (BPSB), a school within a school located in South Burlington, Vermont, where students design their own curriculum and projects around their interests and internships.

The learning that students were doing — creating an award-winning series on the local public television station; designing and making a dress with blinking lights using knowledge of fashion and electricity; and, leading groundbreaking mindfulness exercises with their peers — was inspiring.

Despite all this fantastic learning and growth, we were shackled by the century-old Carnegie Unit credit system. We were left translating these complex, real-world projects back into 0.1 units of math and 0.4 units of English, being sure that they ultimately added up to four years of English, three years of math, and so on.

I knew it was time to start doing things differently. Drawing from my experience as an intern at Eagle Rock, I envisioned a proficiency-based graduation system that asked students to demonstrate their skills in areas that really mattered.

So I got on the phone to Michael Soguero (Eagle Rock’s director of Professional Development), and I was thrilled when he told me Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center (PDC) had identified the Big Picture Learning Network as a primary partner for their work. Thus we embarked on being a client of the PDC. With Eagle Rock’s amazing facilitation and support, we redesigned the graduation requirements for BPSB in time for implementation the next school year. And believe me when I say that is like traveling at the speed of light for school reform!

The result? Big Picture South Burlington’s graduation requirements became a model for the state of Vermont as it transitions to proficiency-based graduation requirements for all high schools. As a recipient of Eagle Rock’s facilitation of our school change process, I knew I was encountering a type of professional development that puts all others to shame.

I addition, Eagle Rock supported BPSB in meeting our goals — not a prepackaged program. Rather than being outside “experts” focusing on what we, as embedded professionals, didn’t know or do well, Eagle Rock started with our successes and assets. Not only was this process radically different in the way it boosted our morale, it was infinitely more effective because it built on what was already working in our context. As Michael Soguero likes to, “We teach you to cook with the ingredients you already have in your kitchen.”

Eagle Rock also helped support changes throughout Vermont, with BPSB as the local sponsor of a series of Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirement (PBGR) workdays for educators.

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 2.45.32 PMWe attracted a tremendously diverse group of practitioners wanting to make schools different places — where students graduate prepared for college, career, and civic success. Places where students are the center of their education. Places where everyone is learning and growing and having fun.

Onboard we had students, teachers, parents, superintendents, school principals, school board members and representatives from the Vermont Agency of Education. Educators resoundingly said this was the best professional development they had ever experienced. To be sure, BPSB and Eagle Rock were certainly not the only factors shifting Vermont to proficiency-based graduation. But we significantly influenced the discussion and vision, drawing from the collective energy and wisdom of education’s many stakeholders, facilitating forums for us all to inspire and teach each other, and providing an example (BPSB’s PBGRs) from which many schools have since drawn.

When I moved on to a new job helping to develop proficiency-based learning in Continue reading…

Eagle Rock’s Public Allies Fellows Indulge In A Mid-Year Day Away

Editor’s Note: Kelsey Baun, our own Professional Development Center Fellow, joined other Eagle Rock Public Allies Fellows at a recent ‘Day Away’ experience to celebrate reaching the halfway mark in their yearlong time with us here at the Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colo. Think of it as a “senior ditch day” for these 10 Fellows, only without the pinch and giggle that normally accompanies most 12th-grader ditch day events. Here then is Kelsey’s report.

By Kelsey Baun

Our most recent Mid-Year Fellow Day Away was held at the Estes Park Resort, highlighted by early morning inspiration provided by bucolic views of Lake Estes. A total of 10 Public Allies Fellows from here at Eagle Rock gathered to reflect during a day dedicated to exploring strengths, values and risks.

Our day began with the Fellows and Eagle Rock’s own Professional Development team members breaking bread — more like bagels — and partaking in an activity that shed light on individual perspective and success through the use of a dowel rod.

We then revisited our theme for the year of Refocusing Using Strengths and referenced to the use of Gallup’s Strengths Finder to focus each Fellow on what is it that they bring to the Eagle Rock community table.

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In order for the Fellows to see their assets in a different light, the Professional Development team facilitated for us an activity centered on values. It entailed asking each Fellow to rank a list of values and identify the top five values they might integrate into their own daily lives. Everyone then processed how values pertain to the Team Service Projects (TSPs) on which our Fellows will be working for the remainder of their time at Eagle Rock.

When this exercise was completed, we all split up into teams to further explore the subject matter:

  • Allison McManis (Societies and Culture Fellow) and myself (Kelsey Baun) will be creating a new high-touch recruitment philosophy to increase the diversity of Eagle Rock’s own Public Allies Fellowship application pool.
  • Life After Eagle Rock Fellow, Molly Milota, and Service Learning Fellow, Courtney Lancaster, will be Continue reading…