From Rock ‘n‘ Read to Shakespeare in the Woods

Eagle Rock’s 66th trimester (ER 66) is at the halfway mark and new classes begin next Monday for the second installment of some fairly progressive offerings.

Earlier this week, we published a blog post about Explore Week and the variety of non-conventional learning opportunities that are available to students who want to experience something different on their way to graduation. No credits, no grades, just a chance to look at life through a new pair of glasses.

Now take a look at the some of the classes offered in the second half of this trimester. You’ll find more classes that engage the student, rather than force memorization of vague times and places, or archaic concepts that belong in a book — that remains on a shelf.

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Here then are eight classes scheduled for the second half of ER 66, which wraps up on Aug. 8.

Colorado Rocks

Imagine climbing above the clouds focused intently on your movement, then writing and sharing the experience with your fellow climbers. This class is a combination of climbing, reading, writing, and studying geology. Students will use each of these activities as a lens to examine both the geological world and ourselves. Students will rock climb two to three times each week as well as take a five-day climbing road trip.

Facing history and ourselves

The Holocaust was one of the most tragic demonstrations of violence and racism in the 20th century. It was also an incredible example of the power of compassion, hope and the human spirit. In this class, students will explore the events that led to the Holocaust through the lens of human behavior. What were the consequences of the beliefs and actions of those involved in the Holocaust? Utilizing the Facing History and Ourselves scope and sequence, students will start by examining the consequences of their own beliefs and actions before analyzing the impacts these have at a societal level. Students will be challenged to identify Continue reading…

Explore Week Adds New Meaning to the Term ‘Alternative Education’

Jimmy_FrickeyThis week at Eagle Rock School, we find ourselves once again immersed in Explore Week, a thrice annual offering of lectures, classroom experiences and events that have little to do with credits or curriculum leading to a high school diploma, and everything to do with engaging students in their own education.

This special week enables Eagle Rock School students the opportunity to look at different job choices, hobbies, art and music, trending exercise regimens and outdoor activities they may have never experienced in the past.

So, instead of wondering if you’d maybe like to take up rock climbing as a pastime, Explore Week gets you past the “future planning stage” and onto the mountainside, learning the ropes and helping each other reach the peak.

Explore Week is also an opportunity during this — an intentional week on the School’s schedule — for many of our instructors to catch up on future schoolwork. Meanwhile, students explore alternative learning options, with many of the instructors coming from outside the Eagle Rock faculty family.

Below is an offering of this week’s “classroom” opportunities that already have students doing everything from writing songs to creating their own robot:

Robotics
Instructors: Jacob Guggenheim and Daniela DiGiamcomo

Students in this Explore Week course create their own robot under the watchful eyes of MIT Engineer Jacob Guggenheim and University of Colorado Boulder Learning Scientist Daniela DiGiamcomo. Here, students are exploring the fascinating field of engineering by learning how to program and going on visits with local design experts. Taking a deep dive into the life cycle of design and iteration, they are constructing robots and navigating them through mazes and challenges that the class created and will showcase for the final day’s presentations.

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About the Instructors: Jacob is a first year masters student in mechanical engineering at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He originally became interested in engineering — and robotics in particular — when he joined his high school’s first robotics team. What really hooked Jacob into robotics was the ability to take a problem (how to kick a soccer ball) and build something that could do it. During college he sought out projects and research that would continue to allow him to tinker and play with new systems. Today he applies this same mindset —though backed with a significant amount of math and theory — to automating single cell micromanipulation.

Daniela is a third year doctoral candidate in educational psychology and learning sciences and ethnic studies. She is working as a research assistant for the MacArthur Foundation’s Connected Learning Research Network as well as for the Ford Foundation’s “More and Better Learning Time” national initiatives. Daniela is a graduate instructor for Continue reading…

Updates On Our Public Allies Fellows 2015 Team Service Projects

Like all organizations our size and scope, we rely on many different types of professionals to help carry out our mission. Instructional specialists deliver the curriculum, while administrative leaders, support staff and those working in any number of operational positions handle everything from facilities and human resources, to admissions and strategic planning.

And since we’re also a professional development organization, we have staff dedicated to working with educators from around the country who wish to study how to re-engage, retain and graduate students. All told, there are 40 full- and part-time employees working here, plus an additional 12 Public Allies Fellows.

Those Public Allies’ serve in full-time apprenticeship positions at nonprofit organizations across the United States — including Eagle Rock — where they create, improve and expand upon services that address youth development, education, public health, economic development and the environment.

In addition to participating in academic and community building activities, Fellows also contribute to Team Service Projects, with several such projects coming to a close this August. What we offer below are updates on five such projects conducted by our own Public Allies Fellows:

Project Title: Courageous Conversations
Run by: Matt Liston, World Language Fellow

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The goal of Matt’s project was to build a stronger Eagle Rock community through conversation and listening. He conducted a number of interviews with Eagle Rock community members, asking them questions about their experiences with race and their awareness of race. The interviews were recorded, and Matt led two different community gatherings in which he presented the edited videos, followed by small group discussions in response.

He is currently organizing his resources and the steps he took to share these Courageous Conversations, so that others can duplicate the project in the future — potentially with a variety of topics. During the last Fellows Learning Seminar (FLS), Matt organized a protocol to receive feedback from other fellows. He has also solicited the help and advice of full-time staff and leadership team members.

By Explore Week, Matt hopes to have a final resource document available, and a plan for a successor to take on this project in the future, making it an ongoing tradition at Eagle Rock.

Project Title: Spiritual Development
Run by: Courtney Lancaster, Service Learning Fellow and Molly Milota, Life After Eagle Rock Fellow

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The purpose of this project was to make spiritual development more accessible and central to the experiences of Eagle Rock students and staff. Courtney and Molly are creating a central location for all things spiritually developing via a Spiritual Development site on the intranet. They have also worked to map out existing Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Instructors Work Together on Formative Assessment

JanetJohnsonJenFrickeyBy Janet Johnson and Jen Frickey

Each year, our school’s instructional team fine-tunes its collective classroom practice by learning together. Instructors submit ideas for possible topics of study and the director of curriculum, in conjunction with our Professional Development Critical Friends Group, chooses an area of focus for the year.

The Critical Friends Group then meets weekly to plan for four instructional meetings each trimester. The members of the group — both instructional specialists and Eagle Rock Public Allies fellows who are seeking Colorado state teaching licensure — volunteer to study an annual theme, design and deliver engaging adult learning, and facilitate our weekly planning meetings.

A hallmark of these meetings is using School Reform Initiative protocols to share our instructional meeting plans and get feedback about them. We commonly use The Charrette Protocol (note: link opens a PDF) and Tuning Protocols (note: link opens a PDF) to examine our works in progress. These protocols — as well as those that help us to learn from texts, investigate teaching, learning and assessment, and examine student work — are often the backbone of our instructional meetings.

This year’s annual theme is Formative Assessment. For assessment to be formative, teachers and students must ask themselves where they are going, have a realistic appraisal of where they are now, and make a plan together for how to get there. These questions are central to our formative assessment approach.

We attempt to develop our skills in four distinct areas:

  1. Communicate learning targets and criteria for success
  2. Provide effective feedback
  3. Foster strategic questioning among students and teachers
  4. Promote self-assessment and goal setting

Formative assessment is student centered and transparent, with students and teachers working together to set learning objectives and collect evidence of meeting goals. The explicit result, of course, is improving student achievement.

Since the Critical Friends Group had varying levels of understanding and experience with formative assessment, we decided to ground our work together using two texts: Continue reading…

Eagle Rock’s Public Allies Fellows — Where Are They Now? (Part 1)

Welcome to what will be the first of many updates about what’s happening in the lives of educators who participated in the yearlong Public Allies fellowship program here at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colorado. What we intend to offer with posts such as these is a glimpse into the lives of those who went on to forge their careers in progressive education post-Eagle Rock.

But first, a short explanation of what the Public Allies program is all about. It’s a national movement based on the notion that everybody leads and everyone can make a difference. That difference can be as small as helping someone believe in themselves, to step up and make change.

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Public Allies has as its mission the advancement of new leadership to strengthen communities, nonprofits and civic participation. The Public Allies signature AmeriCorps Ally Program identifies diverse young adults and prepares them for leadership through paid full-time nonprofit apprenticeships and rigorous leadership training.

And how has that worked out so far? In the past 23 years, more than 6,000 Allies have completed the program with more than 80 percent of them continuing careers in nonprofit and public service. Meanwhile, many of this nation’s nonprofits are struggling to recruit and retain the diverse talent they need to address our most pressing community challenges. The Millennial generation — the largest and most diverse generation in history — is energized to work for change, but doesn’t know how to get started.

That’s where Public Allies comes in. With the edict that “everyone leads,” participants create pathways for young people to engage in their communities, and help communities and organizations tap the energy, passion, and perspectives of a new generation. Public Allies is the leadership and human capital solution our diverse communities need.

That brings us where we are today… happy to tell you about two former Eagle Rock Public Allies Fellows and their current pursuits. First up, Anna McCanse Nelson: Continue reading…