Meet the Student: Brett Thomas Shares his Take on Service & Service-Learning

Editor’s Note: Brett Thomas isn’t scheduled to graduate from Eagle Rock School for a few trimesters, but he already says with authority that his post-Eagle Rock plans include studying criminal justice prior to a career in law enforcement.

Brett_Thomas_Eagle_Rock_SchoolBrett, who was raised in Boulder, Colo., credits the community service experience he has garnered thus far here at Eagle Rock as having heightened his interest in helping others as a peace officer. As you’ll see below, our focus on service learning — education that integrates community service along with facilitated instruction — not only enriches the learning path but also teaches civic responsibility and results in a stronger community.

We asked Brett to discuss the influence Eagle Rock’s service learning programs have had on his education thus far, as well as to tell us more about his future plans.

Here’s what he had to say:

Eagle Rock: Why would you want to perform service for others?

Brett Thomas: In the past, I used to think service was incredibly pointless and a waste of time for students at Eagle Rock. But the more I actually involved myself within the community, the more I felt satisfied — I actually felt better about myself.

Knowing others find happiness as a result of the labors I’ve accomplished helps me realize what service is. It’s not about the journey — because, to be honest, that can be incredibly boring at times. But in the end, you see other’s enjoyment and fulfillment and you think, “Whoa, I actually accomplished all of this through my work. I wasn’t forced into this, I actually enjoyed it.”

This mindset comes in part from the effects of dopamine. But instead of it being gathered through something unhealthy — such as gambling, drinking or drugs — it’s gathered and dispersed through the more positive aspects of service. Many people my age use drugs to feel better, and they often suffer from the consequences.

And while I haven’t taken drugs, I know what triggers people to continuously abuse them. One way to combat substance abuse is through Continue reading…

Experiential Education Highlights Latest Eagle Rock School Class Offerings

For those of us who are fortunate to make Eagle Rock School a daily experience, we’re well into our 72nd trimester, which means our students are participating in a mixed brew of classes not often found in traditional high schools.

As has been the since the early 1990s, Eagle Rock’s curriculum offers its student body a selection of subjects from which to choose — most of them far removed from the reading, writing and arithmetic formulas often employed by schools that can curtail the creative juices that prompt students to want to learn. In fact, here at Eagle Rock, we tout ourselves as a “leader in the nationwide effort to re-engage youth in their own education.”

(Image ©2017 Mohammad Thabata)

(Image ©2017 Mohammad Thabata)

The emphasis is on “their own education,” which means our students are taking classes that will serve them well into the future, which may include as college students, employees, entrepreneurs, guardians of the environment, or just good citizens engaged in their own communities.

Here then is our second offering of unique and non-traditional classes currently being tackled by our 15- to 18-year olds:

Psych Rocks: In this class, students are exploring the perception of challenge, risk, and fear through the lens of adventure activity. The idea is to get the students to step outside their comfort zone. Designed to challenge students mentally, physically and emotionally, the Eagle Rockers enrolled in this class are learning the Continue reading…

Students ‘Owning’ Their Projects: Highline Big Picture High School

Editor’s Note: Last July, staff from Highline Big Picture High School in Washington State participated in Eagle Rock’s weeklong Growing Equity Together Summer Institute for educators — an initiative that grew out of an Eagle Rock staff member’s (Sarah Bertucci’s) 24-month Deeper Learning Equity Fellowship. Other schools participating in the Institute — which is scheduled to meet again this July here at Eagle Rock — include City Neighbors High School in Baltimore, Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in the Bronx, Winooski Middle/High School from Vermont, and Eagle Rock School. As you’ll see from today’s post, a lot has happened at Highline since last July:

By Highline Big Picture High School staff in Burien, Washington

Highline Big Picture High SchoolHighline Big Picture High School (HBPHS) and Eagle Rock have a history of collaboration, with several advisors and administrators traveling to Eagle Rock in the past and representatives from Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center arriving in Seattle to support us at different stages of our school’s development.

Having heard good things about past work, several newer staff members were excited to be able to join the Growing Equity Together cohort. Our team consists of Dan (STEM specialist), Gwen (301 Advisor), Mia (201 Advisor) and Bev (201 Advisor).

In mid-July of 2016, we traveled to Eagle Rock to begin our work with a cohort of adults representing five different schools with five different goals connected by the common theme of equity. We quickly jumped into it, utilizing a method of Continue reading…

Artist in Residence Highlights Summer 2017 Explore Week

As if a selection of diverse and interesting courses weren’t enough, we’re adding Scott James to our Explore Week mix this time around, which means this poet and artist is on campus and meeting with students all week long.

As our official “Artist in Residence,” during Explore Week, Scott is in the midst, on the periphery and face-to-face with students every day this week. In fact, during most lunch and dinner hours, he’s poised over his vintage typewriter, ready for a good poetic challenge. The deal is, any Eagle Rock School student can walk up to Scott and offer a word — any word — for inspiration and Scott will write an original poem around that word. In fact, that’s pretty much his specialty, and a few years ago he churned out and gave away more than 1,000 such impromptu poems.

An Eagle Rock Public Allies Fellow in ER 40-42 (that would be the 40th through 42nd semesters since Eagle Rock’s founding in the 1990s), Scott currently resides in Austin, Tex., where he performs his instant typewriter poetry for events and parties, and helps writers turn their ideas into published books. His tools of trade include a 1946 Smith-Corona and he uses high-quality and handcrafted papers and techniques in his art that blend improvisation, metaphor and classic poetry.

Scott’s artistic career has included performance around the country, including Chris Guillebau’s World Domination Summit and Austin’s SxSW Interactive festival. And during Explore Week, this poet is available for one-on-one sessions with students. He’s also sitting in on several courses and conducting four workshops.

Meanwhile, for the students themselves, they’re all participating in one of the following course offerings: Continue reading…

Announcing Eagle Rock’s 2017/2018 Cohort of Public Allies Fellows

We’re about two months away from welcoming nine new and three returning Public Allies Fellows to Eagle Rock for the 2017/2018 academic year.

Public Allies Eagle RockAchieving the title of Fellow is no easy task. Funded by AmeriCorps, Public Allies is insistent in the philosophy that everyone has the ability to lead and anyone can be an inspiration to others. Creating just and equitable societies takes hard work, and the job requires a great amount of passion, and the courage to step forward and take action

Arriving September 1st, each of the fellows referenced below will be active participants in our residential and community-based school and professional development center. To that end, each fellow has expressed or demonstrated a passion for teaching and youth development — and more specifically — an interest in progressive education.

So, who exactly are these young leaders? Below are short biographies and a few fun factoids about each of our 2017/2018 Fellows:

AdamAdam Louie, 2017/2018 Public Allies Fellow in Outdoor Education: Adam was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration from San Francisco State University. With an emphasis in Outdoor Education, Adam has worked as a field instructor for Outward Bound California and frequently takes courses with WMI (Wilderness Medicine Institute). His love for nature and passion for traveling has brought him to many corners of the earth. Adam enjoys getting lost in foreign countries, learning their language, and eating local street food. He also can’t get enough of playing sports, experimental cooking, and binge watching tv series.

AdrianaAdriana Ortiz, 2017/2018 Public Allies Fellow in Health, Wellness & Counseling: Adriana is originally from the Bronx, NY. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Temple University in Philadelphia and recently completed her Master’s degree at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Prior to pursuing graduate school, Adriana served as an AmeriCorps Member for City Year Los Angeles. When she’s not in school or working, Adriana enjoys discovering new places to eat, reading, listening to music, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

ErinErin Byrd, 2017/2018 Public Allies Fellow in Math: Los Angeles native Erin studied biology with a concentration in molecular biology and biochemistry at Kalamazoo College, near Lake Michigan. Her professional aspiration is to make the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum something that is more accessible to young students.

Erin’s hobbies include Sudoku, watching reality TV shows, and lounging on the beach. Continue reading…