Fall 2016 Reading Recommendations from Eagle Rock Staff

Editor’s Note: Sure, there’s tons of reading to be undertaken when you’re working in progressive education. That’s because there’s no shortage of authors offering compelling reads that actually changes or reinforces the mindset of the educator.

Here we present reviews of a handful of fictional and nonfiction books — some of them new, some of them a bit longer in the tooth — that come highly recommended by members of our staff. See if any of them spark your curiosity. And then check them out:

the-dharma-bumsThe Dharma Bums – By Jack Kerouac

This 1958 semi-fictional novel relates the understanding and relationship between the outdoors and nature with that of the daily grind of working in the city life as seen through the eyes of the main character, Ray Smith. For our World Languages Instructional Specialist, Josán Perales, this book took him all summer to read because he had to stop every few pages to reflect on his own life experiences. As a college student studying philosophy and world religion, Josán found the story helped him, “empathize with people from all walks of life.” To him, it created a stronger interest for learning about other “experiences and dichotomous lives.” ~ Recommended by Josán Perales, World Languages Instructional Specialist.

witnessing-whitenessWitnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk About Race and How to Do It – By Shelly Tochluk

This nonfiction book has the intention of educating individuals who are working in the education field with a diverse environment. Sara Benge, Eagle Rock’s interim science instructional specialist, said the book helped her witness her own identity as a white woman and how to develop herself as an anti-racist. The reading provides information on Continue reading…

Books Recommended for Summer Reading by Eagle Rock Staffers

Editor’s Note: It’s summertime, and the reading comes easy — at least that’s what four Eagle Rock School staff members will have you believe. Below, each of these educators highlights a favorite book or two and why he or she recommends that particular read. If a description strikes you as interesting, just click on the accompanying book cover to activate a link to the selection on Amazon. At that point, you can purchase the book and have it mailed to you or download it to a laptop or tablet. At the end of this post, we offer links to other blog posts containing previous book suggestions from our staff.

Last Child of The Woods CoverLast Child in the Woods: Saving our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder — by Richard Louv

“For many years I was a self-appointed inspector of snow storms and rain storms” — Henry David Thoreau

This book does a phenomenal job of stating explicitly what educators generally intuitively know about the outdoors: It can foster creativity, help increase focus, and help us re-connect with our senses. In this book, a variety of studies are explored, displaying how exposure to the natural world can improve a student’s physical health, emotional health, and even reduce depression. Louv discusses practical ways to incorporate the natural world into the more “traditional” school setting and re-ignite a sense of wonder about the mysteries of the natural world. He concludes with the argument that if we are to save the natural world from human destruction, the decision-makers of tomorrow — that would be the students of today — must have an emotional and physical connection to the environment. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the benefits of incorporating more outdoor education in their instructional practice. — Recommended by Matt Bynum, Eagle Rock Outdoor Education Adjunct Instructional Specialist

The Adventure Gap CoverThe Adventure Gap — by James Edward Mills
Those who partake in human-powered outdoor recreation — as a whole, they do not reflect the evolving demographics of Americans. It is evident that many factors impact both access and feelings of inclusion. As James Edward Mills writes, “”Passion alone isn’t enough…Like the achievement gap that limits social mobility and access to higher education or better job prospects, the adventure gap is widened by limitations in financial resources.” In The Adventure Gap, Mills narrates the 2013 “Expedition Denali” trip that took nine African Americans to the tallest peak in North America. The book not only tells the story of these outdoor adventurers, but it highlights unknown African American history in the outdoors. It introduces us to Sophia Danenberg, the first African American woman to ascend Mount Everest, and Kai Lightner, an accomplished climber from North Carolina. This book is a stepping-stone to a larger discussion that we as outdoors enthusiasts, educators, and activists need to have. Although Mills states that the mountains do not discriminate, we live in a society where the Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Staffers Reflect on Books Worth Reading Over The Break

For educators — not unlike surgeons, attorneys and others in professional avocations — keeping up with the “tricks of the trade” is a necessity. Physicians must consistently take refresher courses or attend seminars just to keep up with the advances in medicine.

Attorneys require updates on new laws and legal trends. And teachers and educators who are interested in bettering their skills are constantly attending lectures, taking continuing education courses and checking out the latest literature to stay at the top of their field.

So, once again, we’ve checked in with Eagle Rock staffers to discover what they’re reading on the holiday break that’s going to impact their students come January.

Here’s a short list of who’s reading what (note: clicking on any of the book cover images will take you to that book’s page on Amazon.com):

Just-Like-Us-Book-CoverJust Like Us — by Helen Thorpe

This book follows four young women in Denver as they graduate from high school and head off to college. All four of the young women have parents who are undocumented and several are also undocumented. It brings to the forefront what the label “undocumented” does to their identity.

This book provides a great insight to some of the struggles of balancing two cultures — especially for those that are undocumented and really wanting to succeed in this country.

I read this book when I was working with undocumented students and students who had undocumented parents. I had grown up knowing very well what undocumented students and parents go through, and this was something that helped validate some of the identity struggles that I had been surrounded by.

Later I met a researcher who talked about how the Continue reading…

Eagle Rock School Touted in Many Educational Manuscripts

Our school finds its way into a number of published works that tout our tools as a learning community, as described in two full books about the school, as well as manuscripts that contain full chapters devoted to our education system, or just a mention in passing.

Below we’ve compiled a list of these books and published works, along with their authors, in case you’re interested in reading how the rest of the world sees our unique approach to high school education.

Not surprising, most of these mentions praise our insistence on actively engaging our students in their learning by placing the emphasis on the student voice in the equation.

Books Fully Featuring Eagle Rock:

86709562The Other Side of Curriculum — Lessons from Learners  by Lois Easton (Heinemann, December 2001)

Eagle Rock School is the protagonist behind this book, where Lois Easton discusses practical tools for creating an effective learning community — all based on her experiences working at Eagle Rock.

She says that at Eagle Rock, the learners are central and the curriculum is responsive to their needs. The book answers the question: What should students know and be able to do, and how do educators help them to know and do it?

Each chapter begins with a story of learning at Eagle Rock that illustrates a concept of curriculum. Easton describes that concept and offers questions that will help educators translate the concept to their own situation. The book discusses curriculum in relation to culture, instruction-assessment, learner-centered education, competency-based systems, self-directed learning and personal growth.

15240_Easton_Disengaged_72ppiRGB_150pixwEngaging the Disengaged — How Schools Can Help Struggling Students Succeed by Lois Easton (Corwin, October 2007)

This second book based on Lois Brown Easton’s experiences at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center, is intended to assist educators to make positive connections with youngsters of all ages who are at risk of failing or dropping out.

It includes creating a school-wide climate that supports all students and promotes academic, personal and social growth. That includes changes to teacher-student relationships, teaching approaches for Continue reading…

Spring 2015 Reading Recommendations From Eagle Rock

We’re thinking it was Harry S. Truman who said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers,” and that rhymed remark certainly holds true for educators. The staff here at the Eagle Rock School are avid readers, each knowing full well that in order to be good educators, you have to keep up with trends in education — not to mention culture.

Here then are some books they suggest for your spring perusal:

TheGlobalAchievementGapThe Global Achievement Gap — By: Tony Wagner
Recommended by Sarah Bertucci, Professional Development Center Associate

The premise of this book is that there is a gap between what our schools are teaching and the skills and knowledge students actually need in today’s world. Tony Wagner, who currently serves as an Expert In Residence at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, shows convincingly that even our “best” schools are not teaching key skills like critical thinking and adaptability. I’ve drawn upon Wagner’s work when helping Eagle Rock’s partner schools articulate their priorities for student learning, and to fuel work, finding better ways to assess what students are learning and how well schools are doing. Wagner recommends the College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA) as one of the very few assessments that measure the skills that matter. And that is a key assessment that we have chosen to use at Eagle Rock.

CoveringBookCoverCovering: The Hidden Assault of Our Civil Rights — By: Kenji Yoshino
Recommended by Philbert SmithDirector of Students

This book provides a different lens through which to look at civil rights. The premise is that we all have a tendency to tone down an identity that does not fit the mainstream. In other words “cover.”  I found this book to be insightful. I like the final paragraph, which reads, “We must use the relative freedom of adulthood to integrate the many selves we hold.” This includes uncovering the selves we buried long ago because they were inconvenient, impractical or even hated. Because they must pass the test of survival, most of the selves we hold, like most of our lives, are ordinary. Yet sometimes, what is consequential in us begins to shine.”

WhatKindOfCitizenWhat Kind of Citizen?: Educating Our Children for the Common Good — By: Joel Westheimer
Recommended by Diego Duran-Medina, Societies and Cultures Instructional Specialist

I’ve been reading this book for the last couple of weeks and it’s been instrumental in how I think about my teaching.

I love this book because it argues for placing citizenship as one of the most important goals of education, and argues that critical skills are not only useful for reading, writing and academics, but for shaping the kind of society that our students inherit and work to build. The book has been helpful in thinking about what we do in the Heartivism courses and Societies and Cultures Department here at Eagle Rock. Is should be required reading for anyone who teaches social studies or history. A key takeaway is understanding that education can be a force for conformity instead of intellectual and societal liberation.

BlackFacesWhiteSpacesBookCoverBlack Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors — By: Carolyn Finney
Recommended by Jesse Beightol, Instructional Specialist in Outdoor Education

“Finney reveals the perceived and real ways in which nature and the environment are racialized in America. Looking toward the future, she also highlights the work of African Americans who are opening doors to greater participation in environmental and conservation concerns.”

The above quote is from the back cover of this book. Many Eagle Rock School students arrive here with the perception that outdoor education is not for people of color. There are many institutional barriers to equal participation in outdoor pursuits, and books such as “Black Faces, White Spaces” help to explain why these barriers exist and what we can Continue reading…