Thoughts on Open Air Learning Environments

When I was growing up, my idea of a library was what you might see in an old black and white movie: Sit down, be quiet, and for the sake of everyone around you, don’t ask any questions. Fortunately, my college library defied this notion, instead structuring itself in a manner that promotes collaborative learning.

Upon entering the library for the first time I did not see mounds of books and people working quietly — although both of those scenarios played out on higher floors). Instead, I saw clusters of open tables with individuals mingling in small groups, speaking freely, and actively collaborating.

Classroom Image

I later learned that the Academic Commons at Goddard Library at Clark University was constructed intentionally to encourage group learning and problem solving, and to facilitate effective communication and information exchange. These are just a few characteristics that are becoming increasingly more valued in today’s workplace.

The whole design of the library and the way I was encouraged to learn in that environment offered me an entirely new understanding of knowledge. The Cornell Center For Teaching Excellence says it more beautifully than I can: “Knowledge is a social construct.”

From my first day at Eagle Rock the idea that knowledge is a social construct, and should therefore be Continue reading…

For Just a Short While, There Was a Poet Among Us

Edgar-Kunz-Poet-Eagle-Rock-School-VisitOakland, Calif., poet Edgar Kunz has been a familiar face around the Eagle Rock campus the past few months, sparking interest in poetry in the form of readings, presentations and visits to poetry slams.

Kunz is one of 5 first-year Wallace Stegner Fellows in Poetry at Stanford University’s Creative Writing Program. His poetry can be found in New England Review, AGNI Literary Magazine, The Missouri Review, Narrative Magazine, and the annual Best New Poets anthology series, among other places. Middlebury Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Academy of American Poets, and Vanderbilt University — where Kunz earned his Masters degree in Fine Arts — have all supported his writing over the years.

During his visits here, readings were held for Eagle Rock School students and staff, with the poet reciting selections of his poems that have been published in various literary journals. In a Q&A session following his October visit, Kunz responded to questions about his Continue reading…

Educational Heroes For Eagle Rock Faculty & Staff

We recently asked some of our educators and staff members to come up with a list of people in the field of academia that they believe made a difference in their lives or inspired them to do things differently or better.

Here is a list of a few of those educators:

theodore-sizerTheodore R. Sizer: Founder — and later president emeritus — of the Essential school movement, Sizer took on the task of questioning the way students were being taught in the nation’s secondary schools. By the late 1970s, he was involved with hundreds of high schools across the country.

What emerged from all of that research was the book Horace’s Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School, his 1984 eloquent call to arms for school reform. Sizer also he founded the Coalition of Essential Schools, which is based on the principles he put forth in his book.

Eagle Rock School is an official Coalition School and our Professional Development Center is not only an Affiliate Center, we are also the national coordinator of CES Centers.

john-goodladJohn Goodlad: Written 15 years ago, Goodlad’s In Praise of Education described public education as a fundamental right in this country, calling it essential in the development of intelligent thinking within a democracy.

Other writings contributed by this educational theory-maker include The Moral Dimensions of TeachingPlaces Where Teachers Are TaughtTeachers for Our Nation’s Schools, and Educational Renewal: Better Teachers, Better Schools.

Goodlad was instrumental in promoting educational reform by designing programs and personally diving into research on positive change for schools.

As a point of reference, Eagle Rock was a founding member of his League of Democratic Schools.

Kurt-HahnKurt Hahn: This German educator, who is credited with playing a major leadership role in the effort to launch Outward Bound, founded an alliance of international schools called the United World Colleges. In addition, his thinking about school culture led to the creation of the 10 Expeditionary Learning Design Principles.

John Dewey: A pragmatic man — and an important contributor to functional psychology in this country — Dewey was also active in the realm of educational reform. Rather than sitting straight up at a desk in a classroom, Dewey espoused the concept of allowing children to learn while doing. By moving freely in and out of the classroom, his belief was that math, science and problem solving could be Continue reading…