At Eagle Rock It’s Our Surroundings That Provide the Best Education

At Eagle Rock School, we’re kept pretty busy, what with a variety of classes, meetings and continuously working to make our community strong.

Nevertheless, we still manage to find plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors. With our campus nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains, we are minutes from excellent year round outdoor recreation — including skiing, biking, snowshoeing, climbing, fishing, hiking — and even painting en plein air.

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All of our students begin their Eagle Rock School career with a 24-day wilderness course that is largely focused on orientation, self-management and learning the skills necessary in order to live and learn cordially within a community of peers. And nearly all of this experience takes place in a pristine outdoor environment.

For many of our students, this is the first time they have been enveloped for a lengthy period in a natural setting, surrounded by rivers and forests and meadows and mountain peaks. Many of these students tell us the wilderness course is a Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Public Allies Fellow Develops His Own ‘Sense of Place’

jordan-cernaI arrived at Eagle Rock School a year ago as a contract instructor tasked with co-facilitating a wilderness experience for new students. The 38-day contract was to help provide a wilderness experience in which all incoming Eagle Rock School students must participate prior to becoming an official member of the Eagle Rock community.

While getting to know many students and staff at Eagle Rock during those initial days, I began to feel the connection and commitment these educators and kids had to their environment. Whether it was an educational opportunity or a place of employment, each individual knew they belonged to something very special.

This mountainside setting simply felt like a force of influence. As we all settled into our new environment, I saw students taking time from their learning environment to work on personal growth. I saw staff members who told me they returned to Eagle Rock after trying out new positions in other locations with other organizations. What powerful bond brought these individuals back to Eagle Rock?

As I walked the trails on campus and wandered around the rustic buildings in town, I purposely spent a lot o Continue reading…

Just Like on ‘Survivor,’ Our Grads Take Final ‘Rights of Passage’

At the end of each trimester, Eagle Rock School’s graduates head out on the trail for the traditional Grad Wild camping trip, a two-night experience that enables these grads to connect with one another and collectively and individually reflect on their Eagle Rock journey.

Much more condensed that the nearly three-week wilderness trek undertaken by our newest students, Grad Wild provides a brief but important time for grads to share their trepidations, hopes and dreams as they prepare to transition out of living at Eagle Rock.

On a Friday afternoon during the first week in December, students Alysha Dan, Javon Banks, Stacy Escobar, and Katie-Lynn DeRaps packed up their gear and headed out to the campsite, which is about a mile from the main campus. And, despite chilly temperatures, the graduates stayed up late playing card games, drinking hot chocolate and regaled each other with favorite Eagle Rock memories. Continue reading…

NOLS and Outward Bound Scholarships Foster Leadership Skills

Each summer, we’re blessed with the opportunity to engage with students in a variety of outdoor education experiences both on and off our mountainside campus in Estes Park, Colorado.

In addition to our New Student Wilderness Orientation course, the summer trimester often includes classes such as For the Birds, River Watch, Colorado Rocks, The Physics of Mountain Biking and Outdoor Leadership. In addition, the mid-trimester Explore Week brings the highly sought-after Green River canoe trip and an outdoor outing to the famous Vedauwoo climbing area in Wyoming.

In addition to these opportunities, we are able to offer scholarships to students who have shown consistent interest in outdoor education , and have demonstrated leadership in various roles on campus. Through our growing relationship with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and Outward Bound (OB), Eagle Rock School is awarded a small number of highly coveted scholarships for our students to attend either a NOLS expedition through its Gateway Partnership Program or an Outward Bound expedition through its Pinnacle Scholars program.

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Eagle Rock students are hand selected for these opportunities and are then able to choose from a variety of course options that best fit their interests. This summer, current Eagle Rock School student Bryan Yanez and Eagle Rock School graduate Valentina Ramirez were both awarded NOLS Gateway scholarships. Current student Stacy Escobar was awarded an OB scholarship.

While both of these programs are highly regarded on an international level, there are slight differences in their mission and curriculum. Outward Bound is, in many ways, considered a pioneer in outdoor and experiential education. It was founded in Aberdovey, Wales in 1941 by Kurt Hahn and Lawrence Holt, with support from the UK shipping company, Blue Funnel Line. , Hahn believed in the “concept of an intense experience surmounting challenges in a natural setting, through which the individual builds his (her) sense of self-worth, the group comes to a heightened awareness of human interdependence, and all grow in concern for those in danger and need.”

Outward Bound went on to develop a school in the United States in 1961 that is thriving at 17 different OB schools and centers across the U.S. The educational framework still emphasizes, “High achievement through active learning, character development and teamwork.”

A partnership between Eagle Rock and Outward Bound has been in place for the past seven years. Each year, one or two Eagle Rock School students receive scholarships through the Pinnacle Scholar Program. This year, Stacy Escobar chose to attend a month-long OB course in Utah that included backpacking, whitewater rafting and canyoneering. Stacy went into this course with strong leadership skills and was challenged with a group of students that came from a very different life experiences than herself.

When asked about her Outward Bound experience, Stacy said: Continue reading…

Connecting Wilderness Field Experiences to Academic Success

As frequent readers of the Eagle Rock Blog may already know, the Eagle Rock School New Student Wilderness Orientation Course is a staple rite of passage in the Eagle Rock student experience. All new students, since the founding of the school in the early-1990s, are challenged to start out their Eagle Rock experience by leaving behind the comforts of modern society and heading out into the wilderness for 24 days with a small group of strangers/fellow incoming students.

They are required to sleep on the ground, cook their own food, face the challenges that Mother Nature presents, and deal with all of the issues that arise in small group living. On top of that, these students are challenged to take a deep look at themselves, working on self-awareness, self-control, effective communication and tools that will help them to be successful in the Eagle Rock community.

Our wilderness courses follow a typical Outward Bound type model (backpacking, rock-climbing, solo, service, etc.) where the group — focusing on personal growth and development — gradually builds towards more independence from the instructor team. But we differ dramatically from most outdoor programs in that this is truly an orientation program with the primary focus of preparing students for both the academic and student living experience on campus.

Eagle Rock School Wilderness Orientation

Literally everything we do during the first five weeks of the new student experience should be focused on helping these novice Eagle Rock School students to achieve success in their time here.

When new students arrive, their first week is packed full of the Eagle Rock experience. They are expected to fully engage and participate from Day One. The intention of having a full week on campus is for the students to fully understand what they are getting into. That time also provides our wilderness instructors the opportunity to observe these “newbies” and have something to draw from later when Continue reading…