Eagle Rock Classes That Add New Meaning to the Term ‘Non-traditional’

Dan Condon
Dan Condon

Editor’s Note: Here at Eagle Rock, we’re known for modeling successful strategies and tactics in the effort to re-engage students in their own education. What that means in part is that we often offer classes in our Estes Park, Colorado, high school that resemble in no way those offered in a traditional school setting.

We tell you this because we use our blog to share our work, and we share our work because it’s not in our fabric to keep it to ourselves. In fact, publishing posts like the one you’re about to read is meant to inspire you to examine how education is delivered in your community.

With that in mind, here’s part one of a two-part series by our own Dan Condon detailing the unique class offerings that are already underway this trimester at Eagle Rock:

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By Dan Condon, Associate Director of Professional Development

Listen to me!” We all have times when we feel alone, believing we’re the only ones who suffer both tragedy and happiness. But no matter how dark things may get, you must know that you are not alone, someone has felt it, lived through it and can empathize.

This is the story of the characters in Spring Awakening, a dramatic play that is also the subject of an Eagle Rock class by the same name. In this class, students are developing basic singing and acting concepts through their character’s perspective. This is a rigorous class that tests beginning and advanced students in the development of performance skills.

Those accepted as cast members through an audition and call back were asked to commit to weekly rehearsals (class), final week dress rehearsals, costuming, makeup, set construction, and a final cast dinner and reflection. The show goes on in April.

In Rocky Mountain National Park Murals, the class is painting three murals in two different buildings located in Rocky Mountain National Park. The class is studying the visual communication power that is unique to mural art as they work alongside national park employees to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the park.

Students are studying significant historical murals in America as they design, plan and paint two sites in the Hotshot dorm, and one in the Science Studies Center. Students are using stencils and project images and are creating art that honors the work that explores the park — some of it created by park service employees.

This is an opportunity to continue to strengthen the bond between Eagle Rock and the park, as well as explore opportunities within this beautiful wilderness area.

In a class called Research, students are investigating and researching a topic that interests them, steadily progressing from a novice to an expert in that particular field. Students choose a topic through a process that balances their interests with the general feasibility of the topic, including resources available, rigor and depth.

These students then learn how to find and evaluate both print and digital sources and examine the main arguments, purposes and biases within them. Students pull key ideas and details from the sources in notes that support their emerging research questions and claims.

Participants learn how to synthesize and represent their growing body of knowledge in an organized way, eventually sharing their new understanding around their topic by developing a thesis statement and writing a traditional research paper.

Arabic is the fifth most popular language in the world, and in Arabic Out West: Arab Language and Community in Colorado, Eagle Rock students begin to learn how to read, write and speak Arabic so that they can communicate with others in the language.

Students learn about specific parts of Arab culture by studying Arab music, art, literature, religions and food. Their focus is specifically on meeting Arabs in Colorado and talking to members of Arab communities within the state.

ER students also explore organizations that work with and support Arab communities in the state. As a final project students will identify an issue among Colorado’s Arab community and create a service project that addresses the issue.

In Winter Ecology, students study the ecological relationships that animals and plants both have to winter. Students are telemark skiing twice each week to investigate these relationships as well as the mountain ecosystem. In particular, they are studying the plants and animals that live there and how they have adapted to life in winter conditions.

Hero’s Journey begins with a story — not of enslavement, but of freedom and fulfillment. On this foundation, students work toward constructing their own path of discovery, experience and empowerment leading to career choices and a future filled with freedom and happiness.

From stories of heroes and heroines, as told in literature and movies, students come to grips with their own heroic journey. The insights of Joseph Campbell, presented in narrative form, serves as a guide to students’ call to action, decision-making and leadership. The Hero’s Journey focuses on historical and contemporary leadership approaches, group dynamics, communication styles and models of service. It culminates on an activity for 8th grade boys based on the theme of “Finding Your Focus in Life.”

This leadership experience and presentation will take place during the 8th Grade Career Day held at the YMCA of the Rockies on Feb. 12.

One class that probably says it all in the title is our Learn to Swim offering, with an eye on students who are beginners, intermediates or experts in the water. Whatever their skill level, they’ll increase their swimming abilities and fitness. Students enrolled in this class are in the pool every day learning to swim and getting fit, as well as learning about swimming techniques, fitness and nutrition.

So, what’s the big plan after graduation? What’s an Eagle Rock grad to do? Where will he or she live? More important, how are they going to pay for everything? In Math for Life students imagine what their life might be like in the near future, and learn how to successfully and responsibly plan for that life. Topics include: How to save money, manage bank accounts, create a budget, find an apartment, search for a job and file a tax return.

Given the fact that before students stand up for something, each must understand where they stand, this trimester’s Heartivism class helps students examine ways of communicating messages that change the world. The class explores what it means to be an activist at Eagle Rock. Together, students explore examples of how others have created messages through developing a voice. They choose a topic they are passionate about and learn how to create podcasts. Students work on three levels in this class: What they bring to Eagle Rock, the culture of Eagle Rock as an example of our society, and what they want to change in the world once they graduate.

Finally, in Neuroscience, students explore the inner workings of the human brain. After studying brain anatomy and physiology, they learn about how the brain responds to and is affected by specific substances including, alcohol, marijuana, prescription pills and other commonly used drugs. They are exploring how natural highs — exercise, meditation, food, sex, music and adventure — can be healthy alternatives that stimulate specific, desired responses in the brain.

So that’s it for part one of our multi-part series on this trimester’s class offerings here at the Eagle Rock School. We’ll present part two in this series at the end of next week. And we’ll share our second five-week block of classes next month. In the meantime if you have a question or thought about any of the classes mentioned here, please leave a comment for us below.

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About The Author:  Dan Condon is an education activist who currently serves as  associate director of professional development at the Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center. Dan’s writing has been featured online in The Huffington Post and in print in the 2014 National Society for the Study of Education (NSSE) Yearbook that’s entitled Engaging Youth in Schools: Empirically-Based Models to Guide Future Innovations.

Comments (2)

  1. Pingback: This Trimester Offers Classes from Statistics to Dystopia - Eagle Rock Blog

  2. Pingback: Reflections from a High School Arabic Class - Eagle Rock Blog

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