Explore Week Adds New Meaning to the Term ‘Alternative Education’

Jimmy_FrickeyThis week at Eagle Rock School, we find ourselves once again immersed in Explore Week, a thrice annual offering of lectures, classroom experiences and events that have little to do with credits or curriculum leading to a high school diploma, and everything to do with engaging students in their own education.

This special week enables Eagle Rock School students the opportunity to look at different job choices, hobbies, art and music, trending exercise regimens and outdoor activities they may have never experienced in the past.

So, instead of wondering if you’d maybe like to take up rock climbing as a pastime, Explore Week gets you past the “future planning stage” and onto the mountainside, learning the ropes and helping each other reach the peak.

Explore Week is also an opportunity during this — an intentional week on the School’s schedule — for many of our instructors to catch up on future schoolwork. Meanwhile, students explore alternative learning options, with many of the instructors coming from outside the Eagle Rock faculty family.

Below is an offering of this week’s “classroom” opportunities that already have students doing everything from writing songs to creating their own robot:

Instructors: Jacob Guggenheim and Daniela DiGiamcomo

Students in this Explore Week course create their own robot under the watchful eyes of MIT Engineer Jacob Guggenheim and University of Colorado Boulder Learning Scientist Daniela DiGiamcomo. Here, students are exploring the fascinating field of engineering by learning how to program and going on visits with local design experts. Taking a deep dive into the life cycle of design and iteration, they are constructing robots and navigating them through mazes and challenges that the class created and will showcase for the final day’s presentations.


About the Instructors: Jacob is a first year masters student in mechanical engineering at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He originally became interested in engineering — and robotics in particular — when he joined his high school’s first robotics team. What really hooked Jacob into robotics was the ability to take a problem (how to kick a soccer ball) and build something that could do it. During college he sought out projects and research that would continue to allow him to tinker and play with new systems. Today he applies this same mindset —though backed with a significant amount of math and theory — to automating single cell micromanipulation.

Daniela is a third year doctoral candidate in educational psychology and learning sciences and ethnic studies. She is working as a research assistant for the MacArthur Foundation’s Connected Learning Research Network as well as for the Ford Foundation’s “More and Better Learning Time” national initiatives. Daniela is a graduate instructor for the course “Educational Psychology” at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is interested in the design of learning spaces for non-dominant youth in low-income urban environments. Prior to her pursuing her PhD, she worked as a teacher/administrator in Bay Area hybrid secondary schools, in mental health/social work, and for political asylum/refugee rights legal organizations. She holds a Master’s in Development Studies from Cambridge University, and Bachelor’s in Latin American Studies from University of California Berkeley.

Songwriting, Stories, and Live Performance
Instructor: Eric Ian Farmer

There is something special about making good music together. Although singing and playing other instruments can be helpful in this Explore Week course, they are not a requirement.

This course is designed to help students connect with stories within us all that we use as reasons for our actions. From these stories, students are writing songs, and at the end of the week, they will perform those songs live.

This course includes discussions, writing activities and live music performances. Some of our work will be done individually, and some collaboratively.

About the instructor: Eric Ian Farmer is no stranger to Eagle Rock School. He served as an intern (Eagle Rock trimester 19 through 21 and an instructional specialist from trimester 37 through 45.) He is now in the final year of a Ph.D. program in educational leadership at Penn State University. Also, Eric is a songwriter and singer who regularly performs solo and with other artists in central Pennsylvania.

Intro to Deejaying Techniques
Instructor: Juan Gomez

This is a hands‐on course that focuses on the fundamentals of deejaying, including beat matching, juggling, programming and scratching. During the course of the week, students discuss various hardware and software currently on the market as well as emphasize originality and musicality in song selection.


About the instructor: Juan G is a multi-faceted artist — an internationally performing deejay, photojournalist, rights advocate, event coordinator and music researcher — who is currently based in Oakland, Calif. He has been recognized as a championing voice for old and new popular music coming out of the African continent. His efforts often focus on the syncretistic nature shared among African music and current musical trends from the Caribbean, Latin America, and the West.

As a writer and researcher, he has worked with archival institutes in Ghana to document the musical linage of Ghanaian highlife. The project led to the creation of digging4gold — a yearlong multimedia project documenting the efforts behind record collecting in West Africa. The project has since branched out to showcase popular music from all over the African continent.

The Evolution of Breaking
Instructor: Ken Fury

This course explores the history of hip-hop dance in the form of Breaking, Rocking and the development of creative movement. Each Eagle Rock student is introduced into the dance form as a foundation to build his or her own individual style, technique and flow. The exercises offered in the course focus on solo and group routines that strengthen self-expression, teamwork and creative thinking. The students build on characterization and the importance of storytelling through dance along with the skill of improvisation. The course also covers entrepreneurial skills and ends with a performance by the students.

About the instructor: Ken Fury is an artist who expresses his vision in multiple disciplines, including music, poetry, photography, painting, jewelry design and dance. As a dancer, he has studied with the legendary Wayne Blizz and D-Flex (The Executioners, The NYC Float Committee), Kwikstep (Full Circle), and Bryant Davila (Incredible Breakers). He has won more than 30 competitions and judged some of the top events around the world, and taught at New York University’s experimental theater wing and the Seoul Institute for the Arts, among many other institutions in the U.S. and abroad. He has also worked in partnership with the U.S. Department of State as a cultural ambassador for the Next Level program. Fury has performed theater pieces at venues such as Central Park Summer Stage, Kennedy Center, The Smithsonian and has been featured in commercials for Toshiba, Starburst, I love New York, and has worked with many award winning film makers and photographers for both commercial and personal projects. His mission is to share his art as a tool for self-expression and complete freedom.

201 – Student Teachers
Instructor:  Jen Frickey, Eagle Rock Director of Curriculum

As new students transition from their wilderness experience and prepare for their academic experience as a student at Eagle Rock, we use the 201 class as an opportunity to support and prepare them for academic success at Eagle Rock. Participants are veteran students interested in learning more about teaching and learning and what it means to set up an engaging and relevant learning experience for new students. This is a great opportunity for students interested in learning more about what it means to be a teacher, or to work on leadership skills.

Kitchen Apprenticeship
Instructors: Mark Dougherty, William “Ed” Perry, and Jay Holladay

Students in this weeklong Explore Week course work as full members of the Eagle Rock kitchen staff. In addition to helping with all aspects of kitchen work required to feed our vibrant community, our fulltime chefs are making time available to share their expertise in specific areas of interest related to the Culinary Arts and students’ future cooking-related objectives.

Green River
Instructors: Jesse Beightol, Brighid Scanlon, Valentina Ramirez

What better way to spend Explore Week than exploring the canyons of southeast Utah? The Colorado and Green Rivers wind through the heart of Canyonlands National Park, cutting through layered sandstone to form two deep canyons. This is our Explore Week classroom as we canoe all week long, learning about natural and cultural history, including geology, plants and animals, Anasazi history, outlaws and more recent human exploration.

Students helped with pre-trip planning and packing, and are assisting all week long with camp chores, gear cleanup and are fully engaged with the curriculum.

Vedauwoo Rock Climbing
Instructors: Matt Bynum, Meg Tokunaga-Scanlon, and Matt Liston

This climbing-focused Explore Week trip was pioneered in 2014 and was a hit among participants. The course began earlier this week with a day of climbing on campus and packing up food and gear for the trip. The group then headed two hours north to a world class climbing area in southern Wyoming called Vedauwoo, where they are currently camping.

Eagle Rock students are learning about what is needed to be successful as a top-rope climber on the selected routes. The trip also focuses on the geology and natural history of the areas they are climbing as well as some centering and focus practices to help with climbing and life.

Vedauwoo is known to the Arapaho Native Americans as the “Land of the Earthborn Spirit.” The area is filled with dense pine forests and aspen groves. The views are spectacular and there is a ton of wildlife. The most unique aspect is the alien-like rock formations, which the students are climbing.

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About the Author: Jimmy Frickey is Explore Week Coordinator at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colo. Formerly, he was an Eagle Rock Public Allies Fellow in mathematics, followed by a stint as an instructional specialist in Eagle Rock’s Mathematics Dept., and a houseparent at Eagle Rock’s Lodgepole House. Currently, Frickey is a part-time stay-at-home dad and part-time student at the University of Colorado Boulder studying Educational Psychology and  Learning Sciences.

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