Our 75th Trimester Begins with A Selection of Unique Classes

Spring break is history, which means our students are back in class for the beginning of the 75th trimester since our doors opened back in the early 1990s.

Delivering on our promise of reengaging students their own education, this new trimester — ER 75 — delivers a selection of unique classroom experiences, each designed to assist every student along his or her personal life journey.

Eagle-Rock-School-Classroom

That doesn’t mean we ignore the basics, such as mathematics, critical thinking, grammar and history. But one of the things that makes Eagle Rock School special is our curriculum that aims to present classes that challenge the mind, appreciate the environment and defend the underserved.

Offerings this trimester range from a study of the inequities of our nation’s prison system to recycling the world’s trash and creating art — in a class that is appropriately called “recreARTe.”

Below is a list of the first five-week class offerings currently underway at Eagle Rock, along with a brief description of what it is our students are undertaking in this new trimester (look for a follow-up post — covering the second set of five-week classes — around the 5th of July):

All Who Dared: Students enrolled in this class are using journalism techniques to uncover and document the history of Eagle Rock as we prepare to celebrate our 25th Anniversary. Through interviews, document examination, and other research methods, the class is collecting and presenting the Continue reading…

From Flying Physics to Dragon Flies: Latest Classes Are Underway

Fresh off our spring break, Eagle Rock School has begun ER 72, which is the 72nd trimester since the school was founded back in the early 1990s. And that means a new offering of nontraditional class is on the schedule for our students.

Enter_To-Learn

For certain there are traditional classroom topics covering everything from English to mathematics, but Eagle Rock has always marched to the beat of a different curriculum, and ER 72 is no different.

For instance, some might consider the topic of physics as rather dry and droll. Not so much when you add roller coasters to the equation. In Physics of Roller Coasters, which you can read about below, our students will learn the physics of roller coasters and build their own Screaming Terror (that’s right, students get to name their rides, too).

Other offerings this trimester include a class called Rethinking Pop Media Culture, another called Dragon Fly Citizen Science — which does not entail giant mutant insects — and a class exploring the classic 1950s stage play, “A Raisin in the Sun.”

Below are class topics and a brief explanation of what it is our students are undertaking in this new trimester: Continue reading…

The Eagle Rock School Student as a Citizen Scientist

At the risk of sounding boastful, I’d have to say that our Dragonfly Citizen Science class (offered in 2014 and again earlier this year) had global implications that far surpass what’s going on in the pristine areas surrounding our mountainside campus. And really, that’s why citizen science is so important.

Put simply, Eagle Rock School students enrolled in this class took samples of dragonfly larvae from water sources within the nearby Rocky Mountain National Park in order to determine the mercury levels within that larval stage. Mercury is a toxic pollutant that can be harmful to the health of both humans and wildlife. And because dragonflies spend most of their lives in the larval stage, our students visit the national park and collect dragonfly larvae from ponds and lake bottoms with nets.

As citizen scientists, Eagle Rock School students have the exciting opportunity to be involved in a national project coordinated by the National Park Service by investigating the risk and transfer of mercury around food webs. The samples are then sent to the USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center for mercury analyses. The study connects people to parks and provides baseline data to better understand the spatial distribution of mercury contamination in national parks.

Our Dragonfly Citizen Science students discussed what mercury is, where it comes from, and why National Park personnel around the country care about this. Students also became experts on identifying dragonfly larvae — among other living species — taking water samples and using sampling protocols.

When students find themselves within a national park several times a week, taking samples, gathering data and hiking to remote locations, they soon find themselves rooted in real science and research.

We aren’t sitting in a classroom, watching slides about dragonflies or discussing the dangers of mercury. Instead, we’re 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…