Eagle Rock School Summer Break Means Saying Goodbye and Hello

To date, it’s been an incredibly busy month here at Eagle Rock, what with the graduation of five Eagle Rock School students on Aug. 5, our end of the trimester staff meeting on Aug. 9, bidding farewell to nine of our Public Allies fellows on Aug. 12, and then shortly thereafter saying goodbye to four of our staffers.

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So a break in the schedule is well deserved and welcome. However, while students and some of the staff will be taking some time off, our Professional Development Center (PDC) staff remains on the job, working in California, the Ohio Valley, and Boulder. Look for the PDC’s latest update here on the blog soon.

Meanwhile, here’s the game plan beginning early next month: Continue reading…

Books Recommended for Summer Reading by Eagle Rock Staffers

Editor’s Note: It’s summertime, and the reading comes easy — at least that’s what four Eagle Rock School staff members will have you believe. Below, each of these educators highlights a favorite book or two and why he or she recommends that particular read. If a description strikes you as interesting, just click on the accompanying book cover to activate a link to the selection on Amazon. At that point, you can purchase the book and have it mailed to you or download it to a laptop or tablet. At the end of this post, we offer links to other blog posts containing previous book suggestions from our staff.

Last Child of The Woods CoverLast Child in the Woods: Saving our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder — by Richard Louv

“For many years I was a self-appointed inspector of snow storms and rain storms” — Henry David Thoreau

This book does a phenomenal job of stating explicitly what educators generally intuitively know about the outdoors: It can foster creativity, help increase focus, and help us re-connect with our senses. In this book, a variety of studies are explored, displaying how exposure to the natural world can improve a student’s physical health, emotional health, and even reduce depression. Louv discusses practical ways to incorporate the natural world into the more “traditional” school setting and re-ignite a sense of wonder about the mysteries of the natural world. He concludes with the argument that if we are to save the natural world from human destruction, the decision-makers of tomorrow — that would be the students of today — must have an emotional and physical connection to the environment. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the benefits of incorporating more outdoor education in their instructional practice. — Recommended by Matt Bynum, Eagle Rock Outdoor Education Adjunct Instructional Specialist

The Adventure Gap CoverThe Adventure Gap — by James Edward Mills
Those who partake in human-powered outdoor recreation — as a whole, they do not reflect the evolving demographics of Americans. It is evident that many factors impact both access and feelings of inclusion. As James Edward Mills writes, “”Passion alone isn’t enough…Like the achievement gap that limits social mobility and access to higher education or better job prospects, the adventure gap is widened by limitations in financial resources.” In The Adventure Gap, Mills narrates the 2013 “Expedition Denali” trip that took nine African Americans to the tallest peak in North America. The book not only tells the story of these outdoor adventurers, but it highlights unknown African American history in the outdoors. It introduces us to Sophia Danenberg, the first African American woman to ascend Mount Everest, and Kai Lightner, an accomplished climber from North Carolina. This book is a stepping-stone to a larger discussion that we as outdoors enthusiasts, educators, and activists need to have. Although Mills states that the mountains do not discriminate, we live in a society where the Continue reading…

Explore Week — An Opportunity for Students to Go with the Flow

When we hear that someone is “in the zone,” or “on fire,” we know these terms are describing a person who is performing at his or her peak. Whether it’s the basketball player who hits 15 free throws in a row or a jazz drummer improvising complex patterns at breakneck speed, we recognize great skill when we see it.

However, what we might not realize is that the potential to achieve this state of being exists in every one of us. And unlocking this potential is possible given the right circumstances and application of willpower. In fact, by becoming concurrently relaxed, alert, focused and responsive, achieving Flow is a mental and physical condition allowing most of us to operate at the top of our abilities.

Learning how to go with the flow is the topic of just one of Eagle Rock School’s learning options underway this week (Feb. 22-26) both on and off campus. It’s all part of our Explore Week, an opportunity for students to explore a variety of topics that don’t start with the “three R’s” of “reading, writing and ’rithmatic.”

Eagle Rock Explore Week

Instead, our student population is participating in a week’s worth of education surrounding music, art, hobbies, sports, outdoor activities and other pursuits intended to expand the mind and body beyond regular classes.

We’re going to begin this list of course titles underway through Friday, including the above-mentioned “Go with the flow,” offering, as well as a short description of the instructors teaching these one-of-a-kind courses: Continue reading…

Meet The Team: Matt Bynum, Eagle Rock’s Outdoor Education Adjunct Instructor

Matt_Bynum_Eagle_Rock_SchoolThe one place you’ll seldom find our latest featured Eagle Rock educator is in the classroom. Matt Bynum is our outdoor education adjunct instructor and you can’t do all that much hands-on teaching about the Great Outdoors when four walls topped by a ceiling surround you.

Matt starts each trimester either instructing or directing our Wilderness Orientation course, and then, if time permits, he teaches an Explore Week course. The second half of each trimester finds him busy managing the wilderness gear, developing curriculum for our outdoor offerings, coordinating the Veteran Pin system, serving on our Risk Management Committee, and teaching the occasional wilderness class.

We sat Matt down — not an easy task — and quizzed him on his background and interest in progressive education.  Here’s what he had to say:

Eagle Rock: Where did you receive your college degrees?

Matt Bynum: I graduated in 2006 from Western State College in Gunnison, Colo. I majored in outdoor leadership and minored in environmental studies. The classes I took there helped get me really excited for outdoor education while building a solid base from which to work. I loved the hands-on approach and small class sizes. I can’t thank those professors enough. 

ER: What did you do prior to coming to work for Eagle Rock? 

Matt: Before my Public Allies fellowship in 2009, I worked as an instructor and course director at Outward Bound in Colorado for five years. These were predominantly mountaineering courses. I also did a summer of trail work, taught environmental science, and guided outdoor trips at my college. Immediately before coming back to Eagle Rock in 2013, I was teaching at a public school in Commerce City through Goodwill. When I was not instructing, I spent time traveling and climbing in Patagonia, Ecuador and Asia. 

ER: What attracted you to Eagle Rock? 

Matt: A friend in college first told me about Eagle Rock. A few years later, I was Continue reading…

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:

Robotics
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.

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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 Continue reading…