Growing Equity Together Update: City Neighbors High School

Editor’s Note: Back in May of this year, we told you about a handful of Eagle Rock staffers who had recently attended Deeper Learning 2016 — a three-day conference in San Diego, Calif., that attracted a powerful group of educators, all of whom were focused on creating more opportunities for students to learn deeply.

It was at that event that Eagle Rock’s professional development associate, Sarah Bertucci — who is participating in a 24-month Deeper Learning Equity Fellowship — presented a project proposal that involved facilitating a cohort of five schools through a yearlong process aimed at improving equity in the schools through independent projects. That project, titled Growing Equity Together, was launched this summer when staff from the five schools gathered in Estes Park for the first-ever Growing Equity Together Summer Institute.

With that as a backdrop for today’s post, below is update from one of the five schools participating in project (City Neighbors High School in Baltimore, MD):

From Cheyanne Zahrt, Principal — City Neighbors High School:

After attending the Deeper Learning and Equity program last summer at Eagle Rock, City Neighbors High School decided to embark on increasing student’s independent skills through independent projects. As a school, our teachers have worked with students on content-driven projects, but we have never embarked on independent projects.

In short, each advisor agreed to take on this endeavor and to create a plan that best supports the students and each grade level. As a staff, we started off the academic year by sharing our interests and creating posters that represent us individually. The staff collaborated around this activity and we used it to Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Alums Reflect on their Presentations of Learning

Among the things we’re proudest of at Eagle Rock School are our thrice-annual Presentations of Learning (POLs), during which our students present a self-appraisal of their educational progress during the previous trimester. And they do so each time before a live audience of teachers, administrators, notables and community members interested in alternatives to educational assessment.

This “rite of passage” gives students the chance to show what they’ve learned in the preceding months — a sort of show and tell for learning and academic progress. (Note: If you’d like to learn more about POLs, please read: Understanding Eagle Rock’s Presentations Of Learning.)

Presentation of Learning

Presentation of Learning

With that in mind, what we’re presenting below are the thoughtful memories and experiences of 15 Eagle Rock School graduates who, over their time here, presented their share of POLs. Some of these recollections provide insight into the process and others describe the life-changing effects such sessions have had on these grads lives since their departure from Eagle Rock.

We’re delighted and proud to hear from these former students, and we’re impressed with their take on POLs: Continue reading…

For Just a Short While, There Was a Poet Among Us

Edgar-Kunz-Poet-Eagle-Rock-School-VisitOakland, Calif., poet Edgar Kunz has been a familiar face around the Eagle Rock campus the past few months, sparking interest in poetry in the form of readings, presentations and visits to poetry slams.

Kunz is one of 5 first-year Wallace Stegner Fellows in Poetry at Stanford University’s Creative Writing Program. His poetry can be found in New England Review, AGNI Literary Magazine, The Missouri Review, Narrative Magazine, and the annual Best New Poets anthology series, among other places. Middlebury Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Academy of American Poets, and Vanderbilt University — where Kunz earned his Masters degree in Fine Arts — have all supported his writing over the years.

During his visits here, readings were held for Eagle Rock School students and staff, with the poet reciting selections of his poems that have been published in various literary journals. In a Q&A session following his October visit, Kunz responded to questions about his Continue reading…

Recapping Our Latest Wilderness Presentations of Learning

Eagle Rock’s 66th trimester (ER 66) brought us 10 fresh-off-the-bus students and a return to the wilderness for our New Student Wilderness Orientation Course. The program remains among the staples of the Eagle Rock School student experience and, in fact, we have been conducting these courses since the school’s founding in the early-1990s.

Three times a year, we gear up and head out to the Superstition Mountains of Arizona, the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico, or the Lost Creek Wilderness in Colorado for a 24-day backpacking course. The trips also include rock climbing, rappelling and a three-day solo experience.

This orientation program places students in unique situations, during which they have the opportunity to gain valuable learning experiences. This learning is made possible by placing students in a new, unfamiliar setting (wilderness) where they must rely on themselves and each other to succeed, and where the usual distractions of adolescent life — smartphones, TV, fast food, drugs and alcohol, cars, malls, cosmetics and hair products — are absent.

Eagle Rock School Wilderness Orientation

Underlying this novel setting and providing the basis for change is a foundation of trust and the student’s perception of the wilderness as a setting riddled with danger and risk. Overcoming the unique problems that a wilderness trip typically presents requires a cooperative effort among all group members.

Putting together the “wilderness puzzle” of problems leads to feelings of accomplishment, enhanced self awareness and self control, as well as a feeling of personal responsibility for self, others and the natural environment. In the end, the skills that students develop on the course will help them successfully contribute to the Eagle Rock community and ultimately to society as a whole.

Courses are 24 days in length due to the fact that it usually takes an individual about three to four weeks to develop a habit or change a behavior. We think 21 days is the minimum amount of time we can spend in the field to effect positive changes. Most students don’t become aware of, or begin working on, changing behaviors until five to eight days into the course, so the task for us is to have students continue the work they started on the wilderness trip back on campus.

While on the wilderness course, students are working on skills related to Eagle Rock’s mission and philosophy (8+5=10) in the following categories:  Continue reading…

Understanding Eagle Rock’s Presentations of Learning (POLs)

Three times during each school year, students enrolled at the Eagle Rock School participate in a self-appraisal of their educational successes during the previous trimester, and they do it in public, before a live audience that is searching for evidence of learning from the student.

Presentation of Learning

Presentation of Learning

It’s Share and Tell on steroids, and for Eagle Rock students it’s an opportunity to present themselves as learners. The process is called Presentation of Learning (POL), and it serves as a rite of passage for all Eagle Rockers. POLs enable our students to make a case that they have soaked in an abundance of learning in the preceding months on campus.

This process isn’t at all about getting credit in courses, because students either have or have not documented learning to a level of mastery in their courses. POLs are an overarching tool for our students, allowing them to pause in learning, reflect, synthesize and analyze. They are tasked with considering both personal and academic growth, linking their learning to past learning, and projecting future learning goals. All within a 15-minute presentation.

The panel observing these deliveries consists of teachers, administrators, community members and others who are interested in alternative assessment, education renewal, and the progress of our students.

Before sitting down for these live sessions, panelists have in hand a packet of information produced by the student. This includes a Continue reading…