Promoting leadership skills has always at the top of the list when it comes to maximizing the personal growth of each of our students at Eagle Rock School. If you need examples, just look to our evolving Leadership for Justice (LFJ) curriculum and the Power Standard portfolio that is required of each student prior to graduation.
All students at Eagle Rock School are given the opportunity take on a variety of leadership roles throughout their time here, starting with our Wilderness Orientation Course where they are required to serve as Leader of the Day on several occasions.
This expectation continues at school with Kitchen Patrol, House Leader responsibilities, Chore Leader roles, Intramural Captainships, as well as other activities inherent to living in a high-functioning on campus community. In addition, we honor the times students are often quietly leading in non-formal leadership capacities around the community.
Enter the Co-curricular Leadership Development Prototype — a framework developed to enhance leadership opportunities and support throughout our students’ time here at Eagle Rock.
The first trimester of the “prototype” provided us with valuable insights into what was most important and engaging for the students as we worked with them in their real life leadership situations. You can give kudos to our enthusiasm, but truth be told, we didn’t fully plan out the experience and curriculum before we got students involved.
As a result of our zeal to rapid prototype and work with students to develop the leadership model and curriculum, we met with all of our student house leaders a half-dozen times throughout the last trimester — with all of those students engaged in a week long intensive leadership experience during a recent Explore Week with visiting instructor Tim Tolliver. This Explore Week experience, titled The FENIXX Project, focused on how we embody our leadership. Students were introduced to many practices such as centering, blending, the language of leadership, and the Jo Kata — a form of Aikido that can help to create a more focused leader in daily life.
Our sessions focused on checking in about their leadership roles, talking through dilemmas, discussing feedback, presenting leadership curriculum, and practicing some of the lessons learned during Explore Week.
Throughout this prototype, our staff took careful notes and gathered feedback from the students about what was most useful to them as developing leaders. This was helping us to further develop our evolving Eagle Rock School Leadership Model, which includes Self, Social, General, and Context specific areas of focus.
We are now taking the lessons from our fall 2015 prototype to implement this winter and spring. Looking ahead, we’ll meet more often and include a staff-training phase, all in support of developing a more comprehensive leadership curriculum and support structure for students.
LFJ, by the way, is one of the 10 commitments students sign when they are accepted to Eagle Rock School, vowing to “increase their capacity to exercise leadership for justice.”
The Power Standard is a portfolio of the students’ leadership development while at Eagle Rock. It includes documentation of their leadership roles, feedback, and reflections on lessons learned. It also documents a project each student completed that helped make Eagle Rock more equitable and just, or increased student voice.
Rather than solely relying on Leadership for Justice (LFJ) classes and the Eagle Rock Power Standard, we aim to have more consistent leadership expectations, accountability, and coaching for students throughout their Eagle Rock School careers.
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About The Author: Jesse Beightol is the outdoor education instructional specialist at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colo. There, he is responsible for all outdoor and adventure activities that take place at the school, including Eagle Rock’s 24-day New Student Wilderness Orientation Course. He also serves as the chair of Eagle Rock’s Risk Management Committee, oversees Eagle Rock’s Leadership for Justice curriculum, and assists with Eagle Rock’s Discipline Committee. Prior to Eagle Rock, Jesse worked as a wilderness instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), Wilderness Inquiry, Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge and Kent Mountain Adventure Center. Jesse earned a bachelor of science degree in outdoor education from Northland College (Ashland, Wis.) and a master’s degree in outdoor education from the University of New Hampshire (Durham, N.H.). He and his wife Denise both live on the Eagle Rock campus.