Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center Staff Crisscrosses the Nation

If what Newton says is true, a body at motion will remain in motion unless it is halted, and so far this year, nothing has slowed down our Professional Development Center (PDC). Our PDC staff has been working nonstop since late summer, and there are still plenty of engagements to facilitate, guide and complete before year’s ends.

Since late summer, we’ve been working side by side with educators from throughout the country who borrow our expertise and experience in a continuing effort to retain, reinvigorate and re-engage young people in school districts spreading from Washington, D.C. to Washington State.


In late August and the first week of September, PDC staffer Anastacia Galloway and world languages instructional specialist Brighid Scanlon visited Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in Bronx, N.Y., to launch peer observation cycles focused on Fred Newmann’s Authentic Intellectual Work framework. Teachers were asked to focus specifically on substantive conversation in the classroom.

Also in early September, PDC associate director Dan Condon visited Tech Leadership High School in Albuquerque, N.M., a project-based school that develops leaders in the technology field. These young students explore the technology, startup and business professions by engaging in collaborative work within in a small, supportive, school environment.

At the same time, Sarah spent three days at Innovations High School in Reno, Nev., focusing on learning that is relevant, interesting and vigorous. Sarah performed an assets observation of this “engaged learning” concept that she will use as examples at a work fair this winter.

Mid-September found our director of professional development, Michael Soguero, in Santa Fe, N.M., for youth summit meetings sponsored by the city of Santa Fe. Eagle Rock is a cosponsor of the 2015 Youth Summit, training local young people beforehand in the planning of this youth-oriented event. The summit is run on behalf of Santa Fe’s Children and Youth Commission and the youth recommendations gathered by Michael will be a source of a position paper drafted by the Santa Fe mayor’s office.

While in New Mexico, Michael attended a 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…

Eagle Rock School Touted in Many Educational Manuscripts

Our school finds its way into a number of published works that tout our tools as a learning community, as described in two full books about the school, as well as manuscripts that contain full chapters devoted to our education system, or just a mention in passing.

Below we’ve compiled a list of these books and published works, along with their authors, in case you’re interested in reading how the rest of the world sees our unique approach to high school education.

Not surprising, most of these mentions praise our insistence on actively engaging our students in their learning by placing the emphasis on the student voice in the equation.

Books Fully Featuring Eagle Rock:

86709562The Other Side of Curriculum — Lessons from Learners  by Lois Easton (Heinemann, December 2001)

Eagle Rock School is the protagonist behind this book, where Lois Easton discusses practical tools for creating an effective learning community — all based on her experiences working at Eagle Rock.

She says that at Eagle Rock, the learners are central and the curriculum is responsive to their needs. The book answers the question: What should students know and be able to do, and how do educators help them to know and do it?

Each chapter begins with a story of learning at Eagle Rock that illustrates a concept of curriculum. Easton describes that concept and offers questions that will help educators translate the concept to their own situation. The book discusses curriculum in relation to culture, instruction-assessment, learner-centered education, competency-based systems, self-directed learning and personal growth.

15240_Easton_Disengaged_72ppiRGB_150pixwEngaging the Disengaged — How Schools Can Help Struggling Students Succeed by Lois Easton (Corwin, October 2007)

This second book based on Lois Brown Easton’s experiences at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center, is intended to assist educators to make positive connections with youngsters of all ages who are at risk of failing or dropping out.

It includes creating a school-wide climate that supports all students and promotes academic, personal and social growth. That includes changes to teacher-student relationships, teaching approaches for Continue reading…

Engaged Global Citizen As Part Of Eagle Rock’s 5 Expectations

Teacher_LoungeA quick glance at the curriculum here at Eagle Rock School illustrates how we insist our students take charge — and take possession — of their own learning experiences and responsibilities. As a value-driven school, we encourage our students to concentrate heavily on mastering certain competencies.

Among these competencies is a fundamental philosophy that we call “8 + 5 = 10.” That’s eight themes, five expectations and 10 commitments that are a roadmap of sorts, intended to shape daily experiences both on campus and off.

Specifically, among the five expectations are:

  1. Learning to communicate effectively
  2. Expanding one’s knowledge base
  3. Become an engaged global citizen
  4. Acquiring leadership skills in order to achieve justice
  5. Creating healthy life choices

A few weeks ago we told you about Expanding Knowledge Base as Part of Eagle Rock’s 5 Expectations. In today’s post, we’re going to tackle the intricacies of the third expectation: evolving into engaged global citizens. And what is it that we expect from these newly emerging global citizens?

This expectation is based on a worldwide plan of action, where we encourage our students to develop skills and knowledge in order to concentrate on peaceful, productive interactions with global issues within the context of cultural and ecosystem diversity.

What are some of these issues? According to the non-profit Peace Jam a Denver-based nonprofit that we align with very closely, especially as it relates to helping our students become engaged global citizens — these issues include: Continue reading…

Meet The Team: Susie D’Amico, Eagle Rock Administrative Assistant And Receptionist

rhinoSusie D’Amico is Eagle Rock’s receptionist and administrative assistant, and while that includes handling inquiries, keeping tabs on schedules and a host of office duties, she’s tasked with a lot more.

For instance, Susie assists our school’s leadership team in assigned projects and she helps our nurse and the Health and Wellness department obtain medical care for students. She work with our Public Allies Fellows to provide logistics for student health appointments off campus and she assists licensure candidates navigate the Colorado Department of Education for their teaching licenses.

Despite all these administrative chores, Susie calls Eagle Rock a library for finding bliss. She enjoys students’ openness and self-reflection and the fact that many of them share their discoveries with her.

We asked Susie to sit down briefly and fill us in a little bit about her history. Here’s what this busy front-of-the-office Eagle Rock representative had to say:

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

Susie: Before Eagle Rock — when I wasn’t working in other offices — I assisted my husband Dan D’Amico in traveling and promoting his fine art.

Eagle Rock: What attracted you to Eagle Rock?

Susie: Eagle Rock offered an opportunity to serve with a nonprofit. The environment for students is exactly the vision that all schools should provide and I am Continue reading…

Latest Eagle Rock School Classes Explore Everything from Coaching to Carpentry

Below is a sampling of some of this trimester’s unique classroom offerings that are already underway here at Eagle Rock School — each designed to challenge the mind, develop global citizenship or promote creativity and critical thinking. You’ll note that for the most part, there’s no memorization of historic dates or wheat export totals from Yugoslavia.

It’s education, but it’s education that’s useful in real life. We begin with three 10-week classes on education, eating and exploring (research). The other courses run five weeks.

Here then is a brief synopsis of some of the classes that began a week or so ago:

What is Education For?: Students begin this quest by looking at the foundational role of philosophy in education. Eagle Rock students are asked to answer three questions:

  1. ER_StudentWhat is real?
  2. What is true?
  3. What is good?

They’ll research the meaning and history of education as it has been delivered and experienced in the United States. Students are developing their own tools for making observations and we will be using these tools while visiting schools where different curricula, teaching methods and student populations are present. By applying what is learned from firsthand observations, from history, personal experience and context, each student will prepare and present their own Leadership for Justice action plan for improving education in the context of Eagle Rock’s mission and vision. Finally, the class will plan and conduct a mini-conference, bringing together different voices in dialogue arriving at new insights and directions in response to the perennial question, “What Is Education For?”

You Are What You Eat. By examining what students eat, they learn how the foods we consume impact their daily and long-term health. Students will track their food choices, discover how those food choices affect their bodies, and then make predictions about their future health based on their current choices. Students will figure out how what they eat today will impact their health tomorrow.

Research: In this 10-week class, students investigate and research a topic about which they are curious, steadily progressing from a novice to an expert in that particular field. Students will choose their topic through a process that balances interests with the general feasibility of the topic. They’ll learn how to find and evaluate both print and digital sources, examining the main arguments, purposes and biases within them. Students will pull key ideas and details from the sources in notes that support their emerging research questions and claims. Then they will learn how to synthesize and represent their growing body of knowledge in an organized way, eventually sharing their new understanding around their topic by developing a thesis statement and writing a traditional research paper.

Riverwatch Citizen Science: In this five-week class, students are exploring the health of the Big Thompson River, while engaging in the sport of fly fishing. Students are tasked wit collecting water samples and macroinvertebrates (bugs) of the Big Thompson River. They will then analyze their samples, which will help them to determine the river’s health. Their data will then be used by the Continue reading…

Residential Life at Eagle Rock School Explained

Student housing at Eagle Rock School has always been an exercise in evolutionary change and this trimester promises to be no different. Among the biggest draws to our campus are the living arrangements we offer our students, providing them with an atmosphere that is warm and non-threatening; in a word, supportive.

There are six student houses here on our mountainside campus — each housing seven boys and seven girls in separate wings — and each supported by a pair of house parents. In recent years, we eliminated a student bed, wardrobe, desk and chair from each wing in order to give our students a little more elbow room.

Eagle Rock School Living Village
Eagle Rock School Living Village

What remains is a team structure within each house that provides students with ample opportunities for interpersonal growth, as well as the lessons that arise from sustained group activities such as intramural sports, service projects, chores, house dinners, outings and retreats.

In addition to house parents within each residential dwelling, our board recently approved adding a residential life coordinator position to the team here at Eagle Rock. Our first such coordinator is J. Jacques Fournet, II, who is tasked with supporting and evolving the residential life experience. Jacques brings an elevated focus to residential life with the ultimate goal of helping us become more responsive to student needs.

Here’s a rundown on how the individual houses looked before the beginning of this trimester: Continue reading…