Tips for Videoconferencing with Professional Learning Communities

School Reform Initiative (SRI) protocols within Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) have more impact when they are facilitated face-to-face by a skilled facilitator.

Being a member of the professional development team here at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center, I personally support about 10 school network or district clients nationally, which means there are times when I can’t be with them in person. Such face-to-face meetings are important, and I try to arrange these more personal consultations when possible.

But for those times when that’s not possible, I’ve facilitated such gatherings using Zoom’s video and web conferencing platform — a simple to use online tool that allows me to increase the amount of support I can offer clients sandwiched between in-person consulting visits to their local context.

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If you’re unfamiliar with them, School Reform Initiative protocols offer structured processes to support focused and productive conversations, build collective understanding, and drive school improvement. Thoughtful use of these protocols is an integral part of building resilient professional learning communities.

In recent months, I’ve gathered up and written down a number of tips I believe can greatly increase efficacy of such gatherings online. These tips, which I’ll offer here as suggestions, include: Continue reading…

Our Latest Class Offerings Span From Robots to Sex-Ed

We’re comfortably squeezing in an abundance of learning between this week — which heralds the beginning of the second half of the fall trimester — and Dec. 9, which is the last day of classes before Winter Break.

From robotics to woodwork, from astronomy to sex-ed, this 70th trimester in the history of Eagle Rock School includes classes that are both challenging and potentially life changing to participating students.

Late last month we listed the first batch of new classes (see Eagle Rock 70 Classes Underway — And Here’s What’s Being Offered). Below is a list of other classroom offerings for the trimester, along with a description of each class:

Robotics
In the past decade, we have seen the rise of smartphones and drones, along with the first computer to beat a world-ranked Go player. With this growing sector around computer technology come job opportunities galore, not to mention the enjoyment of toying with robots, solving tricky problems, software coding and the intricacies of electronic circuitry. In this class, students demonstrate what they’ve learned in teams, each designing, creating, testing and redesigning a robot to meet specific challenges.

Human Sexuality
In this class students are exploring sex and sexual health from a number of perspectives. However, this isn’t your father’s sex-ed class. Instead, participants are looking at sexuality through different newspapers, magazines, websites, documentaries, films, fiction and non-fiction. The focus is on stories and experiences from around the world that can be used to better understand sexuality and healthy relationships. Digital recording and podcasts are also being used to share stories and information.

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Theater Tech
Theatre Tech is designed to provide Eagle Rock School students with a basic understanding and practice of Continue reading…

Eagle Rock 70 Classes Underway — And Here’s What’s Being Offered

Classroom instruction began a month ago for the 70th semester of Eagle Rock School, with returning students participating in many of the classes listed below.

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Meanwhile, incoming ER 70 students set off on Sept. 26 for what serves as an initiation process here at Eagle Rock — our signature New Student Wilderness Orientation Program. These new students have since returned from that 24-day experience, and are busily preparing their Wilderness Program presentations of learning (POLs) that will be presented Saturday, Oct. 29.

Other activities on the immediate horizon include Explore Week — which takes place Oct. 31 through Nov.4 — and the beginning of the second half of the trimester beginning Nov. 7. The last day of classes before winter break is Dec. 9.

Below is a partial list of class offerings for the trimester, along with a description of the courses:

Harlem Renaissance

In this class, students are transported back to Harlem, New York between 1919 and 1935, seeing the neighborhood through the eyes of some of the brightest minds of the 20th century. A renaissance is a rebirth, and theirs — preempted by freedom — is expressed through bold colors, strong voices, and passion that launched a culture and was the foundation for the Continue reading…

From Farm to Table to Deviance & Social Control — Eagle Rock School’s Diverse Class Offerings: Part Deux

Here at Eagle Rock School, we have always added new meaning to the term unique class offerings, and in fact, we’re fairly well known nationwide for the progressiveness of our classroom topics.

For example, not many high schools offer a class in on-the-job training to be a park ranger. In fact, some of our students will even be on the payroll of the Rocky Mountain National Park during the upcoming summer break as a direct result of taking this class.

Eagle Rock School Learning Resource Center

Below, we present the second of a pair of blog posts describing the unique classes offered during this, the second half of ER 69 (the 69th trimester since our founding in the fall of 1993):

Farm To Table: In this class, Eagle Rock School students are studying the methods and effects of different food production systems around the world. By planting, harvesting and tending the Eagle Rock garden, our “farmers” are growing and producing food for our own school cafeteria. A primary outcome of this class is to transform the Continue reading…

69 Trimesters Later, Eagle Rock is Still Offering Diverse Courses

One of the many things at Eagle Rock School for which we’re recognized is the diversity of our classroom offerings. For instance, you won’t find many traditional high schools that offer a class in the politics of music. Or how about a class that explores the notion that our educational system is inequitable, and then empowers students to do something about it.

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Below, we present the first of two blog posts listing and describing the unique class offerings for the first half of ER 69 — the 69th trimester since Eagle Rock’s founding in the early 1990s:

Deeper Learning & Equity

Our educational system is inequitable, and there are numerous structures and tools that people use to address that fact. In this class, Eagle Rock School students are looking closely at these structures. That includes those “No Excuses” schools that are exceptionally strict and teach a traditional curriculum, as well as the “Deeper Learning” concept — where students study topics in depth and often do projects to make a change in their communities. Students plan and facilitate a retreat for educators who want to improve equity in their schools, and our students have the opportunity to support those schools next year through the work of our own Professional Development Center. The retreat will take place during the second five weeks of the summer, so students will have responsibilities after the five-week course ends. But it’s a window to making a real difference in education and gain amazing real-world skills.

Music Politics

How does Beyonce fit in the succession of powerful Black divas that preceded her? What does it mean that Justin Timberlake is producing a country album? In this class students are learning the history, economics, politics and cultural context of the music we all listen to. Popular music is more than just beats and lyrics. It is one of the best ways to understand the values, prejudices and fantasies of our culture. Students listen, analyze and discuss songs, thinking critically about race, gender, genre, technology, money and the stories of the artists behind the music. Each student is expected to create an Continue reading…

Personal Reflection Plays A Significant Role in Our Latest Class Offerings

As we reach the midpoint in in our winter/spring trimester, Eagle Rock School students find themselves wrapped up in unique classroom experiences that we believe will affect and influence the rest of their lives. What we offer here is the second installment of descriptions about the latest lineup of five- and 10-week classes, many of which offer Eagle Rock School students unmatched opportunities to reflect on who they are and what they stand for.

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The People’s History: In The People’s History, students are examining U.S. history through African American, American Indian, Asian American and Latino American points of view. Students are looking at individuals and groups that had an impact on history and their styles of change and leadership. A strong focus is on the importance of change as outside groups stepped in and collaborated in change efforts. By using perspectives on the past, we students are being encouraged to explore and construct ideas and or ways they can have an impact today and in the future through our own leadership for change.

Human Sexuality: While this class includes students exploring sex and sexual health from many different perspectives, this is definitely not your normal sex-education class. Students are looking closely at sexuality through different media, including newspapers, magazines, websites, documentaries, film, fiction and non-fiction and are improving their reading, writing and thinking skills in the process. The focus is on understanding data about sex and sexuality as we use that data to think about our future sexual health. In addition to working toward the creating and making healthy life choices power standard and distribution credit, students also receive human sexuality required experience credit.

Five-week classes for the second half of this trimester include:

Storytelling & Animation: Here, Eagle Rock School students are being introduced to various techniques of storytelling and stop-motion animation. As a result, they are engaged in a process that has them looking toward other methods of storytelling, including radio drama, long-form journalism and folk stories. In addition, they are learning techniques of Continue reading…

Winter Classes Range from Musicals and Murals to Soilless Gardening

erslogo2Eagle Rock’s busy student body is already well into the winter trimester, with many among them enjoying a number of class offerings — most of them new — that promise to challenge their intellect and maybe even spark interest in an avocation, adventure or activity that can last an entire lifetime.

Ten-week classes sprinkled among the mix for ER 68 (our 68th semester since our founding of Eagle Rock School in the early 1990s) include:

La Telenovela: In this class, which we first offered in the fall of 2014, students analyze and create their own Spanish-language “soap opera” episodes. By doing so, they are gaining insight into telenovela structure, characters and themes by viewing real telenovelas. (For the uninitiated, a telenovela is a type of limited-run serial drama and popular on European, West Asian, Southeast Asian, Latin American, East Asian, South Asian, Arab World, Brazil, Portuguese and Spanish television networks.) By watching these programs, students are refining their reading, writing, listening and speaking skills in Spanish, which is enhanced by working together on their Spanish in the classroom. As a final project, students will be asked to script and film their own telenovelas — themselves portraying the characters as well as completing all of the required behind-the-scenes production work. They will work on acting as well as filming and directing techniques to produce the final episode. (Brighid Scanlon is teaching this class.)

Data Analysis: In this class, which first appeared at Eagle Rock School in the spring of 2015, students are beginning to explore data sets, looking for patterns and using statistics to answer student-generated questions. Each student explores one question, researching data that will help answer that question. By analyzing the information, they can communicate their newfound knowledge using infographics, written articles, presentation or blogs. Experts in the field, peers, and Eagle Rock staff will review the work and provide feedback for the inevitable revision. (Becky Poore and Helen Higgins are teaching this class.)

Five-week classes offered this trimester include:

101 Years of Murals: This all-day class presents students with the opportunity to appreciate what murals can teach us, communicate and add vitality to our lives. Students are part of a hard-working team with an emphasis on leadership that is designing and painting a mural in the Rocky Mountain National Park. We are learning how to use different mural techniques to create Part 2 in a series of murals. Students in this class are already capable at drawing — or are teachable — and they’re all willing to take risks. This class promises a lot of hard work, but it also promises to yield a lot of new skills as well as possible connections that may benefit them in the future. (Cindy Elkins and Claire Oliphant are teaching this class.)

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The Wiz” Musical: Ease on down the road with Continue reading…

From Rock ‘n‘ Read to Shakespeare in the Woods

Eagle Rock’s 66th trimester (ER 66) is at the halfway mark and new classes begin next Monday for the second installment of some fairly progressive offerings.

Earlier this week, we published a blog post about Explore Week and the variety of non-conventional learning opportunities that are available to students who want to experience something different on their way to graduation. No credits, no grades, just a chance to look at life through a new pair of glasses.

Now take a look at the some of the classes offered in the second half of this trimester. You’ll find more classes that engage the student, rather than force memorization of vague times and places, or archaic concepts that belong in a book — that remains on a shelf.

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Here then are eight classes scheduled for the second half of ER 66, which wraps up on Aug. 8.

Colorado Rocks

Imagine climbing above the clouds focused intently on your movement, then writing and sharing the experience with your fellow climbers. This class is a combination of climbing, reading, writing, and studying geology. Students will use each of these activities as a lens to examine both the geological world and ourselves. Students will rock climb two to three times each week as well as take a five-day climbing road trip.

Facing history and ourselves

The Holocaust was one of the most tragic demonstrations of violence and racism in the 20th century. It was also an incredible example of the power of compassion, hope and the human spirit. In this class, students will explore the events that led to the Holocaust through the lens of human behavior. What were the consequences of the beliefs and actions of those involved in the Holocaust? Utilizing the Facing History and Ourselves scope and sequence, students will start by examining the consequences of their own beliefs and actions before analyzing the impacts these have at a societal level. Students will be challenged to identify Continue reading…

From Dragonfly Citizen Science to Sacred Places

ER 66 classes (the 66th semester in Eagle Rock School’s illustrious history going back to September of 1993) get underway this week. And as you might expect of us, this wouldn’t be Eagle Rock if we didn’t present our students with an assortment of progressive class offerings from which to choose.

As you’ll see, you’re probably not going to find these particular classes offered at your traditional high school, but perhaps — depending on the school’s vision, goals and objectives — the possibility exists. And that’s really the point of blog posts like this one… to inspire educators around the nation with concrete examples of classes aimed at reengaging the disengaged.

With that in mind, what we have for you today is a Part One of a two-part series detailing this trimester’s classes here at the Eagle Rock School.

Come the end of June — the halfway mark of this trimester — I’ll be back to present you with a whole new list of classes that we’re offering for the second five-week stretch of ER 66.

Meanwhile, here’s a rundown of 10 classes being offered right now:

Hip Hop Odyssey

In this class, students gain an understanding of the power of words through exploring the impact of spoken word and hip-hop. Through learning about the history of various forms of art expression (e.g., spoken word, djing, graffiti, mcing, b-boying) students become informed enough to craft their own message as they speak for themselves and those who have no voice. The class includes a travel component where students travel to local and national venues to practice spoken word (sometime called “slam poetry”) and hip-hop.

P1080279Sacred Spaces

In this class students gain knowledge about the significance of sacred spaces for different people and cultures through researching and visiting sacred spaces in our area (Colorado’s Front Range) and observing how these sites are utilized. We read and watch videos on the diversity of sacred spaces in different cultural and spiritual practices, with reflections and journal entries addressing the application and value of sacred spaces in moral and faith development. Activities include creating a personal sacred space, creating or renewing a shared sacred space here on Eagle Rock’s mountainside campus, and traveling to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (located in the southwest corner of South Dakota on the Nebraska border) to extend our experience about sacred spaces recognized and valued by the Oglala Lakota people.

Run for your Life

Running is among the most basic of human functions. It allows us to cover distance at speed, be it for sport or for fitness or out of necessity. Whether students love to run, hate to run, or have never given it a real chance, this class helps Eagle Rock students discover the beauty of movement and tap into that natural and simple piece of your humanity. In this class students learn how their body changes and adapts to stress and work. We track students’ running statistics on a daily basis, analyze running form and learn how to develop a workout plan to help class participants achieve their goals. In this 10-week course, students run almost every day — rain or shine, on or off trail — with the goal of participating in running events ranging from Continue reading…

This Trimester Offers Classes from Statistics to Dystopia

Editor’s Note: Today we’re please to share Dan Condon’s second of two blog posts covering the unique class offerings we have at Eagle Rock this trimester — you know, the ones that steer clear of conformity and provide students with real opportunity to reengage in their own education. The first installment can be found here: Eagle Rock Classes That Add New Meaning to the Term ‘Non-traditional’.

Why these particular classes? Our diverse student body didn’t arrive at Eagle Rock with math books and chemistry mineral charts in hand. One of the reasons they come here is to get an education that includes taking classes that enrich, enlighten and engage.

By Dan Condon, Associate Director of Professional Development

Who Made Those Nikes? In a world where technology is connecting us across time and space, why are we becoming more and more disconnected from where things come from and the people who make them? In this class, students trace some of the items we consume every day — coffee, shoes, flowers, gasoline — from cradle to grave. And yeah, who made those Nikes? What conditions do they work in? Why does it matter? What roles do power and inequality play in global capitalism and what does this mean for our environment, our global community and specifically — the Eagle Rock student?

In Fresh Prints students explore the possibilities that exist in printmaking. We focus on silkscreen printing and we print our own designs on wearable and collectible objects. Here, we learn some of the history of printmaking and about current modern printmakers who are working today. In this course, our students discover the power of print to share a message, spread the word and explore their own creativity.

Do you ever look up into the night sky and wonder what’s up there? In Astronomy, we explore the features and origins of some of the most amazing occupants of the universe: galaxies, stars, moons, planets, black holes, comets and asteroids. We learn about the theory of gravity and how it affects objects in space. We also take night sky walks and learn how to Continue reading…