The summer of 2017 is history, and for new and returning Eagle Rock School students, it’s the beginning of a fresh trimester — the 73rd since our founding in the early 1990s. And as reliable as the season’s change is here in the Rocky Mountains, so to comes the promise of a progressive lineup of class offerings tailor-made for our diverse student body. Take mathematics for example. Your typical high school curriculum lists class offerings in spades, ranging from Algebra, Geometry and Algebra 2, to Pre-Calculus and Calculus.
But how does this sound as a more engaging alternative: The mathematics of casino gambling? We’ve got that class already underway for those who like to have fun with their numbers while learning.
Or how about chemistry? Most high schools feature classes that entail a lot of memorization, periodic tables, and some lab work. Unless it’s a class about the chemical changes that take place when preparing a meal. Now we’re really cooking. And the “final exam” for that class revolves around a student-hosted food fair.
Below are descriptions of a number of class topics offered this trimester — most of them unique and all of them designed from the ground up to be both interesting and engaging:
Borders & Identity: In this class, students are exploring their own identity through the lens of the U.S.-Mexican border and the human stories, learning and reflecting on the visible and invisible borders we each confront every day. Learning Spanish is a goal, in order to build bridges between people and community, and compare, contrast and write from multiple points of view. During the first five weeks, participants are diving into the world of migration and identity, formulating their own informed perspectives through video and field work — all the while communicating in Spanish. During the second five weeks, they will continue to explore borders and identity and develop a culminating action-project that propose solutions to the immigration and border debate.
Chemistry of Cooking: In this unique chemistry class, students are studying the chemical changes that food undergoes when it is cooked and processed. They are using techniques such as browning, kneading, emulsifying, and fermentation in order to create different tastes and textures in foods. Once they’ve created these dishes using these techniques, they will analyze the results using the chemistry they’ve learned. The end goal is to host a food fair for the community in which we teach them about the chemistry behind what they are eating.
Foreign Language Independent Study: This class is a pilot foreign language course in the form of a facilitated independent study, and while students selected a “foreign language of their choice,” they are also part of an intercultural class, where everyone is learning a different language. As they learn the basics, students share those learnings with peers, teaching their chose language and contributing to a multi-lingual intercultural conversation cafe in the classroom. Learning the language of their choice entails online language learning programs, local/global speakers of that language that will act as experts for practice, and exploring the culture of the chosen language through virtual travel, eating food, and project creation.
Democracy Now: Democracy is defined as a system of government in which the greatest power of a nation is invested in its people. In this class, students are exploring the structure and function of our government and questioning the merits of this system as a democracy. Students are engaging in deep learning, critical questioning and reflection on democracy — with the opportunity to apply their learning to improve democracy within Eagle Rock School as well.
Rocky Mountain National Park Murals: Students in this class are designing and painting 15-foot-long mural in the Rocky Mountain National Park. In preparation for this task, students are researching and exploring photos and images of the park and interviewing rangers about their jobs in order to create an indoor mural that best represents the Rocky Mountain National Park. Students are picking up various mural techniques, and developing leadership skills, all the while strengthening the long-running Eagle Rock School/National Park connection.
Feeling Lucky: Students enrolled in this class are doing far more than just learning the mathematics of gambling. They’re seeking answers to questions like these: If the casino always wins, why do people gamble? Why are more and more states legalizing gambling? Is there a best way to play casino games? What is gambling addiction and what can be done to address it? Centered on the casino world, this class helps students make calculated decisions, explore gaming and discuss its social implications. In addition to gambling, students will create casino-style games prior to hosting their own casino night for the Eagle Rock community.
Research: In this class, students first selected a topic they’d like to research, and new they’re beginning the process of immersing themselves in that topic, steadily progressing from novices to experts in that particular field. They are learning how to find and evaluate both print and digital sources, examining the main arguments, purposes and biases within them. Students are learning how to synthesize and represent their growing body of knowledge in an organized way, eventually sharing that new understanding by means of a thesis statement and a traditional research paper.
Lifelong Fitness: Cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition are all components of this class, which surmises that “being fit” can include people of all shapes and sizes. Students are applying components of fitness to exercise activities such as swimming, weight training, and yoga, and are testing their own bodies to determine levels and aspects of fitness. These results can help them make predictions about their future health and how to improve or maintain fitness.
Coaching: In this class, students are learning what is entailed in becoming a good coach by learning what differentiates a well-respected coach from a so-so or not-so-good coach. They are practicing coaching skills live on the soccer field with members of the community’s grade school students. Working with the Estes Park Youth Soccer League, students will receive immediate feedback from our coaching staff, as well as from lesson plans. These newfound skills can be used for a variety of sports and fitness programs.
Editor’s Note: If you’d like to know more about the philosophy and principles behind our school’s curriculum, feel free to contact our director of curriculum, Jen Frickey, by emailing jenfrickey at eaglerockschool dot org. In the meantime, check back one month or so from now for a rundown of the classes being offered during the second half of the fall 2017 trimester.