From Flying Physics to Dragon Flies: Latest Classes Are Underway

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Fresh off our spring break, Eagle Rock School has begun ER 72, which is the 72nd trimester since the school was founded back in the early 1990s. And that means a new offering of nontraditional class is on the schedule for our students.


For certain there are traditional classroom topics covering everything from English to mathematics, but Eagle Rock has always marched to the beat of a different curriculum, and ER 72 is no different.

For instance, some might consider the topic of physics as rather dry and droll. Not so much when you add roller coasters to the equation. In Physics of Roller Coasters, which you can read about below, our students will learn the physics of roller coasters and build their own Screaming Terror (that’s right, students get to name their rides, too).

Other offerings this trimester include a class called Rethinking Pop Media Culture, another called Dragon Fly Citizen Science — which does not entail giant mutant insects — and a class exploring the classic 1950s stage play, “A Raisin in the Sun.”

Below are class topics and a brief explanation of what it is our students are undertaking in this new trimester:

A Raisin in the Sun: In this class, students are reading the well-known stage play, “A Raisin in the Sun,” by Lorraine Hansberry. This dramatic play is about a black family attempting to survive life in South Side Chicago in the 1950s, and students are examining the historical context as well as the significance of this play in present-day culture. Students are also doing readings, watching videos, and engaging in current events that connect to the themes in the play. They will also have the opportunity to demonstrate what they learn through writing, discussion, and other creative outlets.


RecreArte: In this class, students are exploring the natural and man-made world of materials through the ‘recrearte’ theme — create, recreate, and art. By using these raw and recyclable elements as tools for artistic expression, students create art pieces that expose the trash problem in our world and inform others of solutions to healing our planet. The class culminates in a visit to the site where Michael Reynolds pioneered the building of Earthships — self-sufficient, sustainable homes, made from dirt and recyclable materials. Here, they will learn about Earthships and contribute their own artistic and physical labor in order to assist this colony. (Note: For more info and insights into the progress of this class, please visit the recreARTe website:


Physics of Roller Coasters: Students focus on the physics of roller coasters — including the ups, the downs, the twists and turns, the pushes and pulls — in this class. Physics of course is the study of matter and its motion and behavior through space and time, along with related concepts such as energy and force. It deeply involves the study of applied math, so students will be using scientific experimentation alongside mathematical calculations to uncover discoveries. Students are also learning how velocity, acceleration, force and energy have practical applications to everyday life. In addition, they are utilizing mathematical thinking and critical reasoning to design and conduct experiments through the creation of their own roller coasters.

Music of Latin American Movements: Dynamic forces are at play in Latin America, which is undergoing great pressure for social, economic and political change. Each week in this class, students explore a different social and/or political movement in Latin America. As they practice their Spanish vocabulary, students explore the historical, cultural, and musical context that influenced each movement. In addition, they are digging into the background of various Latin American artists and their inspirations and contributions to “the cause.” The final project includes selecting a social/political movement and writing and performing a group piece in both Spanish and English.

Music of Latin American Movements

Dragon Fly Citizen Science: Mercury is a heavy metal and a global pollutant that threatens both humans and animals worldwide. Students in this class are involved in a project that stretches from the West Coast to the East Coast, investigating the risks and transfer of mercury around food webs involving the dragonfly. Students will be conducting research within our own Rocky Mountain National Park. They’ll discuss what mercury is, where it comes from, and why national parks around the nation care about this. They’ll also become experts on identifying dragonfly larvae (and other bugs or macroinvertebrates) and using sampling protocols to ensure the data they are collecting is accurate. Among the perks of this class? Students are outside a couple of mornings a week, touching bugs, hauling gear, hiking to remote locations, getting wet, and working with Rocky Mountain National Park employees and researchers.

(©2017 'spencerlanier' via Instagram)
(©2017 ‘spencerlanier’ via Instagram)

Decolonizing Gender: In this class, students are analyzing the role colonization — the action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area — has played in enforcing race and gender norms. They are defining race and gender, learning the history of imperialism, and reflecting on their own identities. Through a combination of reading, class discussions and films, students are examining how race and gender are socially constructed and work in oppressive systems. In addition, they are analyzing the effects of colonization in present day. The idea is for students to leave this class as better allies to people of color, women, transgender people and gender nonconforming people, prepared to speak up in our community and beyond.

Rethinking Pop Media Culture: This class takes a provocative dive into popular media and looks at the impact on our society. Students are looking at a variety of visuals and articles that examine the notion that the term “popular” in classrooms and in the everyday lives of teachers and students is fundamentally political. The literature examines how and what popular toys, books, films, music, and other media “teach.” Students explore the impacts of “popular” shapes and how that affects who we are today and how mass media delivers that message.

Creative Non-Fiction: How do great writers tell effective stories from real life? How can you be “creative” while still being true to real life? Students in this class are finding answers to those and other questions by reading various forms of non-fiction writing— ranging from journalism to memoirs to biographies and more. They are analyzing what makes for effective non-fiction writing and learning how to craft their own tale. In addition, they are exploring more personal writing through memoirs and poems, and a more public side in literary journalism or “big idea” stories.

Deeper Learning & Equity: Our educational system is not equitable, and there are numerous structures and tools that people use to address this fact. Students in this class are learning about those structures, including “No Excuses” schools that are exceptionally strict and teach a traditional curriculum, and “Deeper Learning” schools where students study topics in depth and often work on projects to make a positive change in their communities. As a part of this class, our students will plan and facilitate a retreat for educators from across the nation who want to improve equity in their schools. Students can also continue to support those schools through Professional Development Center (PDC) work for the next year. This class is challenging, and students must revise their work until it meets real-world standards. That’s because they will use that work at this summer’s educator retreat and in PDC work.

Lifeguarding: Among the most popular part-time jobs for high school students and frequently a well-paying job that is transferable to most any area of the country, a class in lifeguarding takes our students’ aquatics skills to a whole new level. In this class, students explore the role and responsibilities of a lifeguard, the components of a rescue, pool safety, risk management, and rescue skills. They’ll also work on First Aid & CPR skills, looking at different first aid scenarios and situations. Successful completion of the class may lead to certification in First Aid & CPR with the Red Cross, as well as possible Lifeguard certification.

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