Eagle Rock’s Public Allies Fellows — Where Are They Now? (Part 1)

Welcome to what will be the first of many updates about what’s happening in the lives of educators who participated in the yearlong Public Allies fellowship program here at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colorado. What we intend to offer with posts such as these is a glimpse into the lives of those who went on to forge their careers in progressive education post-Eagle Rock.

But first, a short explanation of what the Public Allies program is all about. It’s a national movement based on the notion that everybody leads and everyone can make a difference. That difference can be as small as helping someone believe in themselves, to step up and make change.

Public-Allies-Logo-2015_2

Public Allies has as its mission the advancement of new leadership to strengthen communities, nonprofits and civic participation. The Public Allies signature AmeriCorps Ally Program identifies diverse young adults and prepares them for leadership through paid full-time nonprofit apprenticeships and rigorous leadership training.

And how has that worked out so far? In the past 23 years, more than 6,000 Allies have completed the program with more than 80 percent of them continuing careers in nonprofit and public service. Meanwhile, many of this nation’s nonprofits are struggling to recruit and retain the diverse talent they need to address our most pressing community challenges. The Millennial generation — the largest and most diverse generation in history — is energized to work for change, but doesn’t know how to get started.

That’s where Public Allies comes in. With the edict that “everyone leads,” participants create pathways for young people to engage in their communities, and help communities and organizations tap the energy, passion, and perspectives of a new generation. Public Allies is the leadership and human capital solution our diverse communities need.

That brings us where we are today… happy to tell you about two former Eagle Rock Public Allies Fellows and their current pursuits. First up, Anna McCanse Nelson: Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Students Present Park with a Pair of Murals

Mural_Photo5Much like young Forrest Gump and Jenny, Eagle Rock and the firefighters at Rocky Mountain National Park are “like peas and carrots” following the completion of a dramatic mural project on the walls of the Alpine Interagency Hotshot Dorm within the park.

Our campus setting within wilderness that is just minutes away from the boundaries of the national park has been a benefit for students considering a career in forestry management. And the mural project is just another opportunity to strengthen that bond between Eagle Rock and the park’s staff.

Late last spring, these two wilderness neighbors formed a program with the Continental Divide Research Learning Center (CDRLC) and the Alpine Interagency Hotshot Crew (AIHC) that offers some Eagle Rock students the opportunity to explore employment options the park service might have to offer when they graduate.

For their part, a class of artistic Eagle Rock students painted a pair of murals in the Hotshot dorm within the national park. The class was studying the visual communication power that is unique to mural art as they work alongside park employees to commemorate the 100th anniversary of RMNP.

As a part of this park partnership, Eagle Rock students who are enrolled in Cynthia Elkins’ and Dayan Safferstein’s art class spent the better part of five weeks painting a mural outside the kitchen of the Hotshot Dorm.

Mural_Photo4

The class was the idea of Paul Cerda, the superintendent of Continue reading…

Meet The Team: Eagle Rock Art Instructional Specialist, Cindy Elkins

Cindy-Elkins-Eagle-Rock-SchoolTo Cindy Elkins’ way of thinking, she’s cornered the market on fun when it comes to her art instructional specialist calling here at Eagle Rock. Not only does she get to dabble in the arts every single day, but also she has the opportunity to watch students participate in the artistic process — and that includes the innovative and creative notions these kids come up with on any medium.

She’s also big on establishing art projects with Eagle Rock students that involve service to the communities surrounding our school. Along with the locals in Estes Park, Elkins and her students have painted the oval Jesus on the hillside downtown, help create the community unity tile mural in the tunnel next to Kind Coffee, and most recently, the painted mural at the Rocky Mountain National Park’s hotshot dorm.

Here are some other fascinating facets of this artist, mom and dog lover’s life:

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

Cindy: Art and drama have always been exciting parts of my life. I taught art in the public school right out of college and offered private art lessons in ceramics and painting in a variety of settings. Prior and during college, I worked as a rafting photographer on the Colorado River and sold my pictures to tourists. Over 26 years of living in Estes Park, I have been very active in local dance and theater productions both at Eagle Rock School and in town.

Eagle Rock: What attracted you to Eagle Rock?

Cindy: The diverse student population and the idea of creating a school that would do its best to reach students who don’t fit the public school mold — that was my original interest in Eagle Rock. After working in the public school for 13 years, I longed for different ways of doing things and wanted to see if I could help kids become the best they can be. Trying to figure out how to help my own son be teachable was also a big influence in wanting to know more about how to teach.

Eagle Rock: When you’re not working, what do you like to do in your spare time?

Cindy: I like to cook, paint, play cards and travel. I love being in nature and I enjoy long walks with my dogs. Often I walk with a Continue reading…

Recapping the Events of Our Latest Explore Week

Our most recent Explore Week here at Eagle Rock served a pair of purposes. First, it enabled our instructors to catch their second wind and prepare for future coursework. Second, it gave our students the opportunity to be engaged in activities they normally wouldn’t have time for during the regular trimester.

Our latest such Explore Week was in late October, and our students were treated to a variety of classes and events that ranged from art expeditions to the stress-relieving benefits of beating on a drum. The week was highlighted with guest artists and speakers, as well as a few Eagle Rock staffers who just happen to have their own special interests that proved interesting enough to stir student interest.

Some of the activities conducted during Explore Week included:

  • Student leaders Ashalou and Aaron Simon were co-leaders for the 2014 Orientation Class for our newest students.
  • Students Emelia, Javonnie, Desiree, Cristian, Cat and Yeshra traveled with Cindy Elkins (Visual Art Instructional Specialist), Dayna Safferstein (Public Allies Visual Arts Fellow) and Niko Viglione Public Allies Human Performance Center Fellow) to Santa Fe, New Mexico, on an art expedition.
  • Criminal attorney William Galloway brought students Rahmel, Daisy, Melvin, Jenny, Aaron, Levi, DJ, Jared and Carson up to date on their rights as U.S. citizens. His presentations included preserving rights while interacting with the police, as well as the history behind some landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Through popular culture references — such as Jay-Z’s hit “99 Problems” — sprinkled with an abundance of courtroom “war stories,” Galloway turned the Bill of Rights and a couple of hundred years of Supreme Court decisions into an interesting and meaningful experience.
  • Estes Park Rotary Club members heard Eagle Rock students Hunter, Mikaela, Cassandra, Sonja, Kiyah, Marty and Khalil share their Continue reading…

Meet The Teachers Who Made An Impact On Eagle Rock’s Teachers

Eagle_Rock_Blog_ShieldsAlmost without exception, everyone who has ever stepped foot inside a school classroom — and that’s pretty much all of us — can name at least one teacher who became a positive force in their lives.

It could have been an instructor who inspired them to pursue a seemingly impossible career, or maybe helped them discover hidden talents they didn’t know they possessed. Someone who impressed them enough to tweak their thought process and introduce them to new way of acting or thinking, or who went above and beyond in encouraging and informing their interest in a particular topic or path.

A good example of this would certainly not be the relationship between Ralphie and Miss Shields in the 1983 holiday movie classic, A Christmas Story. In that cult film, Ralphie’s goal wasn’t to absorb knowledge or gain insight into a career.

Nope. Ralphie’s sole intent in giving his teacher a fruit basket was to receive an “A” on his paper espousing the wonderfulness of the coveted Red Ryder BB rifle. Instead, he receives a “C+” stamped across the top of the paper, along with the admonition that “you’ll shoot your eye out.”

And while that teacher-student experience most certainly affected the rest of his life, inspirational is not a good term to describe it.

However, most of us do recall a teacher who made a difference, so we’ve asked a few of our own instructors and staff here at Eagle Rock to think back to a time when an educator had an impact on their lives.

Here’s are some of the responses we received:

Meghan Tokunaga-Scanlon, Music Instructor

At Greeley Central High School in Greeley, Colorado, my senior year choir director, Jeremy Francisco was brand new to the school and helped inspire and cultivate my decision to become a music educator. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life until Francisco gave me a lot of responsibilities within the choir and pushed me to try new styles of music. I’ll always be grateful for the experiences he gave me.

Dan Hoffman, Literature & Literacy Instructor

At the Lab School in Chicago, Illinois, Chris Randle, my academic tutor, read poetry with me in between bouts of Continue reading…

Recommended Reads from Eagle Rock Staffers

Editor’s Note: It’s summertime, and for some reason, we’re all expected to catch up on our reading during this three-month respite from school. And, as you well know, there’s a big difference between required reading and recommended reading. Thus, we offer a second installment of what our staff members present for your personal time perusal. What we’ve done here is outline our educators’ thought process as to why they selected a particular read, along with an image of the book cover, and a link (click the book cover to activate the link) to Amazon so you can purchase the selection if you wish, or download it to your laptop or tablet.

beyond-learning-by-doing-theoretical-currents-in-experiential-jay-w-roberts-paperback-cover-artBeyond Learning By Doing: Theoretical Currents in Experiential Education — By Jay W. Roberts
Recommended by Jesse Beightol, Eagle Rock’s Outdoor Education Instructional Specialist

This book gave me a deeper understanding of the historical roots of Experiential Education. Though many educators value “experience,” experiential education is difficult to define and truly understand. This book looks at the many facets of this approach to education, and then challenges educators to learn from the past in order to continually improve in the future.

Science-as-Thinking-book-coverScience As Thinking: The Constants and Variables of Inquiry Teaching — By Wendy Ward Hoffer
Recommended by Janet Johnson, Eagle Rock’s Science Instructional Specialist

This book is based on backwards planning — and so it follows the model we use here at Eagle Rock — but it focuses specifically on scientific thinking and how inquiry looks as a scientist. What does “thinking like a scientist” mean? How do we capture that thinking in student work? How can we merge that with other strategies that we learn and apply it to science? For example, the practice of Continue reading…

Our Report From The School Reform Initiative’s Winter Meeting

In mid-January, some of our faculty and staff traveled across the country to attend the School Reform Initiative’s (SRI) Winter Meeting held in Cambridge, Mass. If you’re unfamiliar with it, SRI is an organization that helps people and organizations create “transformational learning communities that are fiercely committed to educational equity and excellence.”

SRI14_ERSDuring this annual winter event, participants from all over the nation gathered to explore SRI’s core practices:

  • Critical Friends Groups (CFG’s)
  • Facilitative Leadership
  • Collaborative Learning

After a brief opening ceremony, participants split into small groups and immediately began to explore shared professional dilemmas, student work, and lesson plans. Each group featured six to eight participants, which gave each educator the opportunity to receive feedback on his or her own work as well as facilitate another person’s presentation. As an aside, the purpose of a CFG is to use “protocols” — structured conversations — as a means for educators to support each other and gain diverse perspectives on their work. Each protocol is tailored to produce different results, with some participants examining and modifying work while others presented questions or created action steps.

This CFG work is at the heart of the meeting and is a primary reason why Continue reading…