Eagle Rock School Summer Break Means Saying Goodbye and Hello

To date, it’s been an incredibly busy month here at Eagle Rock, what with the graduation of five Eagle Rock School students on Aug. 5, our end of the trimester staff meeting on Aug. 9, bidding farewell to nine of our Public Allies fellows on Aug. 12, and then shortly thereafter saying goodbye to four of our staffers.

Eagle-Rock-School-Summer-Break

So a break in the schedule is well deserved and welcome. However, while students and some of the staff will be taking some time off, our Professional Development Center (PDC) staff remains on the job, working in California, the Ohio Valley, and Boulder. Look for the PDC’s latest update here on the blog soon.

Meanwhile, here’s the game plan beginning early next month: Continue reading…

Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Eagle Rock’s Take on ‘The Wiz’

Eagle Rock School students and faculty members are busy rehearsing for a series of performances of the Tony Award-winning 1975 musical, “The Wiz,” which are scheduled in Estes Park at month’s end.

The Wiz Eagle Rock SchoolOur production of “The Wiz” (March 31-April 2, 2016) is an urban retelling of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 tale, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” using Motown, Funk and Soul music to rework the story into the context of modern African-American culture. A film adaption of the show was released in 1978, starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.

Eleven talented Eagle Rock students and four staff members will perform in our staged version, backed by a live four-piece professional pit band. Meghan Tokunaga-Scanlon, Eagle Rock School’s Music Instructional Specialist, directs the show, with co-direction by World Languages Instructional Specialist Brighid Scanlon and musical direction by 2015/2016 Public Allies Teaching Fellow Michael Grant.

Performances will be staged beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 31 as well as Friday and Saturday, April 1 and 2 at the Hempel Auditorium within the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. Admission at the door is “pay what you like” and all proceeds benefit the Eagle Rock Graduate Higher Education Fund.

But we digress. The story of Dorothy and her road trip to Oz has become known worldwide for its themes of home, belonging, belief in oneself and freedom. “The Wiz,” with its original premiere in 1975 with an all-black cast and African-American styles, boldly showed that this classic story belongs to everyone, with audiences of all races flocking to watch productions of “The Wiz” over the past four decades. In addition to be culturally empowering, it is a “joy machine,” gorgeously designed, with quick humor and irresistible melodies.

Preparations for our production began last fall with a 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.)

RMNP Mural ER65

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

Strategic Plan Update: Curriculum and Instructional Practices Improvement

Editor’s Note: Back in 2013, Eagle Rock’s board of directors embarked on a strategic planning process that resulted in the adoption of a plan titled ‘Vision 2020’ that assures what we do day-to-day reflects the long-term goals that the organization aims to achieve (see News From The Rock: Vision 2020 for an overview of that plan and process). ‘Vision 2020’ includes seven distinct areas of focus (a.k.a. domains) that guide our board, administrators, staff members and students. In today’s blog post, Jen Frickey offers an update on our third strategic domain — Academic Curriculum.

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By Jen Frickey, Director of Curriculum

Here at Eagle Rock, we intentionally place a significant amount of energy into graduating students who have the desire — and are prepared — to make a difference in the world. We implement effective and engaging practices that foster each students’ unique potential and these help young people use their minds well. To support this, we are working on improving our approach to assessment at Eagle Rock so there is more consistency in assessing what we value across all classes.

As we continue to improve our curriculum and instructional practices, it is important to us that we are challenging our students and delivering quality instruction across all classes and other learning experiences at Eagle Rock. For that reason, we are focusing a portion of our strategic work around creating a framework for normed common formative and summative assessments.

Strategic-Planning-Eagle-Rock-School

Our aim is that 50 percent of our assessment practices will be normed and shared across classrooms and disciplines by 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…

The Role of Instructional Coaching at Eagle Rock School

They say a shark in the ocean must constantly swim in order to survive, and the same concept holds true for educators. If they’re not consistently exploring new ideas, receiving feedback or learning new teaching techniques, they’re shortchanging the students in their classrooms.

A few years back, some of our staff members did heavy research on continuing teacher education, in addition to studying the findings from other schools concerning the implementation of instructional coaching. The idea was to provide support for our fulltime instructional specialists here at Eagle Rock School as well as our annual group of teaching fellows.

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As a result, we piloted a new instructional coaching position for the 2014/15 school year in advance of welcoming welcome six new fulltime instructors in addition to our annual influx of a dozen new Public Allies fellows.

Janet Johnson, our science instructional specialist, became our first instructional coach, and she performed that fulltime task in impressive fashion for the year, while Sara Benge stayed on for a second year Public Allies fellowship to help with our science instruction.

Janet worked closely with our six new teachers throughout the year and set up coaching cycles, a new teacher Critical Friends Group, and informal supports and check-ins throughout each trimester of the academic year. Since it was our pilot year, Janet had the opportunity to explore new ideas throughout the year, making time to meet with more experienced teachers, and some of our teaching fellows, acting as a resource and a thought partner in their practice.

For the current school year, we’re transitioning into what we believe can be a sustainable way to keep an instructional coach on staff with our current staffing model. Jon Anderson, Eagle Rock’s human performance and outdoor education instructional specialist, is our instructional coach this year, fulfilling the role on a part-time basis. He’ll also continue teaching in the Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Instructors Work Together on Formative Assessment

JanetJohnsonJenFrickeyBy Janet Johnson and Jen Frickey

Each year, our school’s instructional team fine-tunes its collective classroom practice by learning together. Instructors submit ideas for possible topics of study and the director of curriculum, in conjunction with our Professional Development Critical Friends Group, chooses an area of focus for the year.

The Critical Friends Group then meets weekly to plan for four instructional meetings each trimester. The members of the group — both instructional specialists and Eagle Rock Public Allies fellows who are seeking Colorado state teaching licensure — volunteer to study an annual theme, design and deliver engaging adult learning, and facilitate our weekly planning meetings.

A hallmark of these meetings is using School Reform Initiative protocols to share our instructional meeting plans and get feedback about them. We commonly use The Charrette Protocol (note: link opens a PDF) and Tuning Protocols (note: link opens a PDF) to examine our works in progress. These protocols — as well as those that help us to learn from texts, investigate teaching, learning and assessment, and examine student work — are often the backbone of our instructional meetings.

This year’s annual theme is Formative Assessment. For assessment to be formative, teachers and students must ask themselves where they are going, have a realistic appraisal of where they are now, and make a plan together for how to get there. These questions are central to our formative assessment approach.

We attempt to develop our skills in four distinct areas:

  1. Communicate learning targets and criteria for success
  2. Provide effective feedback
  3. Foster strategic questioning among students and teachers
  4. Promote self-assessment and goal setting

Formative assessment is student centered and transparent, with students and teachers working together to set learning objectives and collect evidence of meeting goals. The explicit result, of course, is improving student achievement.

Since the Critical Friends Group had varying levels of understanding and experience with formative assessment, we decided to ground our work together using two texts: Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Staff Descends on Tucson for School Reform Initiative Winter Meeting

With five staff members in attendance, Eagle Rock was well represented at last month’s School Reform Initiative (SRI) Winter Meeting in Tucson, Ariz.

The theme for this year’s meeting was “Place,” and while our visit included learning a lot about Arizona and Tucson, what truly brought the conference to life was coming together with educators from around the country to share in the common struggle and opportunity of teaching.

Unlike traditional conferences, where participants sign up for various workshops and lectures, most of the work at the SRI Winter Meeting takes place in small groups. Within these gatherings, 10 to 12 educators share dilemmas facing them in their practice. And, through the use of collaborative protocols, these groups work to reach a greater understand of issues, solve problems or uncork ideas.

The work in small groups is also a chance for educators to practice using protocols and facilitating Critical Friends Groups®, which we use in many different ways here at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center.

SRI_WinterMeeting15In our Critical Friends Groups at Winter Meeting, Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center staff worked through a variety of dilemmas. Science instructor Janet Johnson got her plan for internally run professional development at Eagle Rock tuned, and Societies and Cultures instructional specialist Diego Duran-Medina got a fresh perspective on his “Heartivism” class. Public Allies Fellow in Professional Development Kelsey Baun worked on ways to increase diversity in the Public Allies Fellows corps, and I received feedback on plans to increase literacy across the curriculum at Eagle Rock.

Even though we were working with Continue reading…

Meet The Team: Eagle Rock’s Science Instructor and House Parent – Janet Johnson

Janet-Johnson-Eagle-Rock-SchoolWe’re of the opinion that, if you’re going to blog, we might as well take advantage of the opportunity to introduce the various members of the team here at Eagle Rock. Today, for example, we’re interviewing Janet Johnson, who speaks fluent chemistry, earth science and biology.

Here’s her story:

Eagle Rock: Who are you and what do you to do here at Eagle Rock?

Janet: Right now I am a science instructor, which means I get to facilitate all kinds of cool project-based and experiential classes — with lessons like For the Birds and The Science of Cooking. I am also one of the house parents in Aspen House. Next year I have the opportunity to help support Eagle Rock’s new instructors as they transition into the community.

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

Janet: As an undergraduate student, I studied biology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. I eventually earned a master’s in science curriculum and instruction from The University of Colorado-Boulder as I was starting my work at Eagle Rock.

In between those two experiences I held various other positions including bank teller, landscaper, restaurant hostess and salesperson at a clothing store. By far the sweetest job was working at a chocolate shop. Mostly I made malts for Midwestern tourists, but every now and again I would get to tend the chocolate or make coconut haystacks. Those were great days.

Eagle Rock: What attracted you to Eagle Rock?

Janet: I first learned about Eagle Rock while I was teaching at the Chinquapin School in Highlands, Texas. Chinquapin is a college prep school for underserved students from the Houston area. Chinquapin was similar to Eagle Rock in its commitment to community, and very different in its 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…