The ABCs of Eagle Rock’s Language of Learning

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There are times when those of us who communicate on a daily basis in the language of education need to be reminded that our lexicon may not always correlate with those whom we consider extended members of our community. In particular, we’re speaking of the parents, supporters, and friends of Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center (PDC).

In a sense, we’ve created a language of our own over the past quarter of a century-plus, the result of consistent communication both on our own on-campus community members and with our peers at dozens of educational organizations and schools we interact with each year across the nation.

Photo by Markus Spiske (sourced on Unsplash)

What follows is the first of what we hope will become a series of Eagle Rock linguistic ABC’s, with the objective of bringing everyone into the fold of our own lexicon. This first effort, below, is a complete A through Z rundown of terms, titles, alliterations, and programs that describe or explain our special form of work and communication, starting with All Who Dare

All Who Dare: This is Eagle Rock’s tagline or motto. It is also the title of the 2017 documentary about our New Student Orientation Wilderness trip.

Big Picture Learning: A long-time partner and client of our Professional Development Center, Big Picture Learning was established in 1995 with the sole mission of putting students directly at the center of their own learning. Their school model revolves around advisories, real-world learning, and internships. Today, there are more than 65 Big Picture network schools in the United States.

Competency-Based EducationCompetency-based learning can go by other names in educational literature, including proficiency-based learning and mastery learning. Competency-based learning is one tool we use at Eagle Rock toward the achievement of our ultimate objective for students: equitable attainment of high standards of learning.

Distribution Requirement: One of the three sections on a student’s Individual Learning Plan (ILP) here at Eagle Rock. In order to complete the Distribution Requirement section of the ILP, students must meet proficiency standards for a minimum of 24 credits.

ER01 – ER79: We don’t keep track of students by traditional grade levels like freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior. Rather, incoming students — and even new staff — claim the trimester they arrived in. ER 1 = Eagle Rock’s first trimester which was the fall of 1993.  We just wrapped up ER 79, or the 79th trimester in the history of our school, and are about to welcome ER 80 into the fold.

Field of Dreams: We named our athletic field the name of the 1989 film starring Kevin Costner. We play the following intramurals on this field: softball, soccer, and ultimate Frisbee.

Graduate Higher Education Fund: The Graduate Fund currently supports each Eagle Rock School graduate with up to $14,000 toward the costs of higher education. As we continue to build the fund we will offer more, always retroactively. Learn more and donate here.

Houses: The on-campus student Living Village is composed of six student houses. The word house is intentionally used because it connotes a warm, intimate family setting (the words dormitory or residence hall describes a more institutional setting). Our student houses are named Aspen, Pinon, Lodgepole, Spruce, Juniper, and Ponderosa.

Individual Learning Plans (ILP): A student’s ILP is comprised of three sections: Power Standards, Distribution Requirements, and Required Experiences and serves as a pathway toward graduation.

Juniper House: One of the six student houses in the living village. It’s also our differently-abled accessible house allowing accommodations for mobility because there are no stairs to access student wings in this house.

Kitchen Patrol: Otherwise known as KP, the kitchen at Eagle Rock serves 20 meals a week to the Eagle Rock community. Three kitchen staff supervise meal preparation, serving, and cleaning up, but the student Kitchen Patrol (KP) teams are actively involved in these processes, led by a student KP leader.

Learning Resource Center: The Learning Resource Center is Eagle Rock’s hub of academic development and includes five classroom spaces. It is the home of the Instructional Specialists Office where instructors and their Public Allies’ Fellows collaborate on course planning and student engagement efforts.

Morning exercise: Four days a week beginning at 7:15 a.m., Eagle Rock School students participate in morning exercise with a blend of student-led activities and a 2.7-mile run from our upper parking lot to the Eagle Rock sign at the end of Eagle Rock’s driveway at Dry Gulch Road.

New student wilderness orientation course: Required of all incoming Eagle Rock School students, this course includes a week of on-campus prep, followed by a 25-day wilderness trip guided and facilitated by our Outdoor Education Instructional Specialist, the Public Allies Teaching Fellow In Outdoor Education, and other Eagle Rock staff.

Outdoor Education: This usually refers to organized learning that takes place in the outdoors. Programs often involve expedition-based experiences in which students participate in a variety of adventurous learning challenges such as those depicted in our 2017 documentary All Who Dare or other courses offered at Eagle Rock such as Colorado Rocks, The Physics of Mountain Biking, or our Rocky Mountain National Parks internship program.

Public AlliesPublic Allies Eagle Rock, established in 2002, is a program of Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center and a proud member of the AmeriCorps national service network. It is the only residential Public Allies program in the United States. Our Allies come from across the country and live and work here on our residential high school campus, alongside our high school students.

Quiz: Not going to lie. We couldn’t come up with a Q. Truth is, we don’t give quizzes at Eagle Rock. We prefer performance-based assessments, which measure students’ ability to apply the skills and knowledge learned from a unit or units of study. Typically, the task challenges students to use their higher-order thinking skills to create a product or complete a process.

Restorative Practices (RP): Aiming to decrease School Push-Out (a student that leaves their school before graduation, through the encouragement of the school) and create a more positive school culture, the Restorative Practices (RP) approach uses various communicative techniques focused on affective statements and proactive community-building activities.

School Reform Initiative (SRI): A partner and client of our Professional Development Center (PDC), SRI creates transformational learning communities that are fiercely committed to educational equity and excellence. A tool our PDC team uses includes SRI protocols that offer structured processes to support focused and productive conversations, build collective understanding, and drive school improvement.

Teachers: We have them at Eagle Rock but we call them Instructional Specialists.

Understanding by Design: We use this course-planning approach as we craft our classes. The Understanding by Design framework offers a planning process and structure to guide curriculum, assessment, and instruction. Its two key ideas are contained in the title: 1) focus on teaching and assessing for understanding and learning transfer, and 2) design curriculum “backward” from those ends.

Values: Eagle Rock is a value-driven school. A fundamental philosophy, “Eight Plus Five Equals Ten,” has animated Eagle Rock since our inception. The eight themes serve as guideposts for the overall school design. These themes are monitored by our school’s leadership team to ensure that they are alive and well in the school. The five expectations serve as the organizing framework for our academic program. Eagle Rock students have to demonstrate proficiency in each of the five expectations prior to graduation. The ten commitments are the values our students are striving to internalize as they live the experience of Eagle Rock.

Willow House: Our Public Allies reside in this beautiful house in our on-campus residential village.

Xylophone: If we had one, it is a musical instrument that would be housed in our one room Schoolhouse, which serves as our performance and music space.

YouTube: You can check out Eagle Rock’s YouTube channel here.

Zero tolerance policy: A policy that states that prohibited behaviors and actions will not be tolerated — no exceptions. However, as with quizzes, we don’t do this. Rather, we’re big fans of Restorative Practices that you can read about under R, above.

What are your Eagle Rock ABC’s? Please let us know by leaving a comment below and we might include your ideas for future posts in this series.

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