Curriculum

 

Our learning experiences (classes) are created and revised by our instructional team on the basis of the desired profile of an Eagle Rock graduate and the principles that guide Eagle Rock (8 + 5 = 10). It is constantly recreated by staff on the basis of what staff learn from students about their learning. It is a work in progress as Eagle Rock educators learn more about how learners learn.

The World Languages program is designed to provide students with communicative and cultural competencies across a number of world languages and cultures. In alignment with the school’s “5 expectations”, courses within the World Languages department are intended to help students with effective communication and becoming engaged global citizens. The primary language offered is Spanish, which is explored through various regions, cultures, and topics through all levels of competency from beginner to native speaker. There are also several beginner-level offerings in other world languages, such as Portuguese and American Sign Language, in order to challenge students and allow them to explore their own interests. World languages courses range from 6-12 students, and often include individualized study through long-term hands-on projects, online learning, and one-on-one instruction. Some recent course offerings have included La telenovela, in which students analyze Mexican novelas (“soap operas”) in order to film their own episodes, and Días feriados (“Holidays”), in which students utilize Spanish in the kitchen to cook a variety of Latin American dishes for the community. World language courses build off local community assets and sometimes utilize outside instructors and community connections and focus on using an immersion method, being project-based and experiential.


The kitchen at Eagle Rock serves 20 meals a week to the Eagle Rock community. Four 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. One of the functions of the Eagle Rock food service program is to instruct students in employment skills, such as leadership, communication, responsibility, and time management. Another is to teach food service skills in conjunction with other subjects, such as mathematics and social studies. The food service program is strong because the kitchen provides a “real work” as well as a classroom environment. Students use time cards, pass safety and sanitation tests, are placed in leadership positions as part of graduation requirements, and are part of a team that needs to produce quality meals on time for the community. Skills are taught beforehand and at the moment of need and are utilized directly to prepare meals. Students learn about sustainability, seasonality, local and ethical food purchasing as well as healthy eating habits. Food is a medium for teaching about other cultures, often through celebrating various holidays and exploring regional cuisines.


Literature and Literacy at Eagle Rock helps students unleash their imaginations, build their knowledge base, and actualize their Literacy skills. Students read and write to connect their lives with others’ experiences. Our teachers push students to become more widely read through book talks, reading challenges, and engaging classes.  Writing serves as one of Eagle Rock’s primary modes of academic expression and demonstration of understanding. Instructors focus on writing for actual rather than imagined audiences. Students are challenged to write fiction, poetry, essays, research papers, and proposals across the curriculum. Our program respects the need for differentiated instruction and individualized learning plans. Eagle Rock provides help to strengthen reading and writing skills through personalized instruction and small class sizes. Much of the instruction that students receive is on a one-to-one coaching basis. Our program taps into a diverse body of literature and demands students write in a wide variety of genres to help prepare them for continued learning in their lives after Eagle Rock.


The Learning Resource Center (LRC) is the hub of learning at Eagle Rock. The LRC consists of the library, five classrooms, an office space for the instructional team, twenty computers in the library, eleven computers in the Kinnikinnik Multimedia Computer Lab, and an amphitheater where students and staff often present multimedia projects and end of the trimester Presentations of Learning (POLs). The LRC houses most of Eagle Rock’s audio/visual equipment, including cameras, scanners, projectors, laptops, iPads, and printers. Our school library is a branch of the Estes Valley Public Library. This collaboration helps students find books they love to read and supports our curriculum with additional resources.


The goal of the mathematics program is development of students’ problem-solving skills, effective communication of mathematical concepts, reasoning skills, and passion for learning. Students work with open-ended problems and projects that allow them to develop essential understandings in algebra, spatial reasoning (geometry), number sense, probability, calculus, and data analysis. Considerable class time is spent conducting investigations and discussing processes. A major focus of instruction is on developing a deeper understanding of mathematical questions. To address students’ differing levels and needs, classes are organized around open-ended problems or large real-world projects that allow a variety of levels of exploration to take place (i.e. analyzing the efficiency of the honeycomb as a storage container or applying geometry skills to make a full-size quilt). The mathematics instructional specialist and a year-long fellow design classes “from scratch”. Students demonstrate learning in order to obtain credit. Typically, they construct portfolios in which they collect, organize and display work that demonstrates their learning. Small classes, a residential environment, and the school’s emphasis on community provide students with a number of support mechanisms for achievement in mathematics. Flexibility and creativity in curriculum development provide students with a wide variety of meaningful and useful mathematics. Projects and open-ended problems allow students numerous opportunities to develop their problem-solving and communication skills. Finally, flexibility in designing assessment activities allows portfolios to be adapted to fit individual student needs and/or individual course objectives.


In accordance with the 10 commitments in the 8+5=10 philosophy of Eagle Rock, music serves as a means to “develop the artist within.” Students are encouraged to find and express their artistry through singing, playing musical instruments, studying historical and cultural contexts of music, reading and writing notated music, creating digital music and recordings, learning and performing various styles of dance, and performing in theatrical productions. ERS, while small, boasts a fully developed music program that can accommodate for band, orchestra, choir, private lessons, multicultural ensembles, dance, theatre, and deejaying. Students have numerous possibilities and avenues to express themselves and ERS prides itself on providing both classical and contemporary aspects of music. Students and staff participate and perform in music, dance, and theatre ensembles together which helps to promote the idea of “life-long learning,” where students and staff can grow, struggle, and succeed together. We believe in setting examples of vulnerability and creativity to develop artistic relationships and expression. Music is a hands-on learning experience and students and staff are expected to learn the theory and put it into practice by performing in daily music gatherings, music ensemble performances, theatre and dance performances, and in local communities.

Our Schoolhouse (the music building), is equipped with a computer lab with music writing and producing software, a professional quality recording studio, practice rooms, a performance space, and a loft rehearsal space. ERS also has a partnership with Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. This partnership gives our students access to the Pulse music curriculum, and a network of incredible musicians from around the country to work with and learn from. Students also have the opportunity to audition for a 5-week intensive summer program at the college. The program includes collegiate level music classes, performance opportunities, scholarships, and a final concert that boasts some of the biggest names in contemporary music. Besides sending students to the 5-week summer program, we often send staff to present at conferences within the Berklee network as well as bringing in clinicians to teach at ERS. This partnership has allowed for significant collaboration between the two schools and continues to grow.


The ERS Human Performance and Outdoor Education Department works to engage students in a wide variety of both in and out of classroom experiences. One of the primary responsibilities of the Outdoor Education team is to develop and implement the 24-day New Student Wilderness Orientation course. These courses are mandatory for all incoming students and have a heavy focus on personal growth. Students are challenged to live in a  small patrol in the wilderness, developing conflict resolution, communication, and leadership skills that will help with their transition into the ERS community.

In addition to the orientation program, the OE department works to develop a number of outdoor based classes for veteran students such as The Physics of Mountain Biking, Colorado Rocks, Outdoor Leadership, River Watch and Winter Ecology. Outside of the academic experience, we also develop more recreational opportunities for students such as designing and leading Explore Week trips (backcountry skiing, canoeing on the Green River, and climbing in Wyoming), as well as leading evening and weekend adventure activities. For all of these activities, we develop policies and procedures and either hire or train staff to ensure adequate qualifications. We also oversee and maintain our school accreditation through the Association of Experiential Education (AEE).

A final aspect of our programming includes developing possible career tracks for students that may be interested in pursuing future outdoor education opportunities. We have a strong relationship with Rocky Mountain National Park where many students work as interns, as well as scholarship opportunities with Outward Bound and the National Outdoor Leadership School. Many of our students also serve as co-instructors for our outdoor and adventure based experiences.


Because Eagle Rock acknowledges the importance of personal growth, it is an important part of curriculum. In fact, one of the graduation requirements at Eagle Rock focuses on personal growth. What does that mean? It means dealing with issues and emerging as a leader at Eagle Rock. It means learning how to live with people who are different, how to accept responsibility, and how to develop as an individual who lives an intentional life. It means having a personal contract or code and abiding by, even supporting, the social contract that makes community possible. It means living with integrity. Part way through their time at Eagle Rock, students reflect and write about their personal growth to date, and present a mid-career personal growth presentation. In their final graduating trimester, students meet with a staff member over multiple meetings to reflect on their personal growth during their Eagle Rock career, and present a final Graduate Personal Growth presentation to the community. Perspective graduates also spend one of their final weekends at Eagle Rock on a 3 day wilderness trip to step back, reflect, and celebrate their growth at Eagle Rock.

The Human Performance and Outdoor Education Department provides students and staff with a variety of classes and activities that cater to groups with diverse interests and abilities. These include an exercise program at 7:15 AM four days a week for all students, with two days a week having student organized and led exercise groups, and two days a week being a 3 mile run for all students. Students have opportunities to participate in CrossFit, aikido, basketball team, and many other activities. Both academic and activity classes are taught through the HPC as well as integrated with other disciplines. Along with the Wilderness program the department also runs an extensive adventure activity program that that occurs both in classes and outside of class time. Examples of these include; trail running, fly-fishing, backcountry skiing, mountain biking, and indoor and outdoor climbing. The Human Performance and Outdoor Education Department is also responsible for delivering American Red Cross trainings for all staff annually, and for students in classes such as lifeguarding. Human Performance and Outdoor Education Department classes also integrate a variety of disciplines into them and include; leadership, science, citizen science, math, and English. Additionally, the department has advanced the school’s relationship with Rocky Mountain National Park providing opportunities for students both academically through science based classes as well as through internships and federal jobs for students who qualify. Lastly, the weekly Intramural program involves the entire community in a variety of sports and promotes leadership, sportsmanship, effective communication and teamwork.


LAER assists students in their preparation for life after high school. Student choices after graduation include college enrollment, vocational training, community service programs, internships, work, apprenticeships, travel, and so much more. Many students pursue their interests outside the traditional path of immediate college enrollment. In addition to individual counseling, courses and workshops also provide support for student exploration in higher education; these include ‘Math for Life’ classes, College Prep Saturday Seminars, and the Explore Week College Tour. Students develop their Lifeskills portfolio through learning about adult independence, particularly financial and legal responsibilities, and transitioning to independence. LAER staff work with students and their advisors throughout a student’s career to help them best plan and prepare for life after high school. To assist students in paying for college once they are admitted, the ERS Graduate Higher Education Fund (GHEF) is available to all graduates, at any time in their lifetime. Currently, each graduate receives $14000 for tuition, books, or board, spread out over their years in college. The fund is solely supported by donations from alumni, family, and friends, and by Graduate Fund Workdays, which occur throughout the year when Eagle Rock staff and students are hired out to the community to do odd jobs, which raises money for the GHEF.


The science curriculum at Eagle Rock offers a variety of classes that help to develop scientific thinking, conceptual understanding, and the ability to connect science to students’ everyday lives. Course offerings are diverse and span the physical, chemical, biological, ecological, and earth sciences. Examples include ‘For the Birds,’ You are what you Eat, Chemistry of Cooking, Astronomy, and Dreaming of Dissection. Students engage in projects and problems which empower them to think like scientists. Classes are hands-on, minds-on, and often integrate other disciplines to create real world context and uncover meaningful connections.


Service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection at the foundation of education for interdependence, civic responsibility and healthy communities.

From the school’s inception, service has figured strongly in its values, expectations and commitments. “Service to others,” “Environmental stewardship,” and “Participating as an engaged global citizen,” are expressly stated in 8 + 5 = 10, the core values of Eagle Rock School. The service-learning specialist and fellow coordinate service-learning experiences and organize partnerships, providing direct, indirect and advocacy opportunities for students to serve through a variety of short and long-term activities. These include the following:

  • KP: the regular service that students provide in the kitchen, alongside of the chefs;
  • Chores: a community-wide work program whereby students and staff participate in campus maintenance including recycling, landscaping, forestry, resupply and general housekeeping;
  • EagleServe: two to three days of community service each trimester provided at Eagle Rock and to the wider community;
  • Solution Focused Leadership: where students have a voice in planning, action and decision-making around leadership and service-learning at ERS;
  • Independent Service Projects: whereby students develop a proposal to integrate a service-learning opportunity into their coursework or personal time;
  • Classroom Service-Learning Projects: which are coordinated through different instructors and courses.

Service-learning appears in courses like Soccer and Service; For the Birds; What is Education For?, Connections in Wood; Wilderness; Math and Cooking; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; Language courses, Societies and Cultures courses and in many other classes. These opportunities are found across the curriculum. Service partnerships are maintained in collaboration with local organizations and agencies. These include Rocky Mountain National Park, MacGregor Ranch, the Prospect Park Living Center, Park School District, the Town of Estes Park, Rocky Ridge Music Camp, Sunrise Rotary, the University of Colorado and many more. Travel and off-campus experience in the wilderness program and in various other courses provide service-learning opportunities in both local and distant communities. Students may experience anything from trail work to cross-cultural dialogue, from tutoring at an elementary school to renovating a home on the Navajo Reservation, from picking up trash to organizing a PeaceJam project on global peacemaking, from working with Latino children in Estes Park to sharing photo-essays with Lakota youth at a high school in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.


At Eagle Rock, social studies is called Societies and Cultures. The Societies and Cultures (S & C) department is responsible for the curriculum goals and designs in world and United States history, physical and cultural geography, U.S. government, and civics. The curriculum design for these subjects is rooted in a strong focus on perspectives from underrepresented groups, interdisciplinary education, project-based assessment, cross-cultural understanding, democratic governance, leadership for justice, and reference to Colorado model content standards. Courses offered from the S & C department also maintain a high level of diversity in ideas, concepts, and topics. The department strives to develop students as students of history and co-creators and agents for their own histories; that is, by the end of courses, students should be equipped with tools for effective activism in order to make history. ERS helps students move from passive learning to critical action for creating a more just future.


Eagle Rock School has an entire building and curriculum dedicated to arts and crafts. We believe that effective communication through art is a powerful tool which is essential in the development as a student. Integrating math, literacy, history, and science into the art curriculum is part of our teaching philosophy. Students are encouraged to take risks, make mistakes, and reflect on the process of making art. Opportunities in the arts include but are not limited to woodworking, photography, ceramics, stained and fused glass, fiber arts such as batik, silk painting, and quilting, as well as drawing, painting, and printmaking. Art is an essential part of the ERS culture and we strive to develop proficiency in the quality of work that is produced. Our campus is adorned with work from past and present students and staff members.

Parts of our school philosophy of 8+5=10, (aesthetic expression, find and develop the artist within, and develop the mind, body, and spirit) provide a sound foundation for each artist. As we create, critique and question, we encourage curiosity and provide a safe environment for growth. Problem solving and experimentation with hands on real work engages students and encourages them to develop a love of learning.

There is a vibrant community of artist in the town of Estes Park and we often partner with them. These growing relationships provide additional inspiration, and give students the benefit of support and inspiration from professional artists and crafters. Looking outside of our immediate resources, we also strive to learn about new and upcoming artists. We believe it’s important to keep up with current events as well as learning from the past.

 

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