Democracy & Education Journal – Mindfulness, Democracy, and Education

by Andrea Marie Hyde and James G. LaPrad

…Eagle Rock is a unique, small, independent, and “value-driven” school located in Estes Park, Colorado. Eagle Rock has several videos on YouTube and Vimeo that illustrate such radically democratic features as student governance and judicial council. Eagle Rock embraces the CES Common Principles in its themes and expectations as it shapes a unique Ten Commitments that exemplify both democracy and mindfulness: live in respectful harmony with others; develop mind, body, and spirit; learn to communicate in speech and writing; serve the Eagle Rock and other communities; become a steward of the planet; make healthy personal choices; find, nurture, and develop the artist within; increase capacity to exercise leadership for justice; practice citizenship and democratic living; and devise an enduring moral and ethical code (Eagle Rock, 2012).

Eagle Rock facilitates these commitments with its unique year-round educational programming that “encourages student ownership of learning, demands documented or demonstrated mastery of graduation competencies (requirements) and allows for the individualization of credit toward graduation” (Eagle Rock, 2012). One commitment in particular speaks almost directly to mindfulness: develop mind, body, and spirit. Eagle Rock incorporates opportunities for students to meet the commitment both inside and outside the classroom with nutritious meals and exercise and recreation programming that includes yoga and seated meditation. Within the school’s academic curriculum, learning experiences (classes) are created and revised intentionally by the instructional team. Jennifer Morine (2008), an Eagle Rock instructional specialist, explained, “A major learning experience for many of our students has revolved around the realization that their physical well-being greatly affects their academic learning, both in the moment and in the long term” (para 2).

An example of Eagle Rock’s academic intentionality is seen in development and revision of one mind-body learning experience called Colorado Rocks, which integrates ecology, geography, geology, physics, mathematics, physiology of rock climbing, and personal growth for students. Here, the physical activity of rock climbing helps not only to engage the students but also to situate them in a climbing environment to integrate mind and body learning at a deeper level. The experience is facilitated with a technique called “lens of change over time” which helps the students tie together everything that they are doing. Morine (2008) explained, “Through this conceptual lens, students are truly engaging their minds and their bodies as they study both the change in the external landscapes (geology, environmental issues) as well as their internal landscapes (personal growth and selfawareness)” (para. 7). Through Deweyan and Freirean activity, dialogue and reflective journaling, students are able to draw connections between changes in the physical landscape of the environment and in the the internal psychological landscape in their bodies. In the end, students are able to see the universal connections among their own experiences, the physical world, and the academic curriculum.

While Eagle Rock’s school program appears to align particularly well with the type of mindfully democratic school we envision, the Colorado Rocks learning experience reflects all three of the CES principles that we have highlighted. This experience requires students to use their minds well as they integrate science, mathematics, and kinesthetic learning. Personalization in learning occurs as students are engaged with self-awareness of environmental and personal conditions and decisions. Democracy and equity are in play as students engage with the environmental issues that place-based pedagogy promotes.

You can find the entire journal article here.