Estes Park Trail Gazette – Eagle Rock and Estes Park School District partner in Liberatory Design Thinking workshop

The Professional Development Center at Eagle Rock and Estes Park Schools have created a partnership that allows Estes Park to benefit from the nationally-renowned work done by Eagle Rock.

Together, Estes Park School District R-3 and Eagle Rock used a process of Neighborhood Learning Conversations. These conversations helped the District discover what skills the Estes community wants its students to possess as a result of their education. As part of this initiative of Estes Thrives, facilitators heard from hundreds of people in the Estes community. The top results, which the school district is now calling their Global Outcomes (GOs), are Communication, Critical Thinking/Problem Solving, Creativity, Life Skills, Adaptability, Empathy and Wellness.

To help teachers meet these goals, Sarah Bertucci of Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center worked with Superintendent Sheldon Rosenkrance and the administration team to develop a Liberatory Design Thinking workshop. Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients. A design mindset is not problem-focused; it is solution focused and action oriented.

Liberatory Design uses self-reflection and empathy interviews to ensure that all students’ needs are being met. Sarah facilitated this workshop so teachers could design 21st Century, project-based learning units for implementation next school year. As a result, students will be making documentaries about current issues, exploring the ethics around cheating, building their own solar systems, and engaging in many other fascinating learning projects.

During the two-day workshop, teachers went through a process of helping each other create these innovative projects. A group of Eagle Rock students participated in part of the workshop to help stimulate ideas and give feedback to teachers from a student perspective. These students are taking the course, “Deeper Learning and Equity,” to learn about education issues and run a week-long summer institute for educators from around the country. Teachers reported that the Eagle Rock students were incredibly insightful and helpful, especially with emphasizing the value of student input and giving students a choice in their project work.

Eagle Rock students reported that the experience was a fascinating window into understanding how hard teachers work to create good learning experiences.

Sarah Bertucci, who works as part of Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center team, said, “I work with schools across the country, and Estes Park teachers are exceptional in the way that they jump into learning experiences and care deeply about their students. I was inspired by the projects that teachers created and feel excited for my own children to get to have these learning experiences.”

Both Eagle Rock and Estes Park School District R-3 look forward to continuing this collaborative relationship to keep moving forward with meeting the needs of the students of Estes Park.