A week after visiting Eagle Rock School in Estes Park, Colorado I'm reminded of the importance of reflection and action. If I only return from Eagle Rock School with fond memories of the event — that would be sad indeed. As a representative of my school volunteering to attend this event, it's my responsibility to share snapshots of the school we experienced on our visit.
Eagle Rock School is a community of learners. Each student attending is hand selected by committee. Each student must adopt and live by a set of guiding principles - 8 themes + 5 expectations = 10 commitments. These guiding principles are embedded into every happening at the school. They call it "Bad Math - Good Education."
But what stood out to me most of all during the Eagle Rock visit was that each and every child was a leader and each and every student worked on fostering leadership in each other. It was the students, not the teachers, that held each other accountable for actions and success. The teachers were more like mentors or guides fostering this newly found passion for success in education that their students have discovered.
Students are well versed in sharing what they have learned through POL's or presentations of learnings. Since every student is a learner at Eagle Rock, every student shares their learnings through these presentations. These presentations are required at the end of each trimester at Eagle Rock and center around a topic of a student's choosing. The POL's are evaluated by outside educators who often comment on the outstanding quality of the presentations.
I want to bring these ideas to MSSD? I wanted to immediately test out some of these practices to see how our students responded before I forgot the intention of the visit and it became a blur in my memory.
I began implementing my own version of a POL in my reading class. During reading days students began researching a topic of their choice with the intent on preparing a presentation of their learning after a three week time period. It's been a week and students are well on their way. What have I learned:
When I first introduced the project I asked the students what they thought of the idea. About half really wanted to spend time on the project and begin working. The other half were split between being afraid of what the work might entail and those not wanting to do the work at all. As a group, we decided to go ahead with the idea.
By the third day everyone was so engrossed in their learning they begged not to take a break from their research for our scheduled read aloud day. I agreed to read aloud one day a week instead of two to honor their request.
We're into the second week now and I've learned our students are really good at projects which sets the stage for educational learning opportunities. My job, over the next week is going to be spent on encouraging and teaching the students how to delve further into research by learning how to better question what they are researching. In other words, students are doing a great job about explaining what they know but their investigating skills need honing. The good news is that everyone has a topic and everyone is participating.
The goal over the course of the semester is for students to learn through their POL's that learning can take them into new directions. After their first presentation concludes, students will have the option of continuing with their course or choosing another topic. Maybe their interest in the topic has faded or they have discovered something new about themselves and they want to pursue this new discovery. The goal is to awaken a passion in themselves about learning and how sharing these passions can trigger excitement and self respect.
And for those of you interested in a copy of google notes taken during the visit - click here.
Lastly, inviting change isn't easy.