Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Shrews and Confidence

The Taming of the Shrew

One of the hallmarks of an Emerald education is the development of confidence. There are so many reasons that this is important, ranging from self-advocacy in the near future of high school to the more distant future of success in the workplace. At Emerald, students become confident as they learn to talk honestly with their teachers and parents about their work, as they learn a stringed instrument and stand (or sit) tall as they perform, as they present speeches, and as they perform in plays at all grade levels. The culminating dramatic performance opportunity comes in Middle School, as Emerald’s students perform a Shakespeare play every year. This year, on April 6, our students will perform The Taming of the Shrew at 2:00 and 6:00 p.m. at the Chief Theater. We hope to see you there. Admission is free, yet another way that Emerald’s students give back to the community.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Middle School Mentorship Day

Middle School Mentorship Day

This month, Middle School students had defining experiences at local businesses and working with professionals in many different fields. For a day, students stepped out of the classroom and into the workplace. Whether it was shelving books at the bookstore, helping animals at the vet, working at the gas station, or helping other professionals throughout town, students learned what Steamboat businesses are all about. Real life lessons abounded, sometimes sad, but as Shea Pepin says, “Even though some animals were in pain, like the dog that got porcupined, seeing the other animals made me happy.” Not only is Mentorship Day a wonderful opportunity for Emerald students to learn about commerce and other professions, but it is also a way for the students to give back to the community. Emerald’s Middle Schoolers represent the school well, lending a helping hand to their mentors. As Will Scheer pointed out, “It’s interesting to see the business from the other side of the counter.”

The learning doesn’t happen only during the day of Mentorship Day, though. Prior to the actual event, students set up their own placements, reaching out to the mentors and organizing the arrangements. When they return, the students write about their experiences, building their writing skills. And they practice writing business letters (and editing) as they write thank you notes to their mentors. Relationships built during Mentorship Day sometimes find students taking on part-time jobs when they get to high school, all based on their hard work with their mentors when they were at Emerald.

Middle School Move to Emerald

Middle School Move

Kendall Yeager was nine when she faced the prospect of becoming a sixth grader. She had nearly finished the fifth grade curriculum during her fourth grade year at Soda Creek Elementary School. She felt isolated from her classmates and bored. “It got to the point where I wasn’t interested in the work because I didn’t feel challenged,” she said.

The school wanted her to skip a grade. While this may have solved the academic problem, she would have been two years younger than her peers (she had started kindergarten early). Her parents looked at other options and settled on Emerald Mountain School (then Lowell Whitman Primary School), where Kendall enrolled in fifth grade.

The smaller classes and individual attention suited Kendall’s learning style. She was engaged in the work and challenged, particularly in Strings and Spanish. She’d only had a little classroom Spanish and had never played an instrument, but the flexible yet focused environment helped Kendall learn at her own pace. She enjoyed the work, especially in Spanish. “The teachers do a really good job teaching at the level where you are at - not pushing you or holding you back.”

While the academics challenged Kendall, the outdoor education pushed her completely out of her comfort zone. “It’s not super common for a 10-year-old to go camping in Moab without her parents,” she said. Kendall gained new skills and learned the importance of personal responsibility during the trips. The sense of accomplishment she gained was invaluable to her overall experience at the school, which fostered her independence and confidence as an adult.

She graduated from the middle school in 2007 and attended Steamboat Springs High School. Not long after receiving her diploma, she got a job working full time as an executive assistant at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association while also pursuing a degree in business administration at Colorado Mountain College. She received her Bachelor of Science degree last year and has been promoted to Development Coordinator at the VNA, handling donor relations and communications, grants management and grant writing.

She’s not sure she would have had the drive to accomplish this — she is now 22 — without the skills she developed at LWPS/Emerald. “It definitely shaped my life and the direction that I’ve gone.” 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Middle School Outdoor Education Excitement

Middle School Outdoor Education Excitement

Emerald Mountain School kicked-off a new monthly outdoor education program for Middle School students this year. It all began with a day of dog-sledding and survival skills. Students built snow shelters and started fires in adverse conditions in the Flattops. They worked in teams and expanded their abilities to cooperate and learn from each other. Our second trip of the year focused on safety in the back country in winter, especially in avalanche conditions. Beacon training, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing figured prominently, and the students were treated to a surprise visit from a rescue helicopter. Each month, Emerald’s Middle School students have the opportunity to learn about the outdoors IN the outdoors. Aside from just being plain fun, these outdoor expeditions provide learning opportunities related to science, social-emotional development, survival skills, the environment, situational awareness, mindfulness, and working in teams. These monthly outdoor education experiences augment the intensive winter skills training that Emerald Middle School students will engage in during mid-February. For three days, students will camp in rustic conditions and learn to be self-reliant even in the most challenging conditions. The culminating event for our eighth grade students includes a six-hour solo wilderness experience where each student employs the winter survival skills (s)he has learned, practices mindfulness, and builds confidence. Through Emerald’s outdoor education program, students learn about themselves as they learn about the world around them and as each student pushes his or her limits.

Johnny Spillane: Passion for Learning Comes Full Circle

Passion for learning comes full circle

Opportunity. It comes up a lot in conversation with Johnny Spillane about his experience at Emerald Mountain School, both as a former student and, now, parent of a bright-eyed, energetic kindergartener ready for the world of learning. 

Johnny was one of the first students to walk through the doors of the school founded by his mother, Nancy Spillane, more than 20 years ago. He spent seventh and eighth grades here, nurtured by a personalized education that helped him excel academically as he pursued his athletic career in Nordic Combined skiing. 

A hometown Olympic champion, Johnny is also dad to Hadley and Genevieve. When it came time to send Hadley to kindergarten, Johnny and his wife Hilary knew they wanted it to be Emerald Mountain School. "It's been a unique opportunity to watch the school evolve and be able to send her here. It's a great school and, for me, the best option available."

Most notable in Johnny's years at Emerald were the small classes and phenomenal teachers, who allowed him to move at his pace academically and enjoy his favorite subjects, math and science. His education also helped prepare him for the outside world, fostering problem solving and the ability to work well with others. "It gives you the opportunity to succeed. I'm very excited to watch Hadley grow and learn here." 

What Makes Emerald Unique

What Makes Emerald Unique

It’s a great time for education in Steamboat, with multiple choices available at several schools. Steamboat’s newest option, a Montessori school, raises the question of what you will find, uniquely, at Emerald Mountain School.
At Emerald, we inspire passionate learners through personalization, close relationships with subject specialist teachers, and small class sizes. At Emerald you find academic excellence, confident learners, and community involvement and leadership.

Our students are held accountable to the highest academic standards in the country, making more than a year’s worth of progress during each year they attend Emerald. Small classes allow students to learn to advocate for themselves, and public speaking and performance opportunities teach them the communication skills to do so effectively.

The warm and family-like environment at Emerald gives students a sense of belonging which stimulates a desire to reach out and help others in both the school community and the wider Steamboat community.

Emerald & Montessori offer:
·         An alternative to traditional education
·         Mixed age (grade) classrooms
·         A focus on developing passionate lifelong learners

Emerald offers:
·         Structured curriculum: focus on strong academics personalized for each student
·         Child-centered approach to learning: Students find success and are challenged in ALL areas of the curriculum (vs. child-driven approach at Montessori)
·         Smaller class sizes: Emerald classes are capped at 18; 7 to 1 student/teacher ratio
·         Unique programming: art, music (strings), outdoor education
·         Passionate teachers who are subject specialists: teacher-student relationships are nurtured year after year
·         A philosophical emphasis on personal accountability as a member of the greater school, local, and global communities
·         A centralized location in the heart of town since 1993

Friday, April 5, 2013

Emerald Curriculum

A parent recently asked about Emerald’s curriculum, wondering if we follow the much-discussed Common Core Curriculum that is being implemented in the nation’s public schools. This engendered a broader discussion about how Emerald curriculum is developed. The short answer to the question about Common Core is a resounding “no.” Emerald faculty do not follow any published curriculum slavishly. Instead, we have an ongoing curriculum development process during which our faculty investigate and analyze available published curricula, professional standards and benchmarks, and best practices from other schools. At the same time, Emerald faculty keep the children’s developmental trajectories firmly in mind as they consider when it is appropriate to teach a specific skill to a specific child. As new research and theories regarding brain development and functioning become available, our faculty re-examine the teaching strategies they are using in light of research results. Our ERB standardized testing results, which provide us with very detailed information about our children’s growth as well as a comparison between our students and those from other top schools in the country, provide an additional source of information upon which we build curriculum.

Emerald’s faculty think critically about the information and ideas from all of these sources as they work collaboratively to design a curriculum that helps each child grow and learn to the very best of his or her ability. Our experiential program, built around a new theme each year, provides the framework for this curricular investigation. For all of these reasons, Emerald students follow a curriculum that is uniquely Emerald’s and which is built upon the combined knowledge of all of our faculty members. Narratives describing Emerald’s curriculum in various subject areas can be found on the program page of our website, at!program/c1ktc. Each year, as we revise, update, and enhance the program, we rewrite our narratives to reflect the learning opportunities we provide for our students. As our faculty work together to develop each year’s plans, they produce “maps” which help them find connections between different subjects within the program as well as providing structure to our own, Emerald-developed, curriculum.

The curriculum at Emerald Mountain School reflects its developers. It is an inspiring, challenging, individualized, experiential, and creative curriculum developed and constantly fine-tuned by faculty who embody those very values.