Carbondale group gathers ideas to share in school visioning session
Ryan Summerlin September 25, 2013
CARBONDALE — A group of parents, teachers and others associated with Carbondale schools are kick-starting the conversation about how to improve the local schools, and gathering thoughts before the Roaring Fork School District brings its “visioning” tour to town next week.
Called “Our Children, Our Schools,” the movement started last school year with a focus on Carbondale schools, and was part of the impetus for the Roaring Fork Re-1 school board to launch a broader, districtwide discussion.
The district’s visioning process begins in Basalt with meetings Wednesday and Thursday, before traveling to Carbondale Oct. 2-3 and finishing in Glenwood Springs on Oct. 9-10.
In the meantime, an impromptu event taking place from 6-8 p.m. this evening at Carbondale Middle School is meant to educate the community about some of the possibilities for local schools in advance of the district meetings.
“This will be a valuable evening centered around what is going on in education outside our valley and around the world, and what we might do to bring more of that to Carbondale,” Erin Rigney, one of the local parents behind the effort, said in an email blast to spread the word of tonight’s event.
“When [the district] asks Carbondale, ‘What do you think?,’ we want Carbondalians to have some ideas about what is possible for our schools and our children,” she said.
Although the focus is on Carbondale schools, Rigney said anyone from throughout the school district or the larger Roaring Fork Valley is welcome to attend and participate in the discussion.
The event will include films and discussions about different educational philosophies, including how to promote critical thinking skills and creative problem-solving, and how to incorporate more experiential learning in the public schools.
“Carbondale has been widely celebrated for our enduring spirit of creativity, community, innovation, sustainability and rich diversity,” according to the group’s statement of purpose. “We want our schools to reflect who we are as a vibrant community.”
One question on the table is whether Carbondale schools could benefit from what’s already happening at Glenwood Springs Elementary School, which is being converted into an official Expeditionary Learning (EL) School.
“We applaud the Re-1 school district for being so open and responsive to requests from Glenwood Springs parents for a different approach to education at Glenwood Spring Elementary School,” according to a statement from the group.
Some of the key tenets of EL — the primacy of self-discovery, learning through success and failure, collaboration and competition, diversity and inclusion, an understanding of the natural world, and service to others — could also provide a foundation for Carbondale schools, Rigney said.
The group’s guiding statement concludes: “We believe our schools can:
• Nurture collaborative partnerships between students, teachers, administrators, families and the community.
• Inspire children’s natural curiosity and intrinsic motivation for learning.
• Engage teachers and students with questions and projects that have meaningful connections to the world outside the classroom.
• Focus on the love of learning and not standardized testing.
• Challenge students at every skill level with exciting projects, hands-on experiences and opportunities to explore and be creative.
• Create classrooms that function as life-enriching communities.
• Promote character development, empathy, stewardship of the natural environment, conflict resolution and choices that support health and happiness for students and adults alike.
For more about “Our Children, Our Schools,” including video links and articles that address some of the educational ideas to be discussed tonight, visit: www.carbondaleconversation.org.
For a story about the Roaring Fork Re-1 visioning meetings and schedule, see www.postindependent.com/news/8200492-113/meeting-community-district-fork.