School engagement and enriched learning is a community priority. Given that only 36 percent of Eagle County teens recently reported feeling the schoolwork they are assigned is meaningful and important (2013 Eagle County Healthy Kids Colorado Survey), many local organizations have strengthened partnerships with Eagle County Schools to offer enriching academic opportunities. Walking Mountains Science Center, established in 1998 in Red Cliff by longtime local Kim Langmaid, is one example of a local agency working closely with Eagle County Schools to foster critical thinking through programs that complement the classroom curriculum. Walking Mountains works to “awaken a sense of wonder and inspire environmental stewardship through natural science education” and ensures that every child in Eagle County receives natural science education that takes place in nature.
Walking Mountains combines the following developmental assets with science education:
• Achievement motivation: Young people are motivated to do well in school.
• Youth as resources: Young people are given useful roles in the community.
• School engagement: Young people are actively engaged in learning.
In addition to school field science programs, summer science camps and the Girls in Science program, Walking Mountains has been engaged with the Healthy Communities Coalition, a community coalition focused on healthy eating and active living. Recently, Walking Mountains led development of a food production map, enabling community members to find current information on over 300 food producers within 100 miles of the town of Eagle (a full article on the project ran in the Vail Daily on April 16). Healthy eating strategies enable families to make smarter consumer choices, leading to benefits such as increased focus in children at school.
While 2013 Eagle County Healthy Kids Colorado Survey findings demonstrate youth are motivated to graduate high school and continue on to further their education, opportunities exist to boost engagement in current coursework and to foster an environment where students experience relevancy between current learnings and future success. Enrichment programs, offered by Walking Mountains and other organizations, support this connection of learning to the future. For example, 52 percent of Eagle County teens recently reported feeling the things they are learning in school will be important to them later in life. In addition to improving the manner in which all youth-serving organizations pull together as an effective system, Eagle County Schools is committed to higher content standards and a high level of academic rigor for all students.
Haven’t had a chance to check out an insightful Walking Mountains program yourself? The final film in the sustainable film series, “Minds in the Water,” shows at the Dusty Boot in Eagle at 6:30 p.m. on May 20. Additionally, Summer Science Camps are filling up quickly; find out more information and register today at www.walking mountains.org.
Michelle Stecher is the executive director at the Eagle River Youth Coalition, a local nonprofit organization that offers and supports collaborative prevention programs and services. For more information, call 970-949-9250 or visit www.eagleyouth.org.
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