Vail Valley Voices: Perfect vision for success |

Vail Valley Voices: Perfect vision for success

Dr. Sandra B. Smyser
Vail, CO Colorado

A goal of the 2020 High School Task Force is to produce engaging and challenging learning activities that prepare our graduates for success in tomorrow’s workplace.

Eagle Valley High School students in teacher Ryan Smiley’s class presented an affordable housing project to the Board of Education and the town of Gypsum last year where, after looking at a piece of land previously deemed unusable by the county, they assessed the development, planning and zoning of the land in order to determine the feasibility of creating an affordable housing site.

This project fit perfectly into the scope of the 2020 High School Task Force’s vision of engaging students with real-world, hands-on educational experiences.

Last spring, 20 high school teachers from all four district high schools and key district office staff members convened to discuss how our high schools could adapt to meet the needs of 21st century learners.

Through subsequent monthly meetings, groups of teachers formed to develop collaborative 21st century lessons.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

The teachers were charged with the task of working during the summer to develop challenge-based projects that would be presented in class the following year.

These projects include digital portfolios for graduating seniors at the district’s alternative high school, collaborative projects on the theme of “activism” that involve students from two different campuses and a cross-disciplinary project that explores the contributions of pre-colonial Americans to the modern world.

Students are already beginning to engage in these projects that will involve them in cutting edge technology such as Adobe Acrobat Pro, GPS mapping, Web site development, digital video production, collaborative wikis and Google Docs.

More importantly, the projects require students to utilize skills recognized as critical in the 21st century: self-direction, invention, critical thinking, collaboration and information literacy.

This grassroots, generative effort is intended to have a viral effect in which other teachers eventually take part so that our collective conceptions about 21st century secondary education are transformed and developed.

In addition, the 2020 High School Task Force’s efforts will directly complement the Enhancing Education Through Technology grant Eagle County Schools just received, which will bring in $150,000 over the next two years.

Based on the needs assessment Eagle County Schools conducted last year, this grant will allow us to provide ongoing and imbedded professional development and technical support in our secondary schools in order to create successful 21st century learning communities.

I am confident that the efforts of the 2020 High School Task Force combined with this grant will propel us forward in the right direction and give our students the perfect vision for success in life after high school.

Dr. Sandra B. Smyser is superintendent of Eagle County Schools.

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