Vail Daily column: Partners in kids’ education |

Vail Daily column: Partners in kids’ education

Jason E. Glass
Valley Voices

Editor’s note: This column was co-authored by John McMurty, director of development at the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.

An important part of Eagle County Schools’ strategic plan is the expansion of what we call experiential learning opportunities. This might sound like another education buzzword, but it really means our students getting out in the community and learning from and with the abundance of expertise and talent we have living and working in Eagle County.

Our schools just don’t send kids out anywhere — the quality of the experience matters. Successful experiential learning involves making sure that students get to work with qualified and high caliber individuals, that there is a solid plan for what the student will do and learn, and that we can see and measure outcomes from these experiences.

Eagle County Schools’ partnership with the Steadman Philippon Research Institute is a shining example of how our schools and experts in our community are working together to create a world-class learning experience for our students.

Depending on their age, Eagle County students get the chance to tour working medical laboratories, have distinguished scientists come to their school to visit classes and mentor science fairs, and complete hands-on projects related to science and technology. Our high school students even get to conduct original research with the support and guidance of one of Steadman Philippon’s top-notch medical scientists. During the 2013-14 academic year, more than 500 Eagle County students were directly involved.

Beyond a textbook or a classroom discussion, students get to see and experience the scientific method in action — learning the importance of research design and how to critically evaluate evidence to prove (or disprove) a claim.

Beyond just the science aspect (which is incredibly important in its own right), students learn from renowned scientists how to professionally present information, answer tough questions and think deeply about how to back up their claims with more than just rhetoric or opinion.

As we envision the world Eagle County’s children will grow into, the competencies learned through this partnership between Eagle County Schools and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute become even more important. Creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, presentation and professionalism — these are all concepts our students get to experience first-hand.

This community offers so much to students and families in terms of quality of life — but we must recognize that Eagle County is also a place where stellar scientists, physicians, artists and professionals of all kinds choose to make their home.

Our schools are capitalizing on this talent in the community and leveraging it into learning experiences that are nearly unmatched anywhere else in the country, if not the world. Eagle County Schools and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute are proud of our partnership — but we are even more proud of the future scientists, physicians and professionals that we are growing right here in our own community.

Jason E. Glass is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. He can be reached at

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