Dear Friends of Watershed School,
On a recent trip to Crested Butte, I came to realize something new about each of my daughters. Stella, our seven-year-old, was reading in the backseat, and I noticed for the first time, based on her pile of books, how drawn she was to nonfiction, and in particular Native American history. I asked her about this, and she said, “I just love knowing that the stories are true and seeing how they lived.” And each time I headed off to fish, River, our five-year-old, was game to join me. After getting skunked one day, I asked her if she still had fun even when we didn’t catch anything, and she said, “Yeah, Dad, I just love fishing.” So I started reading E.H. Gombrich’s A Little History of the World with Stella and bought River a new fishing rod and showed her how to use dry flies. As parents we come to know our children, and what they are capable of and desire to know, by providing them with experiences, observing them, asking questions, and then trying to respond in ways that feed their understanding and curiosity. Watershed School is a place where students are provided with this level of care and attention to ensure that we know who they are, what they wonder about and how we can individually support them in actualizing their potential as thinkers, citizens and dreamers.
Watershed School was founded on the best practices that define progressive, experiential and character education. When planning for an upcoming year, we always begin by considering what is going to be most relevant for our students and then think critically about experiences, experts and projects that will engage our students in rigorous, critical thinking and problem solving. Each semester, students are immersed in Expeditions where they grapple with timeless questions that drive the essence of their investigations: What does it mean to be human? Is there enough energy to go around? Why do some people have rights while others do not? How do we see the world? Who and what are in control of our identities? Are you what you eat? At Watershed School our teachers teach in a manner where students are constructing their own ideas as a result of being engaged in intense experiences that invite them to gain an understanding that is a mile deep and an inch wide, as opposed to an inch deep and a mile wide. Our students have traveled to the Mexican-American border to enrich their study of immigration, have witnessed animal slaughters to appreciate where our food comes from, and have traipsed through the barley fields outside Salinas, California, with an atlas, a GPS and John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men to find the opening and closing setting of the book. Another powerful thread that runs through every aspect of our school is our community curriculum, where students are impelled to refine their leadership, empathy and understanding of how to take care of themselves, others and the world. Ultimately, Watershed School offers a sanctuary where students are free to be themselves and to take risks without the fear and uncertainty, and where they can engage in learning in a manner that is meaningful and memorable.
By honoring our students’ latent desires to learn and by committing ourselves, without compromise, to educational best practices, we are redefining what education can look like, and we are doing so in manner that is being recognized by competitive colleges across the nation and by a variety of external assessments. At Watershed School, we have been administering the College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA) for four years. Each year we have scored in the 95th percentile or above, and last year our students scored in the 99th percentile. The CWRA measures the value that a school adds to the students’ ability to analyze real-world problems and write effectively about solutions. These are the skills that young adults will need as they enter college and the workplace. The results of the CWRA tell us that Watershed School’s approach to teaching adds to the students’ abilities as critical thinkers. This is borne out in our college acceptance rate, which is 100%. Recent graduates have been accepted to Brown, Emerson, Reed, Colorado College, Smith, Mount Holyoke and Lewis and Clark, among others.
I believe another powerful indicator of the quality of a school is where the staff desires to send their own children. When I think of my own two girls and the genuine thirst that they have for learning and for life, I can’t imagine preserving and fostering their curiosity anywhere other than Watershed School. It is more than just a school, it’s also an idea like human rights, equality, or love that stands as a testament of what we are capable of when we are at our best and when are minds are free to explore what is possible.
Chris Carithers, M.Ed.
Head of School