How is Watershed School different from other schools?
Watershed School’s most unique characteristics are its use of “place-based education” and “learning expeditions.” Place-based education “provides students with opportunities to connect with themselves, their community, and their local environment through hands-on, real-world learning experiences. It is rooted in the integrated core curricular activities of science, social studies, communication arts, and fine arts, and is expanded upon and applied by extending the classroom into the schoolyard and the neighborhood. This approach enables students to see that their learning is relevant to their world, to take pride in the place in which they live, to connect with the rest of the world in a natural way, and to develop into concerned and contributing citizens.” (quote by Jack Chin)
Learning expeditions are semester-long projects that weave together several different disciplines and explore rich topics or themes that provide students with a real-world context for their learning. Learning Expeditions focus on the Boulder Creek Watershed community, giving students an opportunity to understand and come to know their human and natural environments. Learning Expeditions meet for several hours each day, often at locations throughout the community that pertain to the theme of the current expedition. This schedule of intensive classes allows for in-depth learning to occur.
Other unique aspects of Watershed School which are less apparent, but no less important, are our emphasis on community responsibility, sustainable lifestyles, and a commitment to diversity. To promote community responsibility, students are involved in a wide range of stewardship activities that may range from participating in the governance of the school to helping to maintain our facilities to sharing with others in the community the skills and knowledge they have acquired. To promote sustainable lifestyles, we expect students to help us in our school-wide commitment to take care of our natural resources, and we aim to foster in students a balanced approach to life, that honors not only the intellectual, but also the emotional, physical, and spiritual elements of our lives. Our commitment to diversity is reflected in our efforts to make the school a safe and welcoming place for a wide variety of beliefs, lifestyles, ideologies, and cultures.
If I send my son/daughter to Watershed School, will he/she be able to get into college?
YES! Watershed School will provide an excellent preparation for college, although this is not our only goal, nor even our primary goal. We aim to foster in students a new way of looking at their role in the world, which is much broader than college alone.
Watershed students will be exceptionally well prepared for college in several ways. First, they will have a first-rate education that seeks to help students apply their knowledge to the world around them. Watershed students will have more than just a transcript that lists the courses they have taken. Rather, Watershed students will compile a detailed resume that describes the impressive ways in which they have demonstrated and applied their learning.
In addition to the academic emphasis on excellence in written and oral communication, scientific and media literacy, Watershed students will also be given explicit preparation for the college entrance exam, the SAT.
How will student learning be assessed at Watershed School?
We feel that typical grading on an A-F scale is generally not very meaningful, and provides little usable feedback to help students improve their performance. Instead, Watershed School will provide regular written reports that give substantive feedback to students and their families.
At key points in each major course, students will present their work to a group of invited volunteers and experts from the community. These community members will be asked to evaluate the work of Watershed students. The teachers’ role is to help prepare students for these presentations. In this way, the teachers play more of a coaching role than a judging role. Students’ presentations will be evaluated using explicit criteria, and will be assessed on a three-part scale: Met expectations; Exceeded expectations; Not yet met expectations.
Is Watershed School accredited?
Accreditation is a voluntary process that independent schools engage in. Colorado independent schools are not eligible for accreditation by our local accrediting agency until their fourth year of operation. Watershed students will still be eligible, however, for admissions at even the most selective colleges.
While we are not yet accredited, we are or will be affiliated with several local, regional, and national organizations. These organizations include:
The Association of Colorado Independent Schools
The National Association of Independent Schools
Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound
The Association for Experiential Education
National Coalition of Alternative Community Schools
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning
Why are we called “Watershed School”?
The Boulder Creek Watershed – an area defined by the region through which Boulder Creek flows – provides a unique way of defining our community. Our students come from the towns within the watershed, and much of our work is focused on the rich resources and complex issues of the watershed community.
Our motto is “connecting students to their community.” The community to which we want to connect our students is the Boulder Creek Watershed community.
How is Watershed School funded?
As an independent school, we are solely responsible for our budget, and do not receive any public funds. Watershed School charges a modest tuition, which is offered on a sliding scale, and which covers less than half of our expenses. The remaining expenses are funded by a combination of grants and donations by individuals and organizations.
How much is tuition at Watershed School?
Watershed School uses a sliding scale based on income to determine tuition. We aim to make a Watershed School education available to all students, regardless of ability to pay our full tuition.