by Dani Cooke
Every year in late August, while Boulder and Fairview High School students are figuring out their locker combinations and preparing for upcoming quizzes, Watershed’s high school community loads itself and eight days’ worth of supplies into each bus and embarks on a journey toward the beautiful Indian Peaks and James Peak Wildernesses. Following this fateful bus ride is a week of climbing switchbacks, pitching tarps, and community-building so classically strong that it would be laughable were it not so effective.
by Dani Cooke
From an expanding student body to a new science lab, from new teachers to a new head-of-school, every Watershed student knows change to be a constant. Within such development, however, seeing a return to foundations is equally as refreshing.
In addition to the standard head-of-school responsibilities, Tim Breen is kicking off his first year at Watershed by “revising, revisiting, and reaffirming” the Design Principles laid out in 2004 by the school’s founders, Jason Berv and Sumaya Abu-Haidar. These ten principles, now unfamiliar to even the lifetime Watershed student, were developed to reflect the best education practices possible based on the founders’ research as graduate students in education. In the words of the founders, they were created “to inform the creation and development of the Watershed School” and to “focus our vision, remind us of what is important, and inform our decisions.”
This review process, consisting of feedback from students, parents, trustees, board members, teachers, administration, and even Jason Berv himself, is closely tied to the idea of culture-keeping amid change. “We’re reconnecting with our history,” Tim explains. “We are very deliberately looking at the founding principles of the school and using those as the jumping off point for the future of the school.”
So, why now? Before Tim started as head-of-school at Watershed, he spent time learning about the history of the Watershed School by looking at the website in archive.org’s “Wayback Machine.” There, he found the ten Design Principles and immediately saw it as an opportunity to reconnect with and revive Watershed’s conceptual foundations. “Sometimes, you internalize things like the Design Principles so much that you stop talking about them until there’s change and evolution among the student body or teachers,” he explains.
For the future of the school, Tim Breen envisions an ever-evolving set of Design Principles in order to continually align the school with the best educational practices and most relevant values possible.
To learn more about the original Design Principles, take a look at the Watershed School website in the Wayback Machine:
During the yearly middle school orientation trip there was one part that really stood out. We had just gotten back from a game of yeti bottle at Rifle Gap State Park. We ate dinner and went to meet with our advisories. We did some fun group activities, but soon the sun set and we all went to our tents for the night. The teachers came by and said it was time to turn off the and lights go to sleep.
Then, in the middle of the night, I heard a loud scream and I abruptly woke up and asked, drowsily, “what is going on?” Once we realized what was happening, nearly everyone was very nervous. About 20 minutes later, Jeff came by with a very scary voice and said, “get your headlamp and get to your advisory bus as soon as possible!” Everyone's shoes and pajamas were soaking.
We all ran to the bus, despite the rain pouring down on our heads, soaking our clothes and chilling us to the bone. For the girls, the buses were all the way across a field of grass and goat heads. Goat heads are little plants that look soft but are actually very pointy and sharp, and easily get stuck in your skin or your clothes. Additionally (as if that isn't already bad enough), they are practically invisible in the dark. By the time we boarded the bus, everyone was grumpy, cold and very, very tired. Nearly an hour later (2:00), everyone went back to their tents. We went to sleep, and in the morning, it was like nothing had even happened.