A 9th and 10th Grade Small Learning Community at Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo, CaliforniaSeptember 2016 (Photo credit: Peter Oppenheimer)
ROCK nurtures writers, artists, scientists and problem-solvers:A ROCK Teacher's school project was featured on National Public Radio's Science Friday program on May 5, 2017. http://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place-life-thrives/A ROCK Student won the Chipotle Cultivating Thought Author Series Essay Contest in 2016 for her piece "Two Minutes with Dad". Chipotle Restaurants awarded her a $20,000 college scholarship and is printing her work on take-out bags and cups across the USA. She entered the contest because we assigned it. http://cultivatingthought.com/author/tori-brown/A ROCK Student won the California Coastal Commission's 2016 Coastal Art & Poetry Contest with her poem "Thoughts We Have Getting out of the Car in Monterey."Two ROCK students and a ROCK teacher co-authored a paper in a peer-reviewed academic journal: Wing M.R., Iida K. and Wearing E. (2015) "Stone-by-Stone Metrics Shed New Light on a Unique Stone Alignment at the Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, Alta California" California Archaeology. Vol. 7, No. 2. pp. 245-264. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1947461X.2015.1108565 (The students are now at Barnard College and Cal Poly, respectively. Wing hopes to stay at Drake until 2028.)
When the Marin Poetry Center http://www.marinpoetrycenter.org/ held its 2015 High School Poetry Contest, over a thousand entries were submitted representing every major school in Marin. Fifty three poems were selected for for publication; sixteen of them written by ROCK students! We also took second place, third place and two of the three honorable mentions. So a program that represents less than one percent of Marin's high school students submitted about 20% of the entries, wrote 30% of the published poems, and took home 67% of the awards. The submissions were judged on courage of expression, originality of language, content and form, and technique. This was no fluke - we did almost as well in 2016.A ROCK student won the Marin Theater Company's 2015 Ten-Minute Play Festival with her script "17 Biblical Cats". A ROCK student has won this writing contest every time we have entered it.A ROCK Teacher co-authored a paper in a peer-reviewed scientific journal with three Drake students, two of them from ROCK: Wing M.R., Knowles A.J., Melbostad S.R. and Jones A.K. (2014) "Spiral grain in bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva) exhibits no correlation with environmental factors." Trees - Structure and Function. Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 487-491. DOI 10.1007/s00468-013-0965-y. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00468-013-0965-y (The students are now at Dartmouth, UCLA and Tulane, respectively. Wing hopes to stay at Drake until 2028.)
Three teams of ROCK students received honorable mention in the 2014 Toshiba Exploravision Competition, a competition for K-12 students from across the United States, for their projects "Photovoltaic Asphalt", "The Household Graywater Reclaimer" and "Self-healing Roads."
A team of ROCK students was the National runner-up in The Engage in Democracy 2012 Student Journalism Challenge, a competition for K-12 students from across the United States and its territories. We also swept the regional competition!
Class time is about 70% traditional college-prep content, 30% interdisciplinary projects. There are four projects every year. Most are done in small groups. Each has many steps. Points earned in projects make about 1/3 of your grade in English, science, social studies and art/drama. (math, foreign languages and physical education are not part of ROCK and are taken in the morning.)
Students also do 70 hours of community service in their two years in ROCK, and learn basic computer skills.A 9thSince ROCK is a two-year program, we have an alternate year curriculum:
"White" Year: English, Integrated Science, Beginning Drama, World History.
"Green" Year: English, Integrated Science, Art Explorations, Drawing & Painting, Geography, Social Issues.
Either year is an appropriate year in which to enter ROCK. (White and Green are Drake's colors.)The Teachers:
Paul Grifo (Social Studies) ROCK Teacher since 1994
Mary Kitchens (English) ROCK Teacher since 1992
Jasper Thelin (Art/Drama) ROCK Teacher since 2000
Michael Wing (Science) ROCK Teacher since 1998
\What about those Projects?
There are four projects every year. Most are done in small groups.
Each has many steps. Points earned in projects make about 1/3 of your grade in English, Science, Social Studies and Art/Drama. Examples of Projects include:
The "Art is Everywhere" Project. You end up creating a work of art for public viewing, but there are many steps of research, reflection and project management (deadlines and budgets) along the way...
The Disease Project: in regular school, you might write a research paper on tuberculosis. Here you start by researching your disease, but then you create a timeline showing your disease throughout history. You build an annotated 3-D model of how your disease works in the body. You write an original song about your disease and perform it in front of 100 people. You write several fictional narratives from the point of view of disease victims and pathogens. And you debate 26 other diseases in a debate tournament to see who gets the most funding for research and prevention. To succeed in the debate, you need to learn about the other 25 diseases as well!
(Our Chronic Fatigue Syndrome group got an article written about them in The CFIDS Chronicle: Young, Pamela. "New" School. The CFIDS Chronicle, Vol. 19; Issue 3, Summer 2006, page 29.)
The Music Project: Two guest directors (professional musicians from outside Drake) lead us in music and song. It culminates in a public performance for 500 people at the Fairfax Pavillion. Guest directors include the renowned and outstanding John Turk and Larry Vann.
How to get in to ROCK:
All 8th Graders planning to enter Drake High are given an opportunity to choose between ROCK, daVinci and The Learning Collaborative, all 9th and 10th grade blended programs. If you want to be in ROCK, indicate that as your first choice.
Why be part of ROCK?
ROCK Teachers say: "The 9th and 10th Graders in ROCK take all their classes together for two years. At the end of every year, the 10th graders leave the program to be replaced by incoming 9th graders. So I start each year already knowing half my students really well. The 9th graders model themselves on the 10th graders from the first minute, so we never have to break them in - the tenth graders do it for us. There is a "ROCK Culture" of hard work, camaraderie, creativity and fun that perpetuates itself from year to year."ROCK Students claim they have…
An easier time in 11th grade.
Frequently asked questions:
What does ROCK stand for?
Students invented the name, which stands for "Revolution of Core Knowledge." The idea behind the name is that knowledge by itself means little unless you apply it in relevant and creative ways.
Is ROCK only for elite students?
No. ROCK is for everyone.
What are daVinci and The Learning Collaborative? How do they relate to ROCK?
DaVinci and The Learning Collaborative are the other Small Learning Communities of students and teachers at Drake. Like ROCK, they are two-year blended programs in which 9th and 10th graders take their classes together. Like ROCK, they utilize Project Based Learning and group work. Any 8th grader considering ROCK ought to consider daVinci and T.L.C., and vice versa.
What about subjects like math, Spanish, etc?
ROCK is only four periods out of seven. All ROCK students take three classes in the morning at Drake, outside of ROCK. For most, these are math, physical education, and French or Spanish.
Can I leave ROCK after the 9th grade?
It has been done, but it disrupts your education. ROCK covers the district's 9th and 10th grade curricula in English, science and social studies but the two years are blended together. If you leave ROCK halfway through the program to enter other classes at Drake, it will be necessary to study some topics twice, and other topics never. We ask you to make a two-year commitment when you enter ROCK.
Can I enter ROCK as a 10th grader?
No. We need 10th graders to lead others in group projects. It takes a year to learn how to do this.
Can I play sports and still have time for ROCK?
Yes. Most of our students are active in organized after-school activities such as sports, and drama. They do have to manage their time well.
What comes after ROCK?
There are two academies at Drake for Juniors and Seniors: The Communications Academy and SEA-DISC (Environmental Studies), and of course "regular" High School courses. Most ROCKers go on to college, as do most Drake students.
Ask any ROCK student, ex-ROCK student, ROCK parent or ROCK teacher! (There are over a thousand out there in the community.)