The Alpine Institute is mostly a spirit, an inspiration. Teachers tap into this spirit, and it grows. Teachers open their classroom doors and their after-school activities to the changing forests, the crevassed glaciers, the bloody and beautiful history of our Leysin home, the place where for a few precious years our students will learn to breathe and to think. Below are interviews with a few of the teachers we work with most closely. They describe how they’re embracing mountain studies we’re developing together. If the connections feel loose, that’s because they are and always will be. For example, one of our strongest common themes is citizen science. The key to integrating citizen science into education is building connections to the curriculum. It will be the same with all of the Alpine Institute’s work: finding connections to classroom requirements and assisting teachers to use local and outdoor examples whenever they can.
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Patricia Cooper was the Social Studies Department Head from 2012 to 2015. She is now co-leading the development of curriculum for the new LAS Middle School.
“Local knowledge is going to be healthy for our students. My own kids went to Swiss schools before starting at LAS. In their school in nearby Diablerets they learned to “Respect the mountain.” The mountain above us was the metaphor for respecting the environment, safety, everything. When my kids transferred to LAS, one of their first comments was “Mom, these kids don’t respect the mountain.” We need to build this spirit of respect into our students when they first arrive.”
Read Ms. Cooper’s interview here.
Andie Flett is the girl’s Grade 8/9 Coordinator, head of the Vermont Dorm, and an Award Leader with the International Award.
“Outdoor ed is not really about learning how to camp, nor even about hiking or cooking over a fire, because those might not be skills that they really need in the future. It’s about the self and group education that just happens to take place in an outdoor classroom. I think the challenge for the instructor is designing outdoor experiences that will make our students feel successful. We have to set them up for success.”
Read Ms. Flett’s interview here.
Ben Hall has been teaching Physical Education (PE) and Life Skills at LAS since 2014, following work at several schools in the U.K and Chile. He’s developing the PE curriculum for the LAS middle school.
“Outdoor education teaches teamwork, sportsmanship, understanding others, and being a fully rounded person. Especially with the cohort of students that we have, we need to take them outside of their comfort zones. They need to learn that it’s okay to push boundaries, it’s okay to not get everything right the first time. Outdoor education lends itself to developing the whole child as an individual and holistically.”
Read Mr. Hall’s interview here.
John Harlin is the director of the LAS Alpine Institute. Before LAS, he was a senior fellow at The Mountain Institute following 30 years as an editor and writer at several mountain magazines.
“The Alpine Institute is mostly a spirit, an inspiration. Teachers tap into this spirit, and it grows. Teachers open their classroom doors and their after-school activities to the changing forests, the crevassed glaciers, the bloody and beautiful history of our home, the place where for a few precious years our students will learn to breathe and to think.”
Read an excerpt from Mr. Harlin’s article about the Alpine Institute in Panorama magazine 2016.
Chris Leonhard has been teaching science at LAS for five years and has been Science Department Head for three.
“Extensive research shows that having kids involved and making it important to them will help them learn better. So if we’re studying science, not just by talking about it, but by actually going out and doing it, they’re learning the scientific process better. This hands-on education is a big part of the goal. You’re physically doing something. The kids can see the results of manipulating variables rather than just reading about them. They can hold the results in their hands. It’s teaching the scientific method.”
Read Chris Leonhard’s interview here.
Ronan Lynch is LAS’s Social Studies Department Chair and teaches IB Geography and Environmental Systems & Societies (ESS).
“It makes complete sense for LAS to study glaciers. We have a perfect learning platform because we can be on a glacier within an hour from Leysin. In our geography textbook they recommend that we study far off places like Nepal and Everest. But we have so much right here. Linking these field studies into the curriculum is the best way to do it.”
Read Mr. Lynch’s interview here.
Dan Patton teaches science and is developing a forest ecology curriculum for the middle school.
“Students want to believe that what they’re studying is going to have some kind of impact on their lives. The idea that the information they’re collecting can actually add to scientific knowledge is enough to get some kids interested. Doing the LETS study year after year will allow students to see that their data have actually gone somewhere. What they’re doing this year will be passed down to next year’s students, and so on.”
Read Mr. Patton’s interview here.