By Emily Murphy
Pagosa Peak Open School
After five weeks away and a year of many COVID-19 restraints, Pagosa Peak Open School (PPOS) opened its doors on schedule Aug. 2 for the 2021-2022 school year.
Students were met with old and new features: a communal lunch space where classes eat together, visible teacher smiles, welcoming games and school-wide norm-setting.
Middle school students were excited to learn that, starting this year, they will begin choosing elective classes.
“As our middle school students take on more responsibilities and independence in life, we strive to also reward these developments with more choices,” School Director Angela Reali-Crossland said. Students will have choices between restorative practices, world languages, art, yearbook and the teacher assistant program.
Eighth-grader Hevon is applying for the teacher assistant position, where middle schoolers assist in the elementary school classrooms twice a week.
“I love hanging out with children, helping to walk them up the stairs of maturity and growth; to become great adults in their community,” he said in his application.
Middle school students are also eager to take their learning outside the classroom with the first camping trip of the year at Big Meadows Campground. After their rock cycle rafting experience in Moab last June with middle school teacher Kelsey Scott, students are ready to show their camping knowledge with PPOS’s new middle school humanities teacher, Brooks Letchworth.
“I’m grateful to be at a school that cares about and values the outdoors, where character traits and life skills have real-life applications,” Letchworth said.
This first trip includes team-building opportunities, as well as a reconnection with Audubon Society through an extension of its High Alpine Tundra project. Students will continue their study of pikas, their environment and behavior.
“I’m excited to get back into this work with my students after a year of having it on hold,” Scott said. Keith Bruno will be leading students through their pika work at Big Meadows this year and students are eager to continue their research with this local expert.
PPOS’s project-based curriculum continues in all the classes and students across PPOS are looking forward to applying their learning inside the classroom and out in the community.