Charter school students begin ‘intensives’

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By Emily Murphy | Pagosa Peak Open School 

Pagosa Peak Open School (PPOS) students in kindergarten through fifth grade recently started their first Peak Week intensive and warmed up with the theater game Little Sally Walker in preparation for their community performance of “Winnie the Pooh.” 

This is one of five mixed-age groups of PPOS students participating in intensives: a unique educational experience for PPOS students focusing on a subject and covering a variety of state standards. 

While the theater group addresses many art, writing, reading, speaking and listening standards, other groups have different focuses. Families had options for Spanish, gardening, jujitsu, cooking, visual arts, biomedical engineering, robotics, camping, hiking, projects, rafting, golf and outerspace. Each student got to choose two experiences, each two weeks long.

Earlier this month, middle school students prepared for their camping trip that happened last week with PPOS middle school advisor Kelsey Scott. Students camped at McPhee Reservoir and rafted the San Miguel from Placerville to Telluride, studying the ecosystems in the area and classifying flora and fauna. 

Another group spent their days learning Spanish with Jen Sarkis, PPOS’s third-grade teacher. 

“I told my mom and dad, when I am done with this, I will probably just be speaking Spanish all the time,” first-grader Alice said. Students learned the basics of greeting, weather, days of the week and more through games, songs and crafts. 

At St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, students gathered with PPOS advisor Michala Mecklenburg with an introduction to forensic science where students assume the various roles of crime scene investigator, scientist and medical examiner in order to collect and evaluate evidence in a problem-solving environment.

Many students got dirty through two intensives: “Forging Gardens and Greatness” and “Where Does Our Food Come From?” 

PPOS Advisor Maggie Saunders worked with students on building school gardens. When they were not planting, weeding and building, students got to hit the mat with jujitsu instructors, learning the basics of this martial art.

Meanwhile, out at Southern Roots Farm, PPOS Lead Advisor Kelle Bruno worked with a group of K-3 students on planting, cooking and harvesting produce from the farm. Students are learning where food comes from and how it’s grown.

“The concept of ‘intensives’ is quite common in project-based learning schools across the country and we are excited to bring this programming to Pagosa Peak Open School,” School Director Angela Reali-Crossland said. “Our amazing staff has tapped into their passions and come up with some really great educational opportunities for our students.”

Each year moving forward, PPOS will offer one week of intensive programming during the summer. This year, due to the school’s building renovation, students will participate in intensives for the entire month of June.