Author Archives: Stephanie Griebe

Patent Pending

Thanks to Genius Hour, a rising fifth grade student has a Patent Pending!

Last fall, the third and fourth grade teacher Ben Gardner, brought Genius Hour to TMS. Genius Hour, a concept originating at Google, allowed employees time to research and develop individual projects to help foster creativity and innovation.

Recently, the concept was introduced into the classroom to allow students time to foster their own creativity and develop a lifelong love of learning.

Once a week, the third and fourth grade class had time to work on their own Genius Hour projects with the end goal of not only presenting their creative work to their classmates and parents but to ultimately develop skills, interests and innovation in areas that students might otherwise not learn in a classroom setting.

All of the projects may not have ended in perfect execution, but the process helped students understand and develop their own interests, fail without consequences, and practice trial and error.

Over the course of the year, students worked on projects such as fashion design, computer

coding, website development, stop-motion filming, screenwriting, rocketry, and a wide spectrum of other topics.

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And most recently, a rising fifth grade student has a patent pending!

Reeve Johnson spent most of the school year developing a magnetic desk/shelf that some of the students used in the great room (you may have seen it in the hallway) Reeve made two prototypes in the process and added a number of features; a cup holder, a light and a level indicator. With the help of a patent lawyer, Reeve filed a ten page document with mechanical drawings and photos…The patent lawyer is optimistic that it will get approved!

Hats off to Ben Gardner for bringing Genius Hour to TMS!  For the 2017-18 school year, Ben will offer Genius Hour to the fifth and sixth grades as well as the third and fourth.

A Parent’s Perspective

While we do not allow parents to “tag along” or serve as general chaperones on experiential education trips with their children, on occasion a student has a serious medical condition and the parent is asked to help lead a trip. Below is a letter from an Upper School parent who recently spent two weeks traveling with the seventh and eighth grade class on their spring immersion trip through Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia.

“Dear Mountain School,

I wanted to submit my final thoughts and reflections, for your records, on the South Trip that I was privileged enough to attend.

First, I want to thank you for taking the historically unorthodox measure of inviting a parent on as a “Leader” for the experiential education component of your curriculum.   I know that you do not normally advocate for parents on field trips, but now that I have seen the inner working of this program…I am fully awed and feel enlightened to have seen, first hand, the magic that occurred within this curriculum!

I also feel grateful for your willingness to accommodate the special medical needs of my student in order to allow her to be able to experience this life-changing journey with her peers in a way that felt comfortable in regards to the Diabetes care.  Overall, this year we have been very pleased with the silent yet compassionate “all-eyes-on” approach the Diabetes management that has helped our daughter stay safe at school.   Ultimately, this year has been very empowering for her on so many levels.

After witnessing first hand the learning and care that ensued on the South trip, I returned with the 7th and 8th-grade class ultimately impressed by the following-through of the Mountain School mission on the road.  The experiential part of the student’s education proved to be profound and transnational for the students…and me.  I was able to get a real glimpse of the richness and magic that the outside-of-the-classroom-walls approach had on the students in the end.

The teachers and their care for the students and their learning experience were exemplary.  First, the stamina and involvement by the teaching staff were beyond full time.  They gave of themselves in a completely selfless way with a devoted dedication to the students. The teachers were committed to the student’s learning and positive group experience. Andy, Jacqui, and Paul were literally working around the clock for the students putting the kids and the curriculum in front of all else.   Once again, Andy’s wealth of knowledge and expertise on the subject matter was deep, and the teachers made a lesson out of every experience we had as we went.  The kids asked for math problems to solve in the van and at restaurants that were pertinent to their travel.  That love of math and learning, I had never seen before. All students were involved and motivated to solve.  Jacqui even made a card game about civil rights trivia that they played in the van as we drove.

On another note, it was amazing and refreshing to be surrounded by teenagers WHO WERE NOT ON THEIR PHONES during this whole journey. It really challenged them to be present and interact, and I do feel this is rare. Being device-less is also a valuable social skill to foster, which the Mountain School does nobly.

I witnessed the staff care for the student as if they were family, and the attentiveness to safety, nutrition, resting, reflecting, and discipline, was fantastic.   Ultimately, the teachers demanded respect on all levels from their students.  I was overjoyed to see that compassion was expected and taught.  This came through when we arrived at a hotel at midnight in Nashville that did not feel good and safe.  We could have chanced it and spent a few hours of sleeping in a sketchy motel, but instead, the call was made to keep it safe, reorganize and scramble at midnight after a long day, to make sure the students were best taken care of.    I will never forget Andy saying,  “You are my flock, and we need to make decisions that are best for you (students) to keep you happy and healthy!” As a parent witness, this validated the deep commitment the teachers have for the best interest of their students.  That is when I saw an authentic love and deep care for the students and felt confident that they were in very capable hands.

I also got to get an inside glimpse of the family dynamic among the 7th and 8th graders who appreciated each other and clearly accepted and celebrated each individual for each of their unique personalities that made up their group.  This comradery, I feel, is rare at this age, and what I saw was tender, loving and support in a way that each individual student was able to shine in their own light. Any sub-par behavior or action was quickly addressed and all negativity and unacceptable behavior were squashed to make sure everyone felt included as part of the group.  Once again, I was impressed.

I saw the impact of the experiential learning that took place and it was life changing.  An 8th-grade boy said, after given time to journal and process, “I am embarrassed to be related by color to people who would treat other people this way.” This showed me that the curriculum and subject matter was hitting hard to the core.  I saw our 8th-grade girls drawn to tears after an exhibit where they learned that modern day slavery still takes place today.  This information completely shook their worldview.   I would have to say, the trip was transformational for each student, and myself included.  Thank you for allowing me to see “backstage” on one of the infamous experiential education trips that are integral to the culture of the Mountain School.

All I have is praise.”

-Joanna Kanow

TMS Alumni Gather for College Symposium

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Five TMS alumni gathered the last week of school to talk to upper school students about their college experience and give them a few pieces of advice.


Although it seems pretty intuitive, it was unanimous that actually going to class was a success factor. The alums stressed the importance of utilizing office hours, talking to professors, doing homework, self motivating, and sitting in the front of classroom.

The alumni also talked about some of  their decisions to take a gap year, change their majors, or  transfer colleges mid-year to a school that better fit their interests or social profiles.

When asked how TMS prepared them for life outside of the box canyon, a few common themes ran deep. TMS had prepared them as travelers, independent and critical thinkers, writers and relationship-builders.

You will excel above your college classmates in writing.

TMS students focus a considerable amount of time writing essays, and although it may seem a bit torturous at times, every single alum said that they excelled above their college classmates in writing.

The immersion and experiential education trips had prepared them as independent thinkers and global travelers. Camilla Gardner recently took a gap year and traveled around Europe; she attributes the class trips to preparing her to study abroad and embrace her independence.

Makenna Craig talked about outdoor education, which gave her an additional skill set with the opportunity to lead outdoor trips with confidence and enthusiasm. Sara Friedberg also leveraged her outdoor skills and was hired to run outdoor trips at her school.  And from a social perspective, the alumni all agreed that TMS had taught them how to develop meaningful relationships with their peers.

All around, the college symposium was a great opportunity to hear success stories from former classmates and learn about travels, challenges and life choices.

Camilla Gardner just finished a gap year studying art history in Italy and completing a teacher training course in yoga; she will be attending Colorado College this fall. Sara Friedberg recently graduated from Whitman College with a degree in geology. Chase Lambert is currently studying film and nordic studies at CU Boulder; Makenna Craige is currently a sophomore at University of Puget Sound in Washington; and Bobbie Coonie is a junior majoring in engineering at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.


Consistently Embodying Our Core Values

At the end of each school year, the faculty selects three students to receive the Founders Award. This award is given to students who best exemplify the school’s core values: Respect, Love of Learning, Responsibility and Integrity. This year, the winners were Mollie McTigue, Jula Cieciuch  and Cody Krueger.

Mollie Jula Founders Award Cody

Below is an excerpt from Mollie McTigue’s speech.

I have a younger sister Belle who was diagnosed with type one diabetes. This year she has shown courage and bravery and that she is the toughest person I have ever met. She has also shown me what love of learning and love of Mountain School really looks like. When my sister was in the hospital all she wanted to do was go back to school, learn, see her friends and see the community. The day she came home, members of Mountain School had made a huge card in the form of a banner that was hung on our garage door. We hung it in our kitchen and Belle won’t let my mom recycle it…Just like she won’t let her recycle spelling tests or any school work…Belle, I share this award with you, Your constant optimistic attitude is inspiring. You show me that we need to appreciate what we have and that every moment is a new opportunity to make a change.“… to read Mollie’s entire speech please click here


Ancients of the Southwest

The 5th and 6th grade class embarked on a journey through the ancient mesas and canyons of the Southwest for their experiential education trip this spring.

Students explored the history of the area and the cultures of the ancient people who once lived DSC_0081in the cliffs and canyons of our rugged surrounding landscape. They experienced first hand how the Anasazi and Navajo people lived, they learned to weave baskets while camping at Mesa Verde and practiced weaving a traditional Navajo rug by using a Navajo-made loom.

In Canyon de Chelly, they stayed in a traditional hogan that was over 100 years old and shared food with their camp host, whose family lived in the canyon for generations. They also took a  jeep tour through Canyon de Chelly with Navajo guides, a place off-limits to outsiders because it is where many Navajo still live today.

DSC_0091The students reconnected with friends at The St. Michael’s Association for Special Education, a school for disabled Navajo children. The visit was particularly special because each year, the 5th and 6th graders ski with St. Michael’s in partnership with Telluride Adaptive Sports Program.

Students used their experiences on the trip to focus on immersing themselves in a topic of choice, which they will present in an expo at the end of the school year.

Written by Jacqui Power, Trip Leader and 5th and 6th Grade Teacher.

To view the Presentation on Learning video please click Vimeo

To view the photo gallery please visit Flickr

Third & Fourth Grade Spring Trip to Moab


The 2017 Experiential Education trip to Moab was incredible! This trip provided the students with look in to the past and new worlds that were unimaginable just days before.

The trip started off with a stop in Paradox Valley to talk about the regional geology. Then it was on to Arches National Park for some desert landscape water coloring. This activity offered the students an opportunity to really look at the amazing sedimentary structures in the park. After a quick dinner at Eddy McStiff’s, the group gathered in the cabins for evening activities.

The next morning the students set out for their desert Pothole hike with Dr. Tim. Once on site at the potholes, they collected a multitude of aquatic species and identified them. Dr. Tim then showed them how quickly these pot holes could come alive by pouring water over a dry one and immediately sampling some mites from along the edge.

The next morning, it was time for rafting. Ominous clouds collected over Moab and the Colorado River as we made our way to the put-in. This was to be a mighty adventure through high winds, rain, and rapids. The class made it through their mighty challenge and headed for the hot tub.

The final morning was spent at the youth garden project. Our return home was marked by a blizzard, but all the students made it home safe and sound as better people and classmates than when we left four days earlier.

Written by Ben Gardner, Trip Leader and Third and Fourth Grade Teacher.

For photos of the trip please visit Flickr

To view the presentation slideshow please visit Vimeo

Ninth and Tenth Graders Travel to Costa Rica

The 9th and 10th grade TMS students traveled to the jungles and beaches on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica for their spring experiential education trip this year.   After arriving in the capital of San Jose, the group flew on a small propeller plane to the town of Puerto Jimenez.  On the flight, the students basked in views of the surrounding volcanoes, jungles, beaches, and Corcovado National Park,  where they would spend the first four days of their trip camping, hiking, and exploring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile staying at La Sirena Ranger Station in Corcovado National Park, the students were fortunate to see monkeys, toucans, tapirs, and a variety of flora and fauna with their local guides, Luis and Fabricio.  After the Corcovado portion of the trip, they traveled north along the Pacific Coast to the beach town of Dominical.  Students spent the week living with local families in homestays where they practiced their Spanish skills and learned about Costa Rican – “Tico” – culture. In the mornings, students attended language school in small classes based on their ability.  During the afternoons, students took surfing lessons and progressed to the level where everyone was able to paddle out past the break in order to catch bigger waves.

After the week in Dominical, they traveled inland to the Turrialba Volcano area and spent four days at La Marta Wildlife Refuge Lodge,  the oldest existing refuge in the country. While at La Marta, students studied orchids and birds and encountered more than eighty species of birds and witnessed the rare, “cat-face” orchid.


The last day of the trip was an adventurous day in the jungle.  Students zip-lined along the tree canopy, rappelled down multiple waterfalls, and traversed hanging monkey-bridges before a brief stop in San Jose to purchase last minute souvenirs.

The biennial Costa Rica trip has become a staple of the TMS Experiential Education Program, and the 2017 trip built upon the successes of the past five previous trips.

¡Pura Vida!

For photos of this trip please visit Flickr

To view the presentation on learning video visit Vimeo


7th and 8th Graders Retrace the Footsteps of the Civil Rights Movement

This spring, the 7th and 8th grade students traveled to Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia to retrace our nation’s struggle for equality and the Civil Rights Movement.  Starting in Atlanta, Georgia at the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr., students explored the root causes, people, and precipitating events leading up to the passage of the Civil Right act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Along their journey, the class visited the major sites of the Civil Rights movement. From attending church services at the historic 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, to marching across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, students confronted the dark history of segregation as well as the warmth and welcome arms of those who shared their personal stories from the movement with them.

IMG_3953Like any Mountain School adventure, there was a mix of work and play. Baseball games and bike tours rounded out the itinerary.  Spending a night in the Cumberland Caverns and catching a country music show at the Grand Ole Opry added to the experience, as students came to see the South as not only a center for the Civil Rights Movement, but a culturally and geographically diverse region, as well.

Returning to Atlanta, having visited the churches where the KKK detonated bombs, talked with Civil Rights activists who experienced racial motivated police brutality and threats, and stood where MLK was assassinated, the students came to see that our nation’s struggle for equality is ongoing, and while we have made tremendous progress, we still have more to learn and a long way to go to bring true equality to all.

Written by Andy Shoff, Trip Leader and Associate Head of School.

To view photos of the trip please visit Flickr

To view the presentation on learning video please visit Vimeo


Everyone’s Doing the Dinosaur!


This Spring, the Telluride Mountain School first and second grade students traveled to Fruita, Colorado where they spent three days exploring the Morrison Formation.

The Morrison Formation is a sequence of upper Jurassic Sedimentary rock where many dinosaur fossils have been found.  Students began their exploration with a visit to the Museum of Western Colorado’s Dinosaur Journey Museum. The Dinosaur Journey displayed real fossils, cast skeletons and robotic reconstructions of dinosaurs found in and around Western Colorado. At the museum, students were able to investigate fragments of bones, dinosaur footprints and real, live fish that survived extinction. Students made connections through hands-on experiences with paleontology digs and exposure to a working laboratory where scientists are piecing together bone fragments from local quarry sites.

Students then spent a day on a 25-mile stretch of the Colorado River from Lomo to Ruby Horsethief, where they experienced local flora and fauna from juniper trees to bald eagles. Along the river, students were surrounded by cliff faces with some of the oldest geological rock in all of Colorado. 18402658_1556318864391996_3849473205354267549_n

The trip came to a close with a hike to Rabbit Valley on the Trail through Time. The hike bridged classroom research to real life evidence of Jurassic fossils that are preserved in sedimentary rock and available for students to touch and examine close-up. Throughout the trip, adventure, songs, and reflection provided meaningful experiences for individual growth and class bonding.

For a fun video recap of their trip please visit Vimeo

A photo gallery can also be viewed on Flickr

Written by Jordan Burlison, first and second grade teacher.


Eleventh and twelfth Grade Visit Chile

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This spring, the 11th and 12th grade class embarked on a trip of a lifetime! The students spent three weeks immersed in Chilean culture. The trip was one part backpacking and wilderness skills, another part Environmental Science, and a third part Spanish and Latin American history.

Students began the trip with a pack on, hiking the new Patagonia National Park. In this pristine, turquoise-lake filled landscape, they reinforced essential skills such as river crossings, navigation, and back-country cooking and hygiene. From there, they did a farm-stay and  learned more about hike the region’s ecology and geology along the way.

Farm Stay

Throughout both backpacking components, they discussed Chile’s land management issues: the balance of wilderness and farmland, river preservation, and the national park vision. Finally, they traveled to Santiago and Valparaiso, where they learned about the nation’s history, both traditional and contemporary, brushed up on Spanish, sampled seafood, and walked art-filled streets.

To view photos of this trip click Flickr

Written by Emily Shoff, Trip Leader and Upper School Humanities Teacher