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

DSC_0044 2

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


Upcoming Spring Experiential Trips

Each spring the Telluride Mountain School sends its students out into the greater world for their experiential education programs.  These programs range from 3 days for the first and second grade students to 3 weeks for the ninth through 12th grade students.  While out on their experiential education programs, students immerse themselves in place-based learning opportunities that bring education to life.

This year the students will be participating in the following programs:

1/2 – Dinosaur Discovery in Fruita, CO
3/4 – Desert Adaptations in Moab, UT
5/6 – Ancients of the Southwest; Past and Present in the Four Corners Region
7/8 – Civil Rights in the Southern US
9/10 – Biodiversity, Spanish Immersion and Costa Rican Culture in Costa Rica
11/12 – Ecological Restoration, Climate Change and Chilean Culture in Patagonia

These experiences offer TMS students the ability to be first hand observers, researchers and explorers.  They help form lasting bonds between classmates, teachers and people they meet along their travels.  They inspire debate, action and further research, which students undertake upon their return to TMS in the form of an immersion project.  And perhaps most importantly these trips teach the students to be active, respectful travelers, critical thinkers and global citizens rather than passive tourists.

Community Science Explores Energy

DSC_0364In the last two weeks of February the 9th and 10th grade students participated in an Energy Unit for their Community Science class. Community Science is an experiential educational unit that incorporates field trips, presentations from industry professionals and classwork into an in depth look at energy. The Energy Unit focused on the lifecycle of energy from extraction or construction to consumption, renewable energy vs. non-renewable energy and the pros and cons of different energy sources. The field trips took us to the Ouray Hydro Plant, Norwood’s new solar farm and the Nucla New Horizon Coal Mine and Power Plant. DSC_0393

For their final project students were split into teams, each of which represented a different source of energy. These groups presented on what percentage of the San Miguel energy portfolio their energy source should occupy in San Miguel county in 10 years. This presentation took place in front of a guest panel composed of our county commissioners Kris Holstrom and Hilary Cooper as well as Kim Wheels of EcoAction Partners.

DSC_0357Special Thanks to the following people for helping to make this unit possible. Kim Wheels, Paul Hora, Ted Brewster, Ben Gardner, Hilary Cooper, Kris Holstrom, Greg Keller, Eric Jacobsen and everyone at the Nucla New Horizon Mine and Power Plant!

For more photos please visit: Flickr

Winter Ecology High Camp Hut Trip


This week the 7th and 8th Grade students packed their bags, put on their snowshoes and hiked up to High Camp Hut for a three day, two night Snow Safety and Winter Ecology program. The cozy log cabin, warm fireplace, blue skies and fresh snow made for a memorable experience!

-9Students learned about snow safety with Josh Butson of San Miguel Mountain Adventures and The Avalanche School. They dug snow pits, identified layers in the snow-pack and learned how to use a beacon shovel and probe.

For Winter Ecology they studied animal tracks, insulation and how animals survive winter, snow water equivalent and temperature. Each afternoon they sledded, played games and enjoyed the scenery. Nights were spent eating good food, playing games and reading.

-6Being surrounded by the San Juan Mountains in winter is a special experience. Each student left knowing more about the winter world around them, how to enjoy it safely and continue to investigate this magical season.

For more photos of the trip please visit: Flickr


Telluride Mountain School Authorized IB World School

dp-programme-logo-enAfter three years of preparation, Telluride Mountain School is proud to announce their new authorization as an International Baccalaureate World School. As of January 2017, Telluride Mountain School received its official approval to offer the prestigious Diploma Program; it is the only independent school in the state of Colorado to offer the program.

The IB Diploma Program will launch for the 11th and 12th grade students beginning in the fall of 2017.  For current underclassmen and prospective juniors and seniors at Telluride Mountain School, this implementation means an opportunity to participate in an internationally accredited and recognized college preparatory program. The IB Diploma Program is rigorous and will challenge students across the curriculum and further develop their critical thinking, communication, and creativity through classroom activities and independent projects.

Often compared to the AP program, the IB program is distinctive in a number of ways.  While both programs offer courses in which a student may earn advanced standing or credit in college, the IB Diploma Program offers a holistic approach with a global mindset and continuity between subjects over a two-year period. Through studies in six core subject groups in language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics and the arts, the program broadens students’ educational experiences and challenges them to apply their knowledge and skills across the integrated curriculum. Additionally, students complete a set of core, interdisciplinary courses, including a critical thinking course titled Theory of Knowledge, independent coursework in Creativity, Activity and Service, and an independent Extended Essay, an in-depth, college-level research paper on a topic drawn from one of the core IB subject areas.

While all juniors and seniors at TMS will participate in the program, they may decide whether or not to attempt the full set of requirements for the IB diploma, a coveted distinction of high academic accomplishment. To earn the diploma, students must complete all course requirements, sit for six essay-format exams, three at the standard level and three at the higher level, and earn individual and cumulative scores that represent sufficient mastery across the six subjects.  Students who do not wish to sit all six exams can choose which individual IB exams they wish to take. Passing scores on individual exams can equate to college credit or advanced standing while undertaking the full set of exams places students in a pool of highly competitive students from around the world and creates a significant advantage for students applying to the most selective colleges.

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program will comprise the core academic program at Telluride Mountain School for juniors and seniors. The cost of the program is included in tuition, with additional fees charged for the elective exams.  Students in the IB Diploma Program will also continue to participate in traditional Telluride Mountain School activities, including the school’s outdoor education, winter sports, and international experiential travel programs, where they will have the opportunity to build relationships with students from other IB schools.  This year’s juniors and seniors have planned travel to the Patagonia region of Chile for field studies in ecology, geology, and environmental science as well as a visit to an IB World School in Santiago. The school leadership envisions future exchanges and cohort activities within the worldwide network of  IB World Schools.

For more information pertaining to the IB Diploma Program please contact Andy Shoff, Associate Head of School at (970) 728-1969 or by email: ashoff@telluridemtnschool.org.

Visit: http://telluridemtnschool.org/curriculum/ib-program/learner-profile-en(2)

Seventh and Eighth Grades Hike Grand Gulch

img_2565This fall, seventh and eighth grade students from the Telluride Mountain School backpacked through the picturesque canyons of Grand Gulch in Southeast Utah.  The group learned to how to pack a pack, cook with a camping stove, read topographical maps, and keep a tidy campsite by following “leave no trace” guidelines.  In addition, they also strengthened some less tangible skills, such as teamwork, perseverance, and leadership.  The students developed greater independence, decision-making, and communication skills and were given the opportunity to put these skills into practice as they guided themselves through the final portion of the trail without instructors.  While the trip contained many physical challenges, students developed confidence in tackling their fears of the unknown and managed to extend their physical thresholds.dsc_0425

Historical studies and archeological explorations also played a large role in the trip.  Students visited ruins once inhabited by the Basketmakers and the ancestral Puebloans to learn more about the lifestyles of these people.  Students were able to physically investigate pieces of history left behind, including pottery, living structures, and food scraps to make inferences about how and why the peoples lived as they did.  After learning the migration theory behind the mass exodus of the Cedar Mesa population, students discussed how limited resources may create conflict within a society and made comparisons to modern difficulties with population and resource distribution.

img_3448In addition, there were some strong correlations between the trip and concepts in science class. In addition to the people that inhabited these ruins, the students learned about the anthropologists and archeologists who have been studying the sites.  During the trip the students were introduced to dendrochronology and the analysis of middens.  While students experienced these concepts first hand on the trip, they will transfer this knowledge back to the classroom as they explore ecosystem dynamics and climate change.

Throughout, students found the trip physically and academically challenging, but also thrilling and rewarding.  It was a classic opportunity for the students to live up to the school’s work hard, play hard motto.


5th and Sixth Grade Students Visit Great Sand Dunes and So Much More!

dsc_0725Ian struggled up the sand dune wearing a set of MadMax style googles and pulling his sled behind him.  In the background other students tested their sliding devices on the steep slope for the friction test, some went really fast like the snowboards, while others, like the laundry basket, hardly moved.  Dramatic falls inspired laughter as some students rag dolled, bouncing off of the sand in their own unintended friction tests.  Brittany held a stopwatch at the bottom and timed them while Jacqui divided them into teams, Sparta and Thesylians as the students are studying Ancient Greece.  The teams lined up and raced against their rivals, while cheering each other on.  Smiles lined everyone’s faces and we took back not only the results from our friction test but incredible memories that will easily bring back those same smiles to our lips when we recount them to our friends and family.


The friction test was probably the highlight for most of the students on the Sand Dunes course but so much more happened.  They drew the depths of the Black Canyon, learned about the various forms of Sand Dunes and how they are formed, licked Aspen trees, jumped into freezing cold mountain waters, hiked into the Sand Dunes at night without headlamps, set up and took down our camps and played just for the sake of playing.  Jacqui read about Ancient Greece, a park ranger led a guided natural history tour, which was as delicious as it was educational and Brittany helped us analyze our friction test data.

Then there was the Gator Farm, a truly unique experience in which we got to handle a variety of rescued animals including baby alligators, tarantulas and snakes.  This whole scene was a strange oasis of non-native animals, rescued and brought to a high desert where a thermal spring warmed their pools.

The whole trip was a little surreal, white sand dunes abutting the Sangre de Cristo mountains, alligators in the desert, the depths of the Black Canyon and the amount of learning and team building that went on over the course of those 5 days.

9th and 10th Graders Ride White Rim – 105 Miles of Determination


Early on Tuesday morning, October 18th, thirteen TMS upper school students woke up at Lone Mesa Campground, twenty miles from the official entrance to Canyonlands National Park. Their task: Ride 105 miles over the next four days through the canyonlands via White Rim trail, exiting through Shafer Canyon.

The posse of students and teachers left Lone Mesa that morning, with 17 bikes, 108 gallons of water, three coolers full of food and two vehicles. This was their supply. The vehicles were for emergency situations and to carry the team’s supplies, but not really for transportation—that is what the bikes were for.

Over the next four days, the Mountain School students would average about 25 miles a day on White Rim road. “Road” however is a generous term for the two-track which at times washes out, turns to deep desert sand, is covered by loose rock, and climbs seemingly impossible routes across the canyon walls. The “road” follows the Green then Colorado River and literally follows the canyon’s rim, which has been colored white by years of geological activity.

This trip is part of the larger Mountain School outdoor education program which every student, in every grade, takes part in beginning in first grade. As the students move through the school, the trips become progressively longer, more challenging, and remote thus allowing students an experience to discover elements of themselves as well as their class.dsc_0084

Trips also allow students to see each other’s different strengths and foster empathy, with the goal of bringing these experiences into their everyday interactions in the classroom. At times, as was the case on White Rim, the very students who excel on a mountain bike may not be the same ones who excel in the classroom.

In the desert, those students have the opportunity to lead, to be the best, and to give their peers the same help and support that they may frequently be on the receiving end of in the classroom. This not only builds confidence in those students, but builds an awareness among all students that everyone has different strengths that should be equally valued.

As students rode the rim, they stopped to reflect, give research presentations about different elements of the canyonlands and recite Edward Abbey, who reminds us that if we truly experience the out of doors, (this doesn’t mean just looking at), but we get out in it, then perhaps we can learn from it.

In Desert Solitaire, he writes, “….walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you’ll begin to see something, maybe.”

And, yes, the Mountain School crew left some blood on this trail, along with a few tears, but mostly smiles and laughter. What they took from it however, is more important than what they left.

And this is why thirteen Mountain School students and four teachers traveled the 105 mile journey from Lone Mesa campground to Shafer Rim for a week in mid-October—so that perhaps they would “see something” — then  use that “something”  to  shape who they become.