Category Archives: In The News

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


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


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.

1/2 Tomten Farms- A Bounty of Fresh Food!

dsc_0078The students arrived at Tomten Farm in the TMS bus blasting Ms. Abby’s mix tape, which she had actually made the year before for Kelly Place, but had forgotten until today.  A golden fall sun warmed the air and reflected off of the multi-colored fall leaves.  Kris Holstrom, the owner and operator of Tomten Farm walked over to the students and introduced herself.  Kris has been on Hastings Mesa for over 25 years and the farm has grown, shifted business models, experimented with many crops and host thousands of students during the course of this time.  The farm is now an experimental agricultural education center and focuses on sustainability, experimental crops and education.

The group started off with a tour of the farm, sampling every edible goody we could along the way, grapes, currants, carrots, tomatoes, mint and figs to name a few.  We toured the growdome and greenhouse, two structures on the property, which allow Kris to grow year round despite being located at 9,100 feet. dsc_0192

After a lunch supplemented with more Tomten Farm fresh produce the students helped dig up potatoes and plant garlic.  We unearthed some potatoes the size of our heads, some that were in the shape of hearts and others barely large enough to harvest.  Kris explained how garlic needs to overwinter to grow and how each clove is actually the garlic seed and can grow into a whole head of garlic.  Eventually it came time to say goodbye to Kris and the farm, many of us grabbed a few currants to go, washed our hands and thought about our day of work and play. Tomorrow wewould visit the Tomten Farm stand at the Farmer’s Market.


After a fun filled sleepover at TMS the group awoke to snow and weather conditions not exactly ideal for the farmer’s market.  Bundled up in as many layers as possible the group drive the TMS bus to the Idarado Mine and then onto the Farmer’s Market.  The trip to the Farmer’s Market was cut short but lasted just long enough for everyone to sample some of the delicious bounty.

3/4 High Camp- Always a Favorite!

“We’re observing in silence,” says Ben Gardner, homeroom teacher to a full class of third and fourth graders at Telluride Mountain School.  The students, pens poised and notebooks open on their laps, sit scattered about the meadow, faces tilted towards the sky.  The group along with two of their teachers and two other trip leaders have hiked about two miles above Lizard Head Pass on the way to High Camp Hut.  A few golden leaves drift from the aspen trees as a gentle breeze rattles among their branches and sporadic rays of sunshine break through the high, scudding clouds.  By the end of the trip, the group will have learned about features of the sub-alpine environment, heard a story of an ancient hidden glacier below the aptly named Pika Peak, performed in a skit, built forts in a scree field, and helped to fix and clean up meals for the group.dsc_0373

The annual fall outdoor education trip is a highlight for the students, some of whom have looked forward to this particular trip for years.  “High Camp is always a favorite,” says Caitlin Orintas, Director of the Lower School.  While on the three-day excursion, students learn basic map and compass skills, study the plants and animals of the region, create temporary art installations inspired by Andy Goldsworthy, prepare meals, share stories and s’mores around a campfire, and build last relationships with their teachers and classmates.

This year, for the first time, the group attempts the hike to Round Lake, just above treeline at around 11,800 feet.  The weather is inclement on the day of the hike, and trip leader Danielle Jenkins keeps the group happy and distracted with silly songs and games.  Despite a few grumbles from chilly students who seem to have forgotten their rainpants, the team arrives in the high alpine basin with rain and snow scraping the flanks of Sheep Mountain above them.  With just time for the traditional group jumping photo, students and teachers bound back to the hut, where they arrive seeking the warmth of the woodstove, hungry for lunch, and content to take up their notebooks for dry, indoor sketching and journaling. img_2891

On the final day of the trip, students reluctantly clean up around the hut, finish a project on contour lines with trip leader Elliot Baglini.  Ben guides the students to take fifteen minutes for a final observation of the subalpine setting, and everyone looks up high on the flanks of the mountain, realizing that behind that ridge lies Round Lake. Tired, happy, and dirty, the crew hikes to the bus, feeling really lucky that  this week at school was spent at High Camp Hut.


11/12 Pack Rafting- A Trip To Remember


The students walked towards the edge of Keg Springs Canyon with their paddles and packrafts strapped precariously to their 45 lb. backpacks.  The first challenge lay ahead, a steep descent into the canyon.  The route required passing our packs and scrambling down the red rocks until we reached an unmarked trail that took us down the rest of the way, then stopped and never came back.  The base of the canyon was thick with Russian Olive, Tamarisk and tall grasses.  The group traversed back and forth trying to find the line of least resistance, sometimes we walked on the red sandstone walls of the canyon, other times in the wash and sometimes we just had to push through the brush.  The packrafts and paddles on our backs reminded us though of our destination, The Green River and easier days to come, or so we thought.

The next day the sun did not hit the canyon floor until 10AM.  The canyon floor was as relentless as the day before, thick with unyielding vegetation, until shortly before we reached the Green River.  On the bank of the river we inflated our packrafts, shuffled our gear, changed into our river clothes and set out on the river.  The packrafts when uninflated were the size of our sleeping bags but when fully inflated were like a personal kayak/raft hybrid.   The ease of travel was in stark contrast to the hiking, we threw around a football, paddled then rested and watched the red cliffs drift by us.dsc_0065

That night we camped on a large sand bar and while we were making our dinner the wind picked up, scattering our packrafts, flattening our tents and adding unwanted sand into our meals.  We retreated to the brush for shelter, slept under the stars and awoke to the sun highlighting the red canyon walls.  The paddling that day was similar to the first, mellow making good time and enjoying the scenery.  At around 3PM we reached Horseshoe Canyon where our group split into 2, Elliot taking the soccer players and our river gear to meet up with one of the parents the next day at Mineral Bottom while the rest of us converted back into hiking mode and entered Horseshoe Canyon.

After a fast paced afternoon of hiking the night before our group was once again confronted with the thick brush of the canyon floor on Day 4.  We divided into two groups, Team River and Team Land.  While team river splashed and played as they walked team land struggled against the brush.  Eventually we reunited and worked as a team to make it to camp that night, a sand bar in the middle of the river with a 6 foot waterfall, our prize for a hard day’s hike.

dsc_0210The last day we woke in the dark packed our things and headed out, determined to finish this adventure as a team and get back to the comforts of our daily lives.  The canyon walls widened the river dried up and eventually we saw hikers coming down from a trail above us, which led to the cars.  This was the first trail we had seen since our descent into Keg Springs and we hiked up it eagerly, excited to shed our backpacks.  At the top we looked out over the canyon towards the Green River, indistinguishable in the distance, reflected on our accomplishments, high fived our teammates and headed home with the sand of the desert, our journal entries, pictures and stories as reminders of our adventure.

The use of the packrafts over the course of this trip were generously donated by Alpacka Raft located in Mancos, CO.


Save the Date! 1st Annual Telluride Holiday Gala

The Telluride Holiday Gala, is a classy evening with a cause!

Please join the entire Telluride community for an evening benefiting the Telluride Mountain School and Montessori scholarship fund.

Nearly 36% of the students who attend the Mountain School receive some form of financial assistance. This meaningful and very important event impacts both current and new students of the school, please attend and help give a child the opportunity to receive a Telluride Mountain School education.

For more information or to purchase tickets