In today’s modern world education can sometimes become disconnected. Students prepare for the next step without being present where they are, without connecting to their community and environment. Every year at Telluride Mountain School the students make sure that they take that time to connect and participate in Community Science. Community Science is a blend of Environmental Science, Social Sciences and English in which students look deeply at larger issues such as Water, Energy, Food and Land Use, by taking field trips to nearby sites, and interviewing local experts. Each year the outcome is different, a website, newsletter, narrative essays and documentaries have all been past results of the 8-day intensive study.
Last year students were accompanied by author Craig Childs and videographer Carlos Cagin. Childs recently moved to Telluride with his family and his two sons who currently attend TMS. Craig is best known for his books about the Southwest and more recently his book Apocalyptic Planet. Cagin is a TMS alumni who founded Babel Project a non-profit, which seeks to connect people to their communities through the use of documentary film making. Cagin and Childs helped bring their respective crafts to Community Science helping students hone skills in descriptive non-fiction writing, videography and how to conduct and interview. Final products included short non-fiction writings and 5 minute group documentaries focused on a variety of topics associated with Land Use.
Over the course of 7 days (we lost one to that epic snow day) students met with town counsel members, Telluride Open Space, The Forest Service, RiverWatch, Colorado Mining Reclamation professionals, TelSki, local residents, local environmentalists and visited the Telluride Historical Museum and Library. Reoccurring themes were Telluride’s mines both historical and present, the Valley Floor and regional development. Students captured these interview and visits on paper through vigorous note taking and on video for their documentaries.
The week and a half long program highlighted some of the major issues impacting the greater Telluride region, introduced students to key players in regards to Land Use and helped students connect or reconnect with their environment and community. After the program Childs stated that as a new comer to Telluride he felt like everyone who moves to town should have to go through a program like Community Science in order to better understand the region and it’s issues.
As is the tradition at TMS students shared their experiences and final products with the greater community during morning meeting. The writing showcased students’ sense of place while the documentaries focused on complex land use issues such as the displacement of the Ute people, The Valley Floor, regional development and mining. At the end of the program the students had so many more questions but unlike in a traditional classroom curriculum the answers lay just outside the door, waiting to be answered.