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Respect, Integrity, Creativity

Crestone Charter School

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Ski & Snowboarding Program

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Personalized Learning

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Thank you, Crestone Charter School families and volunteers!

June 2017

The Crestone Charter School is so proud of the way that our families, community members, and teachers work together to weave a unique and wonderful learning experience for our children! CCS would like to extend its sincere gratitude to all of the families and community members who decided to get involved as volunteers during the 2016-17 school year.


Our volunteers contribute in so many ways: helping students in the classroom, keeping the campus clean, providing food for fundraisers and other events, chaperoning school learning adventures, and so much more.

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Together, we set a new record of 1,796 recorded volunteer hours for the school year...and this doesn’t even include all of the “unofficial” volunteer activities that went unrecorded! So we have a lot to be proud of, and a very strong foundation of community support to keep building on. Although we can’t possibly thank each and every person who made a positive contribution this year, we would like to give special recognition to our top five volunteers: Vesper Gers, Mary Benavidez, Carl Cole, Wade Propst, and Hillary Semanski. Together, they generously gave hundreds of hours of their personal time so that our students would have opportunities to travel with their classes, participate in sports, ski and snowboard, excel in their academic work, and more. Thank you for all you do!  



Celebrating CCS's Tradition of Spring Travel Learning

June 2017


The Crestone Charter School is celebrating the completion of another amazing year of learning, discovery, and adventure! As always, CCS students, teachers, and families culminated their school year by traveling around the state, the country and the world. Travel learning and outdoor education are integral parts of the CCS experience; These are among the most powerful tools we have for opening the world of possibilities for our children, teaching self-reliance, and building the bonds of lasting friendship. Traditionally, our youngest students start small by participating in overnight trips around Southern Colorado. Our middle schoolers get to visit parts of the country they might not otherwise have gotten to experience. And our high school students have the unforgettable experience of international travel.

In May, our Early Elementary class took a trip to the magnificent Royal Gorge, just outside of Canyon City, Colorado. Highlights included an educational train ride through the gorge and a day at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. The cool and rainy spring weather wasn’t enough to dampen the students’ spirits!

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Elementary students in second and third grade headed south to Albuquerque for three exciting days of learning and fun. First they visited Explora, a hands-on science center full of opportunities for creativity and discovery. Next came a visit to the Albuquerque Biological Park, which features a world-class conservation zoo, botanical park, and aquarium. Students learned all about their favorite animals and sea creatures, as well as the importance of preserving the natural habitats of endangered species around the world, and even right here in Colorado.

Intermediate students in fourth and fifth grade participated in their annual BioRegional Camping Loop, visiting a variety of cultural and natural sites in and around the San Luis Valley. This trip gave students a great opportunity to practice cooperation and teamwork as they camped and traveled together. Highlights of this year's adventure included climbing our continent’s highest sand dune, exploring Penitente Canyon, going subterranean at the Creede Mining Museum and, of course, the final stop at Hooper Pool for some experiential immersion (pun intended) in geothermal hydrology!

The CCS middle school class took an ambitious ten day road trip through South Dakota, visiting a number of unforgettable historical, cultural, and geological destinations. Highlights included visits to Mt. Rushmore, Badlands National Park, and the Crazy Horse Memorial. Along the way they visited the Reptile Gardens, the Journey Museum, and explored the Mammoth dig site, which provided a unique window into the Pleistocene era. They even managed to squeeze in a night at the theater in Rapid City. Teachers TJ Walling and Audrey McDowall made sure that students learned as much as they could during their trip, with plenty of opportunities for reflection and interactive learning packets. “I think when we had these interactives I absorbed so much more information and understood the content better and more fully,” reported Rosie Catinella, a 7th grader. Sixth grader Rasalas Wickett agreed: “There wasn’t a day on this trip that I didn’t learn something new. In fact, most of the days, I learned more things than I could count!”

But for many middle schoolers, the real highlight of the trip was the time they got to spend back at the cabin, hanging out with friends. “We got to do a lot of bonding,” says seventh grader Justice D’Allesio. “I feel a lot more comfortable being myself around my peers.”


“The trip knit me closer together with my classmates, and was a great experience to pull the school year together,” said Kaelen Hollyer.

CCS high school students spend two beautiful weeks in Costa Rica, where they explored the rainforest, immersed themselves in local culture, and participated in service learning projects. The centerpiece of the trip was a four-day stay at the Monteverde Cloud Forest reserve in Santa Elena, where students stayed with local families and got involved in meaningful volunteer work building and improving trails and helping with local reforestation efforts.  But it wasn’t all hard work...students also had time to hike, take in the amazing views, discover local animals including sloths, monkeys and red-eyed tree frogs, and hang out in town. According to sophomore Sabian Storm, staying with local families really added to the experience. “We were treated like family. The woman who hosted my group really took care of us and made sure we were comfortable and well-fed. It was an experience we never could have gotten by staying in a hotel or some other tourist spot.”


Other trip highlights included a boat tour through the mangrove forest at La Ensenada Lodge, an exhilarating zipline adventure, guided night hikes through the rainforest, a visit to La Fortuna Waterfall, and cooking classes where they learned how to make tortillas and tamales, Costa Rican-style.

Here at the Crestone Charter School we are so lucky and grateful to have the kind of loving, dedicated teachers who are willing to put in all the extra effort it takes to make unique learning experiences like these happen for our children. And on that note, we would like to extend our deepest thanks and appreciation to our teachers Lyndsay Duebber, Ryan Johns, and Emily Donaldson, who will be leaving us for new opportunities and adventures. We wish you all the best!




Outdoor Education at the Crestone Charter School

April 2017


During the cold month of February, Crestone Charter School students and teachers took the opportunity to escape from our frigid winter weather, and headed for southern Arizona’s beautiful Sonoran Desert to participate in the 2017 Winter Count primitive skills camp. Winter Count is an annual gathering that draws instructors and students together from all over the continent to share their enthusiasm and knowledge of skills including archery, hide tanning, fire making, flintknapping, camp cooking, and much more.  

Andre Claudio, a CCS sophomore, explains what a typical day at Winter Count looks like: “First thing in the morning, one of the camp leaders walks around the camp playing a flute to get us all out of our tents. Then we join all the other participants for a shared breakfast. The food was superb, by the way.  Some time after breakfast, all of the mentors would stand up on ladders and shout out the skills and classes they were offering that day. Knifeblade forging, archery, didgeridoo making, flintknapping, gourd crafts, wire-wrapped jewelry making, stone carving, and of course all kinds of primitive skills like firemaking and hide tanning were just some of the things we could pick. It was hard to choose. We could pick two workshops each day, with a lunch break in between. We’d have some time to hang out before sharing an amazing dinner with about 600 other people. It felt like a big family. At the end of the day we would relax around the fire with lots of singing, dancing, and sharing. It really was an amazing experience.”

      For CCS’s fifth grade students, Winter Count’s most memorable learning experiences included developing their tracking skills, learning to make moose calls, creating art mandalas with natural objects, nighttime scorpion hunting with black lights, working together to successfully start a fire using a hand drill (just like our paleolithic ancestors did thousands of years ago), and making their own bows and arrows. Ziah Knight-Pesqueira, a fifth grader, reflects on his time at the archery range: “It was so much fun...One day I got 17 bullseyes, and the day before that I practiced throwing a long range atlatl (a stick with notch on it that you use to throw a small spear). I threw the atlatl 254 feet!”

      “Winter Count was amazing,” reflects Gabe England. “I was really sad when we left. It was a lot of fun and I hope we get to go again next year.”

CCS Recieves 2017 Colorado Centers for Excellence Award
March 2017
We are proud to announce that the Crestone Charter School is a recipient of this year’s Colorado Centers of Excellence Award. With this award, the Colorado Department of Education recognizes CCS for demonstrating the highest rates of student longitudinal growth, as measured by the Colorado Growth Model!

A Look at the Crestone Charter School’s Ski and Snowboard Mentorship Program

March 2017

CCSstudents One of the Crestone Charter School’s most long-standing and revered traditions is its winter ski and snowboard mentorship program. Every Friday during the winter months, CCS students in grades 4 through 12 arrive at school early in the morning, geared up for a full day of Colorado winter fun. Then students, teachers, and parent volunteers caravan up to Monarch Mountain, one of the most beautiful, affordable, and kid-friendly ski resorts in the Rockies. For many children, the chance to participate in the ski and snowboard mentorship program is one of the best reasons to be a CCS student. But it’s not all just fun and every aspect of CCS’s experiential education, the program offers unique educational and character-building opportunities.
Learning to ski or snowboard under the guidance of a good mentor is a powerful way for students to develop self confidence, as well as a virtue that CCS teachers like to call grit: the ability to overcome challenges with determination and perseverance. Learning to ski down a mountain requires students to literally pick themselves up and try again (and again and again). As sixth grader Caroline Anderson says, “It’s all about learning to let go of your mistakes and keep trying. It’s a great life lesson.” For a fourth grader on skis for the first time, it can feel like learning to walk all over again. But with a little bit of grit, students quickly find themselves soaring like eagles. And there is no limit to how much they can learn and grow. The burst of self confidence that students experience when they learn to ride a ski lift and cruise down the slope for the first time is truly precious and transformative. Raven Willis, seventh grade, explains that CCS students are not skiing and snowboarding just for the fun of it: “We’re learning how to recognize our personal limits, and then slowly and safely push through them.”
For high school students, a big part of the program is about developing leadership skills. Many high school students have earned the right to become ski or snowboard mentors. As mentors, they become responsible for teaching younger children and keeping their group safe. As seventh grader Ayla Tieder remarks, “We’re learning how important it is to stick together and encourage each other.” Mentors understand that it’s not just about being a great skier or snowboarder. Being a leader requires them to develop their communication skills, pay close attention to the needs of their followers, and demonstrate a high level of personal integrity so they can gain the trust of the younger students who look up to them.  High school students are always surprised by how rewarding it is to mentor younger kids. And the younger ones love the care and attention they get from their older role models. It’s a beautiful shared experience that brings the whole school together.
In addition to building self confidence, grit, and leadership skills, CCS’s ski and snowboard mentorship program fosters a deep love of nature and a personal dedication to living a healthy outdoor lifestyle. “I love this program!” says Michael Rogers, a fourth grader who skied for the first time this winter. “I want to do this for the rest of my life!”