Pagosa Peak Open School’s Project Showcase Night


Photo courtesy Pagosa Peak Open School

Documentation panels tell the story of a project during Pagosa Peak Open School’s Project Showcase Night. Here, the kindergarten project on toys shows student preferences, field work, questions, vocabulary and products.

Photo courtesy Pagosa Peak Open School

Pagosa Peak Open School middle school students Samuel and Gary check out the fourth-graders’ work on Ute history during the school’s project showcase night on Oct. 26.

Photo courtesy Pagosa Peak Open School

During Pagosa Peak Open School’s Project Showcase Night on Oct. 26, families and students used a variety of tools to carve pumpkins. First-graders, who studied a variety of tools and their importance during their first project of the year, created a class book, a school mural, and sponsored the pumpkin-carving at the event.

By Emily Murphy | Pagosa Peak Open School

Families, students and community members flooded the Pagosa Peak Open School (PPOS) lobby last week, ready to celebrate the first student projects of the year, eat delicious bites, carve pumpkins and socialize with the school’s intimate community.

Students in grades K-8 address content standards through a nontraditional teaching model: project-based learning. In place of flipping through a textbook to learn science and social studies concepts, students work through projects where they answer open-ended questions using research, data analysis and collection, field work and interactions with experts. In the end, students create products to share their learning.

The year started off with questions around:

• Which toys are the best options for PPOS’s future preschool based on student preferences.

• How tools can help us make magnificent things for our school.

• How our school compares to others around the world.

• How Ute history affects our perception of Colorado history. 

• How screen time affects the teenage brain.

• How the world recovers from natural disasters.

“I feel proud and accomplished,” fifth-grader Quinn said after the showcase. “Anyone here could see why this is the best school ever.” 

Quinn’s class is working through physical and life science standards around energy, ecosystems and human impact by examining natural disasters. Students are using “I Survived” books as mentor texts to create their own “I Survived” stories around natural disasters that could happen in our area. Quinn’s fictional story follows a girl who survives a hailstorm.

“As a project-based learning advisor, it is my job to make learning come alive. It’s so much more than covering content standards in isolation,” Quinn’s teacher and middle-school project-based learning advisor Rue Graham said. “Offering students opportunities to draw connections between subjects cultivates deeper understanding. As a teacher and curriculum designer, I enjoy the creative challenge of developing meaningful, standards-aligned and engaging projects for students to get the most out of their education.”

PPOS is an intentionally small K-8 district charter school where project-based learning is a cornerstone of the school’s curriculum and instruction.