‘Like a big home school’
Charter school features off-beat curriculum
DINOSAUR — When Moffat County School District closed the Dinosaur School, the district removed the copiers, televisions, VCRs, overhead projectors and all but two obsolete computers.
The founders of the Dinosaur Charter School had some obstacles to overcome.
But more than three months into the charter school’s first year in business, teachers are working through the school’s problems and making big plans for the future.
“It really is a learning process,” said fourth- through sixth-grade teacher Dana Forbes, who doubles as the school’s principal. He worked with Horizons Specialized Services in Craig and taught in Rangely before signing on with the charter school.
Like most of the staff, Forbes’ children attend the school. He has twin girls in preschool.
On Monday morning, just before lunch, Forbes’ students were hard at work in his classroom. As he tutored one student in reading, the others sat at their desks, studying quietly.
The room needs to be re-carpeted, but students have their own desktop computers. The presence of those computers marks the fulfillment of a promise Forbes made to provide each student with a computer and keep current technology in the building.
Computers For Kids, a group of high school students in the Roaring Fork Valley, provided the computers to the school free of charge. The high school students retooled the computers as part of their own education, Forbes said.
Much of the school’s other equipment has been brought from staff members’ homes. Forbes provided a television to show educational videos.
The school has applied for a $180,000 grant from the Walton Foundation, one of the major sources of funds for Colorado charter schools. Much of that money could be used to buy infrastructure for the school, Forbes said.
While the school is working to collect equipment other schools have in abundance, the staff is working to add components absent from other schools. Plans call for a greenhouse to be attached to Forbes’ classroom.
Using aquaponics, an integrated fish culture and hydroponics production system, the class will grow its own food.
“It will be part of the learning process and make a miniature business,” Forbes said.
Indeed, much of the school’s curriculum is designed to give students practical as well as academic education.
Students helped prepare the burritos served for lunch Monday, and with their parents they will help prepare a Thanksgiving feast, complete with deep- fried turkeys, for lunch today.
” I think that it’s important they have more in their lives than just head knowledge,” Forbes said.
Students commute from Rangely and Vernal, Utah, to attend the school. Students who attended school in Rangely last year say their performance has improved this year.
“It’s excellent, because I’m doing a lot better here than I was in Rangely,” sixth-grader Lando Blakley said while studying his language lessons.
“This year, I’ve learned a whole lot,” Blakley said.
The students have showed improvements in their attitudes as well as their academics, Forbes said.
Kami Williams, a tutor and mother of three at the school, likes the individual attention her children receive at the school.
“I like the fact it’s a one-on-one school. It’s like a big home-school atmosphere,” she said. Her 12-year-old daughter is enrolled in sixth grade but studying seventh-grade coursework.
The students go outside every day that weather permits. A soccer field is behind the school, and a baseball field is beside it. Although the students play soccer in a traditional competitive fashion, Forbes combines the sport with another aspect he calls the “spiritual game.”
He reminds the students that though it’s good to win, it’s important how the students treat each other. Students work to be kind to one another to win the spiritual game.
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Next week, Colorado Northwestern Community College and Moffat County are hosting a free day-long seminar for local ranchers and agriculture producers.