Developing Innovation:  District Works with Schools and Business Leaders to Continue Cutting Edge Ideas


Developing Innovation: District Works with Schools and Business Leaders to Continue Cutting Edge Ideas

Superintendent Rosenkrance talking with students about their World War I documentaries. 

Superintendent Rosenkrance talking with students about their World War I documentaries. 

In 2017, the Estes Park School District held a series of public conversations with the community to identify what people believe student values should be in our rapidly changing world.  The conversations were a huge success, and the school district adopted several key ideas as their “Global Outcomes,” including critical thinking, reasoning, problem solving, innovation, self-motivation, adaptability, creativity, and overall real-world application of knowledge and life skills.

In an effort to continue implementing these ideas, eight school district representatives visited two Apple Distinguished Schools in the Chicago area: Barrington High School and Roslyn Elementary School.  These schools are recognized as centers of leadership and educational excellence where technology-rich environments support learning goals.  Estes Park School District’s belief in providing a “local education for a global future” was underscored by the instruction evident in their classrooms.  From first graders working on basic programming to high school students creating real apps for iOS, innovation was the cornerstone of teaching in this forward-thinking district.  

Technology Manager Nick Gooch, and 4th Grade Teacher, Matt Redford, learning how to program an app from a student. 

Technology Manager Nick Gooch, and 4th Grade Teacher, Matt Redford, learning how to program an app from a student. 

“My primary takeaway is creation over consumption. As a teacher, I should be having my students developing and demonstrating their knowledge in a more authentic, collaborative fashion,” fourth grade teacher Matt Redford said.

The educators at these schools said that one of the keys to their success has been hiring instructional coaches to support classroom teachers in their efforts to improve students’ learning experiences.  Last year, Estes Park Schools hired Erin Miller as an elementary and middle school instructional coach.  Ms. Miller has received positive feedback from not only the faculty and teaching staff at these schools, but parents as well, and the district is working on other ways to capitalize on this success and broaden the impact instructional coaches can bring.

“We have a lot of great people and great technology [in Estes Park]; now we need to work on taking the students to the next level with creating,” Dr. Kevin Aten, Director of Innovation and Instruction, said.

Director of Technology, Kevin Aten, inspects student business plans with a staff member from Barrington Schools. 

Director of Technology, Kevin Aten, inspects student business plans with a staff member from Barrington Schools. 

While in Chicago, the delegation spent a day working with Apple professionals to learn how to develop a culture of innovation and tools for enhancing it.  They learned new technology applications, including how to use augmented reality applications to create a virtual cardiovascular system.  In this, they explored the model to the depths of a beating heart.

Research shows that students need to be able to think critically and innovate in order to be successful in the future.  


“We need to stop saying no …. and get the message out of why this is important.  The students need these skills to be successful in the future, and companies need employees with these skills now,” Nick Gooch, Computer Information Systems Manager said.  

In a traditional school model, students are passive recipients of information.  The Estes Park School District aims to provide opportunities for students to be purposeful creators as opposed to passive consumers of information. Currently, iPads are provided for all students in grades 2-12.  As they observed in the Apple Distinguished Schools, the district wants to increase our students’ opportunities for creating and deeper learning.

Principal John Bryant using Augmented Reality on an iPad to view a circulatory system in his living room. 

Principal John Bryant using Augmented Reality on an iPad to view a circulatory system in his living room. 

“If we have a culture of creativity and collaboration, then the technology and innovation are easy,” said Anne Dewey, who sits on the educational technology team for Estes Park Schools.

Armed with this new information, the Estes Park School District continues the strong momentum of enhancing 21st Century learning for our students, providing a brighter future for all.  



Estes Park Light and Power Sparks Kids Interest

On November 29th and 30th, Adam Edwards and Jason Slaughter took time out of their busy schedules to show our students how electricity can be dangerous to our bodies, and how to be safe when dealing with high voltage power lines.  Both men are currently apprentices working towards earning their journeyman license for the Town of Estes Park Light and Power Department.  

They interacted with approximately 150 Estes Park Students over the course of two days.  Students involved were pretty excited to see the arcing electricity from the demo trailer and certainly understand more about the need to be safe when dealing with electricity.  Adam and Jason started each class with the power companies Demo trailer and then returned to Mrs. Frey’s classroom to talk to kids about the equipment they use daily, how it keeps them safe, and gave students a good idea of what their career entails and how to get into this pathway.  

Overall, this was a fantastic introduction to high voltage power.  A few of our kids were very interested in this as a career pathway, but all of our kids walked away learning a little more about how electricity gets to our homes and  how hard our lineman work to make sure our power stays on.  

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Students learned many things such as:  the difference between voltage and amps, what a fuse is for and how it works, what a transformer is, what a smart meter is, what equipment is used to climb up poles, and how safety is a top priority.  

In our classroom students were able to try on the sleeves and gloves that are used to prevent contact with live wires.  We even had a few students who put on all of the gear our lineman do.  After they talked to students about equipment they then opened it up to questions.  Our kids learned so much from this great experience, and it provided an opportunity for our kids to be able to learn from professionals in our community.  

Submitted by: Pam Frey, EPHS Teacher 



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Estes Park School District believes in providing an inclusive environment for all students and takes every opportunity to teach students and families about how everyone is different, yet that we are all the same.  A kindergarten class got to experience a different way of looking at things, when the mother of one of our students decided to provide a learning opportunity on how her daughter, Clara, sees things just a bit differently.   

Here is the story in a parent's own words: 

Doesn’t every parent want their child to be loved and accepted by their peers? 

This was the catalyst for creating my interactive kindergarten presentation recently.  I had been thinking about it for a year, and with the encouragement of Mrs. Anne Leija, Clara’s kindergarten teacher, I finally began to put it together. 

My daughter, Clara, is legally blind and has cerebral palsy.  As a result, she may bump into things, touch people more, walk a little off balance and lose saliva from her mouth without fully realizing it.  She benefits from having a paraprofessional with her most of the day to help keep her safe & enable her to learn most effectively.  To other children and even adults, these traits may be off-putting or confusing initially.  There may also be a “fear of the unknown” present.  Children may think “Is Clara trying to hit me?”, or have a more general curiosity of “Why does Clara do that?”

I believe knowledge is power, and that knowledge fosters empathy, and so I wanted to help others understand why Clara does the things she does.  I wanted to explain how things can be both different and the same.

I began the presentation by holding up two triangles, one red & one blue.  I asked the class whether they were the same or different.  Students raised their hand and greeted me with the expected various answers.  “Same!” “Different!” “Both.” 
Exactly, I thought.  People may see the obvious differences between Clara & themselves, but may not as easily see the similarities.  This was the goal of my little presentation.


As a physical therapist, interactive motor tasks were important to include, to help put children in Clara’s position, and see things from her perspective more easily. To explain why Clara touches more than other kids, I had the children close their eyes.   I then put a cup in front of each of them.  With eyes closed, but by touching the cup, the children were able to tell me whether the cup was “small” or “big”, and whether it was made of paper or glass.  I hope this helped them to see that touch helps Clara learn more about her environment.  To help understand why it may be difficult for Clara to draw or color, I used a fine motor task.  First, I had the children put raisins in a cup, which they did easily.  Then, I had them put on large mittens, and try the same activity. 

To help the children understand why Clara takes longer to climb the stairs or ladder to the slide, I used a gross motor activity.  I brought in large rain boots, and let the children climb stairs (with supervision) and try to run in the boots.  To help the children understand Clara’s vision deficits more, I blocked out some of the lenses in glasses & sunglasses, then had the classmates navigate the classroom, and perform activities with the glasses on.   The children seemed to understand what I was trying to teach them, and happened to have some fun in the meantime.


After the children learned about Clara’s differences, I went on to talk about some things they may have in common. 

“Who’s 5 years old?”  “Who loves music?” “Who loves to dance?” "Snuggle?" "Laugh?"  "Hike?"  "Play the drums?"  "Eat ice cream?"  Many hands were raised high.  I finished with videos of Clara doing gymnastics & skiing, and the children seemed both surprised and excited that Clara could do those things.

That day, one of her classmates told me, “I really like being Clara’s friend.”  A kind school employee told me that Clara’s friends hold her hands while on the playground, even before I had given my presentation.  A few days later, Mrs. Leija told me one of her classmates wants “to do gymnastics like Clara!”  The kindness in these children warms my heart.  I hope I was able to ease any fear or discomfort that may have been present, and also foster the belief that we can all learn something from each other.

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Estes Park Elementary Garden Club serves up Smiles with Salads!


During the last two weeks of September, the Estes Park Elementary School Garden Club was proud to share their bounty with the Elementary School kitchen and the rest of their friends at lunchtime.  The kitchen staff cleaned,  prepared, and served up lettuce and carrots grown in the Community Garden plot by the garden club students.  They also brightened the cafeteria with beautiful wildflower bouquets they grew.   

The EPES Garden Club is made up of 3rd, 4th and 5th Grade students, and is sponsored by 3rd grade teacher, Erinn Wharton.  They meet every Wednesday during the fall from 3:40 to 4:40 pm.  During the summer months, the Boys and Girls Club of Estes Park tends to the garden plots on behalf of the club. 

A big thanks to Ms. Wharton and her club members for sharing their harvest with the rest of the school, and demonstrating "farm to table" practices for all to see.  Being able to share the finished product and knowing the care and steps taken to be able to provide food during lunchtime as a result of the hard work, was a very rewarding experience for the club members.  Experiences like this help to grow strong morals in children, and pride of ownership in the things they can accomplish when they commit to something they are interested in.  Keep up the good work!  



High School Takes a "Pay it Forward" Approach to Homecoming Week Traditions

The Estes Park High School created an additional opportunity to “Pay it Forward” during their homecoming festivities. Along with their traditional Estes Thrives Day clean up of the Fish Creek area, they also organized a fundraiser for a need that hit too close to home, even though it was almost 1,000 miles away.  It’s no secret that the flooding of 2013 left the town of Estes Park and surrounding areas devastated and in need of help.  So many organizations and groups from near and far came to help lighten the load and get the residents and businesses back on their feet , begin the repair and rebuilding, and to help calm the fear and confusion that spread through the community. 

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In August of 2017, Hurricane Harvey caused disastrous flooding and record breaking rainfall in Houston Texas, in what was being called the worst flooding in Houston history.  Aubrey Kinley, a Freshman at the Estes Park High School, set out on a mission to help in any way she could.  She scheduled a meeting with the Superintendent of Schools and asked if she could start the conversation with schools in the Houston area, and see how Estes Park could help.  After reaching out through various contacts, a connection was made and the Estes Park High School adopted Beta Academy in Houston.  Donation jars were placed at all home athletics games and matches during homecoming week.  In lieu of gate admission charges, the patrons were given the option to donate their entrance monies to our adopted Houston school instead.  The donation campaign was able to raise over $2,300.00 for our friends in Houston, and the Estes Park High School is so proud of the community for pulling together to make a difference to these students in need.  Great job to everyone involved!



Community Wellness Night

On September 14th, the Estes Park High School hosted their first “Community Wellness Night”. 


Around 75 community members came to the event, which featured Andrew Romanoff, CEO and President of Mental Health Colorado, as a keynote speaker.  The event was coordinated by the counselor team at the Estes Park School District, and included a resource fair that highlighted local wellness organizations, and included break out sessions that covered several topics such as addiction, suicide and mental health awareness, wellness, social media safety and stress.  The event helped to continue the conversation and outreach accomplished over the past three years by the Estes Valley Suicide Awareness Task Force, which is chaired by Superintendent of Schools. Sheldon Rosenkrance. 

High School Counselor, Hannah Heckerson, took the lead in coordinating the resources and groups for the community wellness event, and was instrumental in bringing everyone togetherin one space to talk and learn about wellness.  Wellness and mental health continue to be a top priority for Estes Park School District as they focus on the growth of the whole child.  Hannah hopes to continue to grow the event and offerings each year. 



Students Making Change


By Marcus Wade Prince, 9/28/2017

In a pioneering activity Estes Park High School students partnered with Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center students to take on issues of prejudice, discrimination, and identity in an Intercultural Community Building workshop.  “As a student of Eagle Rock, I have personally had conversations venting my opinions on global issues. So when asked to be a part of a 2 day experiment with Estes Park High School to expand the conversation, I was excited,” said one Eagle Rock Student.    The intercultural workshop not only got students thinking about action but showed a new perspective of the power that youth has to influence It. 

I’m always impressed by the maturity of our students. There are many brave voices in our schools, and many who think deeply about the complex issues facing our community and our country. Most kids are just looking for opportunities to do something meaningful with their lives. It’s critical that our community encourages that desire and uses that energy.
— Dustin Morrow, EPHS English Teacher
While we have sporadically done things with Estes Park High School in the past, I think this was a really solid start to meaningful work together. I think the conversations and work really struck a nerve with people, and I think this has the potential to go statewide and really influence change.
— Emiliano Vivanco, Eagle Rock School Student

In this workshop, students looked at identity, and the idea that one cause of some major issues and stereotypes, for example, is something we referred to as “the single story”, based on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk. A single story is when one person with some sort of power writes or presents one story of a people, as fact and the only truth. Something we are guilty of is buying into those stories, giving the writer the power to control the story of those people. The first day students were asked to think of our identity and physically symbolize them through beads we hand-picked. This activity was a way for the youth involved to share some of their story. This was just one activity in that first day of empowering youth.


EPHS student Kaci Vinson said “During our two days together, we really took the time to dig deep and get to know each other (or our groups), it was a great learning experience to get to learn about what others are going through and to discover who you are. I never really stopped to hear someone else's story until now, and I've learned how important it is to stop and listen before just looking at someone and just judging them. It's important to listen, and that's what I took away from to listen and to speak out.”

The next day students took a look at privilege, and what it means to have it or not. Some of the highlights of the day were the conversations with those students, who didn’t know about their different backgrounds and can call each other friends, while learning more about environmental racism and how that is affecting Puerto Rico.

“I was so impressed with the honesty and depth of conversation as students explored their own identities and privilege. It is an excellent foundation for future connection between the two schools.” - Sarah Bertucci, Eagle Rock School Professional Development Associate. 

Chloe Burke, EPHS Student said, “Personally, I thought the program was a beautiful and uniquely eye opening experience. The lessons and friends I discovered while at Eagle Rock I'll carry with me for the rest of my life and I'm eternally grateful for Dustin Morrow, Glenn Case, and all others concerned who made it possible for me to go. I hope Estes Park and Eagle Rock schools confine to connect through projects and workshops often.”

The goal students came up with as a whole was to expand this conversation with more people in Estes Park, so more people can be thinking about their identity, privilege, and how that affects them and others. The workshop ended with a speech written by Marely Avitia and Marcus Wade Prince, presented at the halftime of homecoming game, with the idea to help reach their goal of challenging people as one human race to have a conversation with someone they think they know, but don't.  



Bobcat Peer Challenge Day


On Thursday and Friday, September 7th and 8th, the Middle and High Schools participated in a 6th and 9th grade Bobcat Team Challenge Day, to support students who were transitioning between schools.  On September 7th, the day prior to the actual challenge day, the 7th, 8th, 11th and 12th grade students were trained as “Peer Leaders” by staff from the Kent Mountain Adventure Center. 

During the Bobcat Team Challenge Day on September 8th, the students worked together as groups with their peer leaders in various challenge stations on the Bobcat practice field.  The obstacles included physical challenges such as the spider web, caterpillar boards, balance beams, and stepping stones.  The partnership with Kent Mountain Adventure Center was made possible by a grant from the Village Thrift Shop, and key leader, Harry Kent.  Kent agreed that the opportunity of creating a transition program that involved outdoor adventure components was a major strength to our community.  He and his team did an incredible job of creating a meaningful day for all involved. 

Transitions between schools from elementary to middle schools, and middle to high schools can be a very difficult time for students and parents/guardians alike.  The idea behind this activity was to create more opportunities for team building, social skills, and positive interaction.

Bobcat Peer Day .JPG

Research shows that building upon positive interactions and peer support creates many benefits for students entering a new school; especially for at-risk students.  This reason primarily led the counseling team to pursue the grant application to the Village Thrift Shop earlier in the year.  Estes Park Schools is truly grateful for the support of the Village Thrift Shop and the award of the grant requested, as well as the collaboration from Kent Mountain Adventure Center.  The generosity of both organizations was key in creating this activity and the school counselors hope to gain further support to continue this in the future.



Estes Park becomes a Restorative Practices District

Trail Gazette: Zach Clemens, 9/27/17 

The Estes Park Board of Education signed a proclamation to declare the Estes Park School District to be the first restorative practices district in Colorado at their regular meeting on Monday night.

Kevin Aten, the director of innovation and instruction for the district, presented the proclamation to the Board in lieu of a presentation that had to be postponed. The district received a grant to start implementing restorative practices throughout the school system.

"[The district] believes in cultivating strong relationships within and among its schools and community and believes in holding students accountable for their actions while giving our students a high level of support in order to create a campus culture of learning and belonging," the proclamation said, as read by Aten.

Aten said that restorative practices can provide a foundation for students to learn to solve problems on their own, develop lasting relationships and academic achievement.

Estes Park Superintendent Sheldon Rosenkrance said some schools were using restorative practices but they hadn't found another district that had implemented it district wide yet.

"This helps with how we are institutionalizing the good things we are doing," Ronsenkrance said. "Write it down and put it into practice and make it not on just personalities but just what we do."

RP Proclamation.jpg



Restorative Practices Come Full Circle at Estes Park School District R-3

The Estes Park School District R-3 is excited to announce their focus on Restorative Practices for students and staff throughout the Estes Valley and our school district.  Restorative practices work to build community and can help to create calmer, more focused classrooms, in addition to strengthened relationships. When using restorative practice, teachers often find the overall ratio of time spent managing behavior is reduced, and through this reduction, staff are allowed to focus more energy on instructional time and learning pursuits.  

On August 17th, in partnership with Estes Valley Restorative Justice Practices, Estes Park School District communicated their planned initiative with a presentation from Melissa Westover, the EVRJP Manager and Executive Director, and Mary Barron, the newly-recruited Restorative Practices Coordinator at the Estes Park School District.

Mary Barron joins the staff at Estes Park Schools through a grant-funded position that will focus on bringing attention to the Restorative Justice Practices in all district schools. She has 20 years of experience in education, including years of experience supporting students with  special education services.

The community-based presentation and in-house training provided a great overview and history of restorative practices, how they are used, and why they are successful in school settings. The presentation touched base on the importance of providing framework to help students take responsibility for their actions and see multiple points of view, two very important outcomes that were identified through the Estes Thrives project, last spring.  The entire staff was able to join into a firsthand demonstration of using the "Classroom Circle" approach, which will become more visible throughout the Estes Park Schools as the restorative practices collaboration grows.  About 150 staff were included in the connection circles as a way to not only provide initial training, but the circles also allowed staff to express their critical next steps in the training process.

As for the ongoing restorative practices work in our schools, Girls Circle and The Council for Boys and Young Men, are set to start the week of Labor Day and run through the end of the semester.  The Girls Circle will be available to grades 4 through 12, and the Boys Council will be available to grades 6 through 8.  

In addition to the school circles, the school staff members are working on Student Support and Accountability Circles (SSAC).  Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) are based on restorative justice principles, giving students an acceptance of responsibility for their roles in both creating and solving problems.  The circle represents a bond of mutual respect, understanding, and ownership of the process.


For more information on how you can join the conversation, or to volunteer to help with any of the upcoming scheduled circles, please contact Mary Barron, at  

Melissa Westover






A huge thanks to our partners at EVRJP and to the group of volunteer circle facilitators for the training on August 17th: Bill McNamara, Charlie Waller, Denise Lord, Mary Barron, Melissa Westover, Russ Nehrig, Sarah Davies, Susan Stewart, Curt Plassmeyer, Teri Beaver.



Estes Park welcomes Emergency Services Explorer Post 911:

By Kate Rusch, Town of Estes Park, Public Information Officer  

First in the nation where youth can explore career paths in Police, Fire and EMS

Estes Park is delighted to be the home of a groundbreaking new program-the first in the United States- to give young men and women ages 16 to 20 an opportunity to learn the range of career opportunities in three emergency services-police, fire and EMS. The Estes Park Police Department, Estes Valley Fire Protection District and Estes Park Medical Center EMS Ambulance Services have joined to offer Explorer Post 911, with twice monthly classroom instruction from career professionals plus hands-on training including ride-alongs with first responders. Explorers will also receive guidance to help them determine which career alternative may be best for them before they invest in further education and training. The program is a partnership with the Boy Scouts of America Explorer Scout Program and the Estes Park High School Career Pathways program.

Explorer Post 911 is spearheaded by Police Chief Wes Kufeld. An Explorer graduate himself, Police Chief Wes Kufeld commented, "We're excited to offer local students hands-on experience in emergency services so we can ultimately recruit talented, dedicated young men and women into these critical public service careers." Kufeld shared, "Participating in the Explorer program as a youth in Fort Collins made a lifelong impression on me. I had an amazing time and, in the process, I learned that law enforcement was the right career for me. Afterward I became a Community Services Officer in Estes Park, worked on my education and training, and ultimately became Chief of the Estes Park Police Department."

Also supporting the Explorer Post 911 program are Fire Chief and Eagle Scout David Wolf, Estes Park Medical Center EMS Ambulance Director Guy Beesley, High School counselor Hannah Heckerson and Boy Scout volunteer and Eagle Scout Bill Marshall. The Post 911 Advisors who lead the program are Catherine Cornell (EMS Ambulance), Curt Plassmeyer (Police) and Brian Faith (Fire).

Explorer Post 911 is recruiting students beginning with an informational booth at high school registration day Aug. 9 and with an official registration session at 6:30 p.m.Wednesday, Sept. 6 at the Dannels Fire Station (901 N. Saint Vrain Ave.). The initial Explorer Post 911 program will take place through the 2017-2018 school year.

For more information, visit the booth at High School Registration Day, or contact Bill Marshall at Explorer Post 911 program information will be posted at as it becomes available. 



Junior Achievement Brings Real Life Experiences to 3rd Grade Students

When you were in 3rd Grade, would you have ever imagined all of the work that went into the building and managing of your favorite restaurant?  What about having to plan out a city and figure out where those buildings would be placed?   A restaurant in a residential area?

These sound like pretty grown up decisions, but at the same time our children deserve to be inspired and prepared to succeed in a global economy.   These types of project based learning activities get our young people excited and interested in diverse ways, and become valuable lessons learned that they will remember.   This is another great example of Estes Thrives. 

Dean Belka, a Board of Directors member for Junior Achievement out of Lincoln, NE and his wife, Sue, have been volunteering their time with the Estes Park School District to help present economic concepts to students in fun and nontraditional ways.  

In April of 2017,  Erinn Wharton's third grade class was tasked with building a city.  During the project, they had to learn about zoning, they built pop up buildings, and they had to make their proposals to the two designated "city planners" to see if they were compliant with their designs.  

The students learned about taxes, and how that money is collected and used.  They also opened up a mock restaurant in their town, and did everything from creating the menu to "buying" the goods that they would need to open.  Additionally, they went through the hiring process and worked on advertising.  

The students were extremely engaged and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  If learning is presented to a young child in a way that is fun and interesting to them, the subject matter doesn't always have to be traditional.  By creating a learning experience that held their attention, and that they became invested in, they were able to see the project through from start to finish, and conquer any obstacles they ran into.  What a great lesson for the children of tomorrow: Global and Local Awareness, Critical Thinking, Perseverance, Logic and so much more. 



4th Grade Classes Make a SWEET Impression!

Town Mayor, Todd Jirsa, and School Board President, Cody Walker, pose for a photo with a few of the students.  

Town Mayor, Todd Jirsa, and School Board President, Cody Walker, pose for a photo with a few of the students.  

Laura's Candies has been a favorite sweet treat spot in Estes Park since 1970 when Erwin Little opened it and named it after his wife.  In 1982, the Holcomb family purchased the shop and in 2015, three generations of the Holcomb family expanded once again.  

Earlier this spring, Ben Holcomb came to 4th Grade Teacher, Lauren Stepaniak, wanting to collaborate with the fourth grade students and his shop.  The project proposed was to have the students create and name a new ice cream flavor.  All fourth grade classes (four total) participated in the experiment, and they started brainstorming about flavor combinations that were delicious and unique.  

The students each wrote a letter to Ben Holcomb proposing their ice cream flavor, and after reviewing them all, he chose two flavors from each class to bring to life for a taste test.  

The shop made the 8 new flavors and hosted a tasting where the classes invited the school and community to come and sample them and vote for their favorite.   The winner of the taste test was "Campfire S'mores" by Georgie Baker.  

Ben and Laura's Fine Candies donated about 50% of the proceeds made from that night, back to the 4th grade/Elementary School.  In addition, the winning ice cream flavor will be featured all summer long for guests and community members to enjoy.  



Deaf student trail-blazing her way to a chemistry degree

Article from SOURCE by Anne Ju Manning

Evie Bangs was 5 years old when she started to lose her hearing. At age 8, her hearing plummeted, and she could no longer understand her teachers.

Courtesy Photo

Now she’s about to graduate from Colorado State University. And she’s gotten here not by dwelling on what she has lost, but focusing on what she could gain – and soon, that will include a degree in chemistry from the College of Natural Sciences.

Bangs may be CSU’s first deaf chemistry major – at least in anyone’s institutional memory. It’s taken Bangs an extra year to finish her degree, in part because of the uniquely time-consuming way she must absorb challenging course material, with the help of sign language interpreters.

“When I’m in my classes, it’s kind of overwhelming,” said the Estes Park native. “I realized that in order to do well grade-wise, I needed to take fewer credits.”

Bangs has also spent that extra time working toward an American Chemical Society-certified degree, which requires additional training and lab work. Bangs aspires to attend graduate school, and become a professional chemist.

The entourage

For every class, as well as for group projects, Bangs is accompanied by two American Sign Language interpreters and one class transcriber from CSU’s Resources for Disabled Students (RDS). Her teachers joke that Bangs has an “entourage.”

The two interpreters are necessary due to the complexity of the material; sometimes, while one is working with Bangs to quickly make up signs for words like “stoichiometry” or “adiabatic process,” the other is continuing to listen to the instructor, so that Bangs misses as little as possible. Halfway through class, they switch roles. It’s called “teaming,” says RDS interpreter Dede Kliewer, and through the years of working with Bangs, everyone – including the interpreters – has learned a lot about chemistry.

Like many deaf people, Bangs can read lips, but even the best lip-readers catch 60 percent or less of what’s being said. She can get by one-on-one, but in groups or lectures, sign language and notes transcribed after the fact have been Bangs’ primary modes of learning.

RDS, part of the Division of Student Affairs, has eight sign language interpreters and 26 class transcribers, says Kliewer, who interpreted for her when Bangs was a freshman. The office also employs about 30 student notetakers. In Kliewer’s 24 years at CSU, she can’t recall another chemistry major, although they’ve had biology majors, and a chemical engineering graduate student.

Why chemistry?

It was a high school teacher who first encouraged Bangs to study chemistry in college. As a CSU freshman, Bangs enjoyed Professor Alan Van Orden’s General Chemistry for Majors course. “I remember he said on the first day, ‘Welcome to chemistry – the study of stuff!’ And I thought, ‘I don’t care how hard chemistry is going to be. I’m sticking to it!'”

Besides Van Orden, Professor Nancy Levinger was a memorable teacher for Bangs. “She helped me out a lot,” Bangs said. Levinger’s door was always open to Bangs for extra help. She took the time to write detailed lecture material on the board. And when Bangs’ interpreters were switching roles mid-class, Levinger would pause to let them catch up. “It wasn’t harming the other students, but in a way, Dr. Levinger was taking care of me,” Bangs said.

Professor Delphine Farmer’s class on environmental chemistry sparked in Bangs an interest in atmospheric research. In her junior year, Bangs became an undergraduate research assistant in the lab of Professor Jeff Collett, chair of the Department of Atmospheric Science. She’s involved in two projects now, supervised by research scientist Katie Benedict, in passive and active sampling of atmospheric ammonia all over northeastern Colorado. Recently, she co-authored a paper on the role of dew as a nighttime ammonia reservoir – her first academic publication.

Help along the way

Bangs says her family, teachers, classmates and friends have played active roles in her journey. But perhaps most of all, the RDS interpreters have helped her succeed as a student. “They were a bright spot on the bad days,” she says. “Sometimes I was not looking forward to class, but I looked forward to seeing my interpreters.”

Bangs also learned to keep lines of communication open with her professors – introducing herself at the start of the semester, and taking advantage of office hours.

“If their door was cracked, I was knocking on it,” Bangs says. She added, “Everywhere I go, here at CSU, people have filled in the gaps for me. They made it so that I could be successful.”

Between working in Collett’s lab and keeping up with classes, Bangs found time to volunteer in some of Kliewer’s American Sign Language courses. Last semester, she visited a local elementary school, where she met a fifth-grade boy whose little brother had just been born deaf. The interaction moved her to be more open about her experiences.

While being deaf sometimes requires special assistance, it is only part of a bigger story, she says.

“I’m not remarkable,” Bangs insists. “I am just like everyone else. My story is just a little different; being deaf is a tribulation that I had to get over. My cards were dealt, and others have their own challenges that they need to get over, too. Deafness, anxiety, anything at all – everyone has a story.”




Safeway Grant Continues to Improve the View

The Estes Park School District announced in February that they were awarded a $6,200.00 grant from the Safeway Foundation.  

These funds were used to purchase 25 Google Expedition Kits that allow our students to take virtual journeys all over the world. The portable kits are being used in all three schools on campus. The entire class is lead by their instructor as they explore the same location with the ability to view their surroundings in a 360 degree format.

Through the weeks following the purchase of the Expedition Kits, the STEAM classes have gone on multiple journeys in the comfort of their own classroom and learned about places they have dreamed of going to.  

Estes Park School District R-3 would like to give a heartfelt thank you to our wonderful community Safeway for allowing us to give this opportunity to our students! This is a wonderful example of 21st Century learning at its best!

Here, Estes Park Safeway Manager, Eddie Martinez, presents the Estes Park Middle School with a check for $6,200.00. 

Here, Estes Park Safeway Manager, Eddie Martinez, presents the Estes Park Middle School with a check for $6,200.00. 



Estes Park Students participate in DaVita Bike Build

Estes Park School District R-3 was extremely grateful to be able to participate in the massive bike assembly and giveaway that made Guinness World Records history on April 26, 2017.   

DaVita, Inc., a Denver based kidney care company, brought nearly 4,000 volunteers from all over the world to assemble the bikes at the Colorado Convention Center, that would then be donated to non profits and charities around the metro area.  A large majority of the volunteers were in town for a multi-day annual meeting.


DaVita set a new world record for donating the most bikes to a charity in an hour. They donated 979 bikes total, and 750 kids left the event with brand-new, free-of-charge bikes. Among those 750 kids, were 12 of our very own Estes Park third grade students.  All children that received a bike also received a bike helmet, bike locks and safety instructions.

The bikes that were unclaimed at the end of the event were donated to various Denver organizations, but also included Estes Park School District R-3.  These donated bikes will be a part of the Estes Park School District R-3 Bike Program that is being developed through Estes Thrives currently.  

2015 Estes Thrives Day, Bike Building Project

2015 Estes Thrives Day, Bike Building Project

Estes Park School District R-3 was the only school outside of the Denver Area asked to participate in this event. Estes Park was recognized to participate by DaVita after seeing their participation in a similar type of event on a much smaller scale in 2015.  During the project on May 15, 2015 (Estes Thrives Day), the Estes Park High School students were tasked with building 50 bikes, donated by the Stanley Hotel, that they would then later give to an elementary school student in need.

Sheldon Rosenkrance, Superintendent of Schools, remarks “It is amazing to be part of something so enlightening, and especially to see it on such a larger scale this time around.  This type of generosity and teamwork really captures the essence of Estes Thrives”.

It’s a well known fact that there are few things quite as exciting as getting a shiny new bicycle as a young child.  Something equally as fulfilling, is receiving the gift of health and wellness that a lifestyle containing activities such as biking can provide.  Being able to put both of those things into the hands of a child with one act, is priceless.  Estes Park School District R-3 is looking forward to continuing the trend of providing opportunity for health, wellness and happiness through Estes Thrives.





Some of the biggest questions we hear regarding Estes Thrives are  "What is Estes Thrives?”, “What's next?" or "What updates are happening with Estes Thrives?"   First it helps to understand that Estes Thrives is a strategic plan with several key objectives.  Once you understand what Estes Thrives is, you will begin to see it around you at work in the community on a daily basis.  Estes Thrives is an initiative that brings students, community, and learning professionals together to design the future of learning in Estes Park.  Some upcoming events that exhibit the Estes Thrives initiative are the Estes Park Mountain Festival (April 28 & 29), which is a celebration of Arbor Day, Earth Day, and Mountain Culture all rolled into one (visit for more information); the 1st Annual Mountain Music Festival (May 13) which is a benefit supporting Estes Park Schools Music Programs (for more information visit, and several other projects such as repairing the portion of Fish Creek Road that was damaged in the 2013 floods.  The Estes Park Environmental Club, Environmental Science class and the Estes Valley Watershed Coalition worked together with the help of several organizations in the community to plant over 3000 native plants, bushes and trees last fall.  Another effort is planned for this Spring during the last part of April.  

NLC participation from Kindergarten students gave an unlikely spin on the data and feedback collected. 

NLC participation from Kindergarten students gave an unlikely spin on the data and feedback collected. 

The most current stage of this multifaceted process is the introduction of “Neighborhood Learning Conversations”.  The Board of Education and the EPSDR-3 Administration team, along with strategic partners of Estes Thrives,  have been hosting "Neighborhood Learning Conversations" or NLCs in small settings (between 4-12 people) in homes, coffee shops, and there have even been a few held in a yurt!  The discussions are focused on the rapid pace at which technology and education are changing, and what the vision of our future successful graduates looks like from different angles.

A couple of the Estes Park Elementary School teachers have brought the conversation into their classrooms to get a wide variety of feedback, no matter what the age level.  The information we have gathered so far is extremely valuable. The conversations have been passionate and rich. The community members that have joined into the conversation are excited and ready to participate in the future of our children.  There is still time if you would like to join the conversation.  There were 10 conversations scheduled during March, and there are several "NLC's" scheduled between now and May 1st.  

There will be an open house style Neighborhood Learning Conversation held at the High School Commons on April 11th from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.  Superintendent of Schools Sheldon Rosenkrance will facilitate the meeting and will be ready to hear your ideas about the vision for our graduates. The conversation will be open to the public and any and all interested persons are encouraged to attend.

On May 11th, the Estes Thrives team will hold a Community Learning Conversation in the High School Commons, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.  At this special final conversation for this data collection stage, we will present the results and information collected throughout the Neighborhood Learning Conversations and begin creating the next steps toward preparing our young people and our communities for a bright and hopeful future.

Moving forward, we will be establishing a newsletter for updates and to keep the parents and community involved and informed.  The newsletter will be available on our Facebook Page, through local newspapers and through a special email list.  For more information, to sign up for our new monthly newsletter via email, to receive a complete list of NLC's happening in and around Estes Park, or if you have questions or comments in general, please contact

We appreciate your feedback and we want you to know that you are an instrumental part of this process.  Together we can succeed at designing local learning for a global future.





Estes Thrives was starting to take shape in early May of 2015, when Superintendent Sheldon Rosenkrance, working closely with the BeClearly Organization out of Boulder, set to work to make the initiative a reality.  They began with a vision, an opportunity to do something great- something extraordinary- to change the future of education in our community--with our community--and for our community.  The notion was simple, the future is ours to create...but how?  

Now with the Estes Thrives initiative heading full speed ahead, and gaining encouraging and exciting momentum, we take a look back at some of the first steps towards the big picture.  


On May 6th, 2015, 50 students, staff from the school district and members of the community gathered to generate ideas for the projects of Estes Thrives.  The brainstorm session was able to start the ball rolling on the beginning of a culture change.  

On May 15th, ESTES THRIVES DAY was named.  More than 600 students from the Estes Park School District joined together with community members to stage a massive clean up effort throughout the community that included tree planting, painting, and different beautification tasks.  A group of students were bused out to the YMCA of the Rockies to help with the cleanup of their campus, while a different group of students were bused out to Mary's Lake Campground to help with the seeding of their lots.. On the school district campus, students were restoring and painting various signs and working on the grounds to enhance the common areas.   Elementary School students planted trees as part of the Arbor Day celebration sponsored by the Town of Estes Park. 

High school students were excused from their afternoon classes to participate in building 50 bicycles, working in groups of two to four students per bike.  When they completed the project, they had the opportunity to give that bike away to an elementary school student.  The Larimer County Boys and Girls Club chose the students that would receive the bicycles based on need. 

The Elementary School Kids were part of a wellness ambassadors program, working with the high school students signing an agreement to ride their bike as often as they could and to be part of the healthy change. 

Since that day, Estes Thrives has been making appearances in everyday tasks, events and projects throughout the community. Its very clear that the entire community has a voice and that we are all involved in creating the best possible future for our children.  The Estes Park School District is proud to become a catalyst for this dynamic phase of customized learning.



Estes Thrives Neighborhood Learning Conversations: You're Invited!

We are deeply honored to let you know about a most remarkable conversation that's starting in Estes Park and to invite you to take part.

Neighborhood Learning Conversations -- 90-minute "living room" discussions about an inspiring vision for the future of our schools -- have been happening in and around our community for approximately four weeks now.  These conversations need a wide array of student, parent, and guardian voices to help design and facilitate the conversations that will create this long-term vision.  

Neighborhood Learning Conversations are an effective and inclusive way of reaching two goals: (1) ensuring that our schools move forward with a shared awareness of current educational best-practice;  (2) making certain that this happens with each and every individual student in mind. This is where we need your help.

We're looking for community members (adults and teenagers) who are open-minded, inclusive, supportive of our schools, and pro-active to become part of these courageous conversations and engage in thoughtful dialogue.

Would you consider becoming a partner in the Estes Park Neighborhood Learning Conversations?

If so, please join us on Tuesday, April 11th, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., in the high school commons where the vision and mission of the future for Estes Park Schools will be discussed openly with a request for valuable input from you.  

If you are unable to attend the conversation mentioned, please reach out to for more information on how you can get involved.  

Sheldon Rosenkrance (Superintendent)





The project was simple: have students build their own electric guitars.  The learning, on the other hand, has been rich!  


Students begin by choosing what type and what style of guitar they wish to build; then we ordered the materials.  We do some learning about the physics of sound and the mathematics of fret spacing on the keyboard.  They build a one string guitar out of a 2x4 and some twine.  They learn about octaves and harmonics.  We build a simple speaker and pick up from magnets and wires.  Then their materials arrive!

The first stage in actually building their guitars is strictly woodworking.  They sculpt and sand their bodies, design and shape their headstocks.  After finishing the above with paint, oil or stain, students locate, drill and fill each of their fret dots, cut and place the actual frets and attach the fretboards to the neck in the precise location to ensure the correct scale length, before attaching the neck to their guitar bodies.  This produces real guitar-looking products, but they are not yet instruments.

Students learn about different electronic components and soldering; then all the pickups, potentiometers, switches and jacks are connected and installed.  The guitars are strung and the final challenge begins: "intonation" of the guitar, which usually proves to be tricky.  Once complete, each student has a custom, self-made, musically excellent guitar to take home and keep.  Such a product is rare in schools, and this one seems to inspire immense pride.  Not only is the guitar a powerful pop-culture symbol of "cool," but its multi-media complexity makes its creation a significant achievement. 

Student feedback is overwhelmingly positive.  A few students have repeatedly said that it is the best class they ever took.  Several students have said that it is the only class they regularly arrive for and begin working for before the bell even rings.  Several students have said that the skills they learned will be useful for the rest of their lives.  A couple of students have claimed that they want to continue making more guitars as hobbyists.  One student said that the skills she learned were the type she imagines boys get from their dads.  From my teacher's perspective, it is tremendously satisfying to see students who are enthusiastic about creating something for their future, who help each other to stay safe and learn, who express their appreciation and demonstrate it every day by taking pride in cleaning up.  I wish all of my work in education was more like this experience. 

The Estes Park School District R-3 would like to thank OtterBox Foundation for their generous donation to make this a reality!