Charter school hosts community heroes meal


By Emily Murphy | Pagosa Peak Open School

Photo courtesy Pagosa Peak Open School
Students were nervous and excited to have their heroes participate in the Pagosa Peak Open School community meal. Ari, 6, appreciated police officers and was happy to have members of the sheriff’s office join her for the hero celebration.

Lunch tables covered with tablecloths held vases of flowers arranged by Pagosa Peak Open School (PPOS) students Friday. The first- through third-grade students had transformed the lobby into a dining room for 100 guests, who filed in to share a meal and hear the culmination of student projects celebrating local heroes and healthy eating.

The students in Jen Sarkis’ 2/3 class focused on concepts around planning a large-scale meal through this project called “Breaking Bread in our Community.” For nearly two months, students worked on budgeting, menu selection, food allergies, healthy food choices and balanced meals. They visited a local restaurant and invited experts such as the school’s food service team, Carl Hayduke and Joey Wychesit, in order to learn more about how to plan and prepare healthy meals within a budget.

Photo courtesy Pagosa Peak Open School
Nearly 100 people sit down to share a meal with Pagosa Springs community heroes during the Pagosa Peak Open School community meal.

“We decided as a class that the final product would be to honor community heroes at an event at our school,” Sarkis said. “When we learned that Ms. Bruno’s class was studying community heroes, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity for our classes to work together.”

Firefighters, police officers, search and rescue members, waste management crew, Humane Society workers, grandparents, parents, nurses, farmers, veterinarians, artists, bakers, doctors and more were recognized by Kelle Bruno’s 1/2 students who had been studying what it means to be a hero. Students shared their gratitude before the nearly 100 guests dove into tacos, salad and dessert.

“Our Community Heroes project started with a look at famous heroes including Malala Yousafzai, Cesar Chavez, Ruby Bridges, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Fred Rogers,” Bruno said. “We examined the character traits that defined them as heroes, as well as things that influenced their work such as their personal struggles and core values.”

From here, the students considered the heroes in their lives: the people of Pagosa Springs who support them and their community each day. A meal to honor these local heroes made perfect sense and the collaboration between the two classes began. A quick discussion and planning lead to further collaboration with the Archuleta Food Coalition, which helped PPOS fund this meal. 

“It was a perfect partnership,” Bruno said. “The Food Coalition is a big part of our community and has created multiple events to get our community together. We’re grateful for their contribution to this event with PPOS.”

PPOS is a tuition-free public school open to all Archuleta County families. The educational model is built upon project-based learning, a student-centered pedagogy that involves a dynamic classroom approach through which students can acquire a deeper understanding through active exploration of real-world challenges and problems. 

Students in all classes at PPOS engage in multiple projects throughout the year, looking for ways to influence their own community, create positive change and be heroes in their own way.