SLV 4H Meets In Saguache on Jan. 17

When it comes to effective, sustainable – not to mention fun – youth-driven organizations in rural Colorado, 4H still stands tall in the crowd. And the same holds true in Saguache Today with the San Luis Valley 4H Club. So it’s roundup time to see what the local members have been up to and what’s coming up that kids can get involved with.


The competition was fun and fierce at the recent San Luis Valley 4H Robotics Table Clear contest. Photo: SLV 4H Facebook Page.

Earlier this month, the SLV 4-Her Kristine Hoffner competed at Western National Roundup in Denver, and the local SLV 4H Club hosted a robotics challenge. This group doesn’t let any grass grow under their feet! Shout out to Kristine, whose team placed 4th. Also, congrats to Ivhan and Damion who got first in the Robotics Table Clear contest!

Upcoming Council Meeting

The next upcoming council meeting for the Saguache County Council will be held tomorrow, January 17 at 4:45 p.m. at Mountain Valley School. The 4-H leadership councils are a great opportunity for youth from around the Valley to meet other 4-Hers and get leadership and real life experience. Councils do community service, plan outreach events and do fundraising to pay for 4-H costs like attending camp. Kids who regularly attend council meetings and help at 4-H events can apply for camp reimbursements. Youth also get special raffle tickets for each council meeting and event they attend. All 4-Hers are encouraged to participate.


As a 4-H volunteer you will play a key role as an adult mentor and role model for young people that live in your community. MORE INFO.

 For readers unfamiliar with this national youth development program,  4-H teaches kids life skills through partnerships with caring adults. The program is a cooperative effort between Colorado State University Extension and Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande and Saguache counties. Extension programs are available to all without discrimination. For more information on the 4-H program visit their website or contact the San Luis Valley Extension office at 719-852-7381 or

Sculptures Created at Youth Fire Art Workshop

What do you get when you combine one of the earth’s basic elements with youthful curiosity? Fire Art!


Ian Horn (right) and Ryker Poor (right) both students in Saguache, begin to assemble the head to the fire sculpture. Photo: Telluride Fire Festival

Saguache Today readers may remember the great success that local students demonstrated at last January’s “Telluride Fire Festival.” Add to that a life lesson about the satisfaction in seeing a project to completion, especially when it’s a beautiful piece of art that lights up the Colorado night sky, and you get students #OnFireForLearning!

Therefore it was good news to hear from Event Director Erin Ries with the Telluride Fire Festival about another program that allowed area youth, including Saguache students, to be educated in fire artistry. Last month, 11 middle and high school students were hosted in Telluride to create not one, but two fire art masterpieces created out of found objects!

The weekend started off on Friday, Nov. 17 with a communal dinner giving them a chance to met with fellow students from Norwood and Gunnison. The next day, the group assembled at The Mine to brainstorm with instructors Dan Gundrum of Telluride, Brent Cain of Moab, and Andy McKim of Saguache. They collectively designed a two headed gargoyle like fire monster and dog-like companion.


The group celebrates their success with not one but two fire art masterpieces! Photo: Telluride Fire Festival.

All students were schooled in safety measures and given safety gloves, glasses, welding helmets and other protective gear. They had the opportunity to try their hand at welding as well as learn how to use a plasma cutter at The Mine with Dan Gundrum.

Andy McKim, the resident clay expert, lead another group of students at Ah Haa School for the Arts in the creation of four unusual, gargoyle-like feet for one of the sculptures along with fairy wings. Brent Cain transformed the two-headed sculpture with the addition of fire spewing out all sides of the “neck”.

Christian Arel and Ian Gonzalez-Basco, both Masters students in the Environmental Management Program at Western State University, also assisted the students.  Grants for the program of science, technology, engineering, art, and math, were received from Coldharbour Institute and Burners Without Borders. The program is made possible through a collaboration of these two organizations, in addition to Deep Creek Experimental, the Ah Haa School for the Arts, and Western State University.

Support through in-kind donations came from various Telluride businesses. In fact according to Executive Director of Coldharbour Institute, Suzanne Ewy, “We could not have executed this program without the tremendous generosity from the Telluride community.”


Saguache students Makayla Sisson (left) and Ryker Poor (right) sketch out their initial plans. Photo: Telluride Fire Festival.

About the Telluride Fire Festival, Coldharbour Institute, and Burners Without Borders. The Telluride Fire Festival, a 501c3 organization, works all year long to create programs that educate youth in fire artistry. Coldharbour Institute is a 501c3 organization in Gunnison that facilitates education, innovation, and demonstration in responsible living practices and ecological, social and economic sustainability. Its youth development initiative, SEED (sustainability, education, equity, diversity) whose students engaged in this program, links regional high school students to Western’s Environment and Sustainability program through students from Western’s Master in Environmental Management program and a very generous grant from the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Christian Arel’s masters project is to develop SEED. For more information visit or contact Suzanne at

Teacher to Class: “Can You Hear Me Now?”

By Joyce Rankin, Board of Education, 3rd Congressional District

Joyce Rankin

Joyce Rankin

Joyce Rankin is on the State Board of Education representing the Third Congressional District, which includes Saguache and Saguache County. She writes the monthly column, “Across the Street” to share with constituents in her district.  The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol.She may be reached at

“It’s just common sense.” How many times have you heard this phrase and thought “If only more people would just use common sense”?  I was thinking that during a conversation with Dan Snowberger, School Superintendent in Durango.

Dan and I, along with a thousand other educators, attended an Excellence in Education conference last month where use of technology in the K-12 classroom was discussed.  While there are already lessons available that introduce students, as early as Kindergarten, to technology, the conversation turned to middle and high school students use of cell phones in the classroom.  How can a student concentrate on the task at hand when they are on their cell phone texting a friend?  The answer for one Principal in Snowberger’s district was to ban cell phones in his middle school. “Ban cell phones”, you say. “That’s impossible.”

Evidently, not for Durango middle school Principal, Shane Voss.  First, Mr. Voss invited parents and interested community members to a screening of a film titled “Screenagers” explaining how the child’s brain develops. The film attempted to explain the result of too much “screen time” or time spent in front of a computer screen or cell phone.


You won’t find any cell-phones here as Saguache students are fully engaged in a local library program in 2017. Photo: Saguache Today/KathyBedell.

At first parents had some concerns about the importance of phones when they needed to get in touch with their child in an emergency situation.  Mr. Voss assured parents that there would always be personnel available to answer the office phone during school hours. The emphasis of the new “no cell phone” rule was to “keep students engaged in the present.” said Voss.

“We have a highly collaborative and innovative learning environment”, stated Mr. Voss, “The students can now use 100% of their energy with the task at hand”. He also added that social bullying during school time has greatly decreased. 

Shane Voss, Principal of Mountain Middle School (Grades 4-8) created a cell phone free environment that seems to be working.  There is a time and place for the teen culture of social media, it’s just not at Mountain Middle School. Technology certainly has its place but so does “focus”.

Common sense? Yes, coupled with strong leadership and community support.



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