ACS was founded as an alternative to conventional public schooling, in which outdoor education, exploration and respect for the natural world were among the school’s pillars. Today, Outdoor Ed is known as Experiential Ed, as it includes the occasional urban trips to complement the backcountry journeys. The “Ex Ed” program provides an environment for developing leadership, teamwork, and other important life skills. Taking a student out of a familiar environment and into the out-of-doors (or, as the case may be, the out-of-comfort zones) builds self-confidence and resilience, communication skills and extends the classroom curriculum into an applied environment.
ACS teachers frequently design field trips that relate directly to the curriculum. Field trips and other experiential activities are essential to our program because they provide invaluable hands-on learning experiences.
Taking care of the community is a daily practice at ACS. Each student is personally involved in the successful functioning of the community, including chores. The school has several service-learning projects that provide students with opportunities to demonstrate responsibility for their community, including maintenance of the Tin Cup Trail, performing at the Aspen Tree Lighting Ceremony and giving to families in need through the Family Visitor Program and Empty Bowls.
The Arts Choices program is an essential component of the 5-8 arts curriculum, in which students of the upper grades have the opportunity to work intensively with a local artist. The three-week immersive program takes place once a year. Students may choose from a handful of options, which vary from year to year. These opportunities have taken the form of visual arts (such as ceramics, stained glass and wood working), performing arts (rock band and bluegrass band) and less traditional “arts” such as cooking and fly-casting.
The Spring Musical
The Spring Musical has been a Community School tradition since 1983. Each year ACS produces an original stage production including script, costumes, lyrics, sets and music developed from scratch by the entire student body, staff and volunteers. The musical is performed by all of the school’s students (who are the production’s actors, singers, dancers, set crew and lighting/sound techs) and accompanied by a live band in Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House.
8th Grade Trip
Every May our graduating class embarks on a two-week trip to culminate their experience at the Community School. The purpose of the educational trip is to learn about diverse cultures in an immersive experience that includes service to the community. Eighth graders, with the support of their parents, undertake extensive fundraising efforts to make the trip possible.