State Department of Education honors Aspen Middle School | AspenTimes.com

State Department of Education honors Aspen Middle School

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen Middle School was recently honored by the Colorado Department of Education for a program the school adopted over two decades ago.

Last Friday, AMS received the Colorado Service Learning Leader School Award, the first time the honor has ever been bestowed on a middle school. The award recognizes the efforts of AMS students in service learning, a program that helps children tie community service into their academic curriculum.

The honor has been celebrated around the Aspen School District, as the Leader School Award had been reserved for high school students who take on large projects. The award tells AMS administrators that the school is on the right track when it comes to curriculum planning, said Georgina Rumsey, AMS mentor/challenge coordinator.

“It’s a big deal to us, because it kind of validates what we’re doing with the schools,” she said.

The honor came after a group of AMS students and AHS ninth-graders created a portfolio detailing their service-learning projects. Finding information on each activity was easy, Rumsey said, since the school took an interest in community service even before Rumsey herself was an AMS student.

“We put together this portfolio with kids, collecting data from all of the programs we do – things like going to the animal shelter and working with the animals, all the way up to Challenge Aspen and working with people with disabilities,” Rumsey said. “We’ve been doing it for over 20 years – that’s why it was so easy to put together the portfolio.”

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The JASON Project, a Science Outreach Center-sponsored program that allows students to teach their peers, was just one of the many activities that helped AMS stand out among other schools up for the Leader School honor, Rumsey said. A student involved in many of the special projects even traveled to Denver with Rumsey last week to accept the Leader School Award on behalf of the school.

Though the award doesn’t come with grant money that could help the school with its community service plans, Rumsey said the Department of Education did award AMS an $8,000 service-learning grant last year. Rumsey expects the grant to be handed over again this year, and when matched with the $8,000 gathered from local funds, the amount will go a long way in helping the school with its plans.

AMS also receives help from several “community partners,” local businesses that contribute to the school’s causes, Rumsey said.

The money not only funds special projects, but it also allows AMS students the chance to travel and learn more about the impact of community service around the country. Kids attended both the national service-earning conference in Seattle last March and the state conference in Denver last weekend.