published: June 2019

Experiential education shines at Blankenship’s Earth Knack

by Mason Osgood

It’s a sunny afternoon in the Baca Grants when a van full of children dressed as pioneers rolls into Earth Knack, a primitive living space that’s been operating in Crestone since 1994. At the driver’s seat of this van is Robin Blankenship, founder and owner of Earth Knack. Her fourth and fifth grade class at Crestone Charter School, colloquially called the “45th Division,” is participating in an overnight experiential education trip.

During this trip students took part in historical recreation as part of learning about pioneers migrating out West during the 1800’s. Open-flame cooking with dutch ovens, ancestral living skills, and discussing Native American and pioneer interactions helped to enrich this learning experience. Children learned about the many difficulties the pioneers experienced including rampant diseases, physical tolls of walking everyday, and lack of food.

This trip serves to highlight a greater theme of outdoor living and experiential education at the core of Crestone Charter School and Blankenship’s fourth and fifth grade class. Students in her class have taken part in home canning, horseshoeing, alpaca shearing, and consistently tend to the Crestone Curve Community Garden. Blankenship can also be seen riding her horse and buggy to school, picking up students along the way. Science and history lessons are frequently peppered into these class trips providing an immersive education experience for children.

For Blankenship it’s more than instilling the values of self-reliance, it is “about developing a sense of relationship with their own bio-region.” She says, “there are so many amazing opportunities for children in Crestone.” Exploring our own backyard, even outside of the classroom, is an opportunity sometimes taken for granted in a place like Crestone. Our community is full of home gardens, animal pastures, and outdoor educators. To educate children on our environment is to further connect with our beautiful landscape.

This summer take an opportunity to bring your children to explore and learn about our expansive backyard. Local farms and ranches, hikes to mountain lakes, or outdoor programming provided at Earth Knack, and the Alpine Achievers Initiative Summer Session all serve to enrich the lives of our children when classroom time ends.