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RMDS Creates Experiences Beyond Classrooms

Rocky Mountain Deaf School Creates New Experiences Beyond Classrooms
Posted on 11/14/2023
Rocky Mountain Deaf School climbing wall

The improvements made possible by the Jeffco Builds bond program enrich student experiences and opportunities beyond the classroom for the 82 students at Rocky Mountain Deaf School (RMDS), a Jeffco public charter school.

The state-of-the-art school and campus opened in 2014. The building’s design followed the “DeafSpace Guidelines,” drafted in conjunction with the Deaf Space Project at Gallaudet University. Those design principles promote the ideal conditions for visual communication.

The new bond-backed improvements focus on outdoor spaces—new parking lot lights, a new soccer field, and a new amphitheater. And on the way is a new 500-square-foot domed greenhouse. The other major addition to this school is an indoor climbing wall in the gymnasium, which is already getting heavy use by students.

“The climbing wall teaches them communication, teamwork, collaboration, grit, and stamina,” says RMDS Director Eileen Kratzer. “It builds strength, too, of course.”

Rocky Mountain Deaf School climbing wall

Even three- and four-year-old students try their hand at climbing. The wall, wide enough for four climbers to navigate their way up at the same time, comes with an auto-belay system that increases safety for all climbers. Teachers and staff are known to spend time on the wall, as well.

The soccer field allows RMDS to assemble a middle school soccer team and compete with other schools. If the school attracts more high school students, high school teams will be added, too.

“A lot of deaf students don't want to necessarily join a hearing team,” says Kratzer. “This gives us the space where we now have middle school sports—and elementary clubs, too—and a place for them to practice.”

The field, adds Kratzer, is also being enjoyed by a wide variety of community groups. School events on the field allow students to run a concession stand, offering popcorn and hot dogs for sale. The student-run business connects via Wi-Fi for customers to use credit cards to pay for their items.

Rocky Mountain Deaf School field

The parking lot lighting improves safety and makes it easier for communication—as American Sign Language relies on visuals. The resulting brightness in the parking lots, says Kratzer, “is mind-boggling.”

The amphitheater gives the school a chance to hold outdoor graduation ceremonies and other events, too.

The greenhouse idea was selected following a team-building exercise that included Shark Tank-style competitive pitches. The challenge: What would be best for students?

“We are very focused on project-based learning,” says Kratzer. “The students don’t always get as many experiences with language attached to them as hearing students do. So, this gives them that opportunity.”

There are many teachers that are “extremely passionate” about growing vegetables. Growing is happening everywhere.

“We've always had an awesome educational program—we’ve always been really strong, even from a national perspective,” says Kratzer. “These new features to our learning environment are letting our students grow beyond the classroom and that’s really positive for student learning.”

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