Hands-on Science on the Valley Floor

The Valley Floor Living Classroom (VFLC), a summer-long series covering a range of topics on the biotic and abiotic communities of the Valley Floor, offers in-depth, educational tours and provides the opportunity for participants to engage in rigorous citizen science. High school students and adults are invited to participate in this hands-on science through a free and open-to-the-public series of classes held on the Valley Floor.

“We like using our beautiful gem of a watershed as our classroom and learning about things going on right here. We think the Valley Floor is a perfectly natural classroom that can teach us a lot about ecosystems and restoration and the history of the area,” said Telluride Institute environmental studies educator, Alessandra Jacobson.


May 22, 2018  9AM-1PM: Explore Telluride’s changing forest landscapes with Colorado State University Professor, Dr. Jason Sibold. The field trip will meet at the  the San Miguel Country Store (Shell Station), located at 1982 CO Hwy 145.  Participants should pack a sack lunch and plan for light to moderate hiking. For more information contact Elizabeth Stuffings at (970) 708-8330.

June 20, 2018 9AM-12NOON: Focusing on the water resources of the Valley Floor, attendees will have the opportunity to get their hands wet and help scientists monitor the health of the San Miguel River, wetlands and riparian vegetation. Participants will learn about local water quality issues, the impacts of this year’s low run-off, and what the health of river bug populations can tell the community about the resiliency of local ecosystems. The field trip will meet at 9am at the far west end Valley Floor parking area (across CO HWY 145 from the Society Conoco gas station). Participants should bring hiking gear for walking on the Valley Floor and, if available, waterproof boots or waders. LEARN MORE

July 31, 2018: The Telluride Institute’s Watershed Education Program is hosting a FREE Telluride Valley Floor and Mountain Village wetlands tour on July 31, 9 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. Bring a daypack, sack lunch, water, raincoat, and wear hiking clothing (that can get a bit wet), and water shoes or boots (the Institute will have extras to share). Everyone meets at the NE corner of the RV parking lot on the east side of the Valley Floor. Plan to spend a few hours touring the Valley Floor wetlands and then carpool up to the Prospect Basin fens. LEARN MORE

August 7, 2018: Want to get to know the diversity of birds and other wildlife of the Telluride area? Join experts on August 7, from 9:00 am-1:00 pm for the fourth and final FREE Valley Floor Living Classroom session! LEARN MORE


Jacobson founded the Bridal Veil Living Classroom, the predecessor of and model for the current series taking place in the 570-acre Valley Floor. The previous program took students on in-depth, educational tours of the rugged terrain of Bridal Veil Basin. Moving the program to the Valley Floor will make it more accessible to a broader cross-section of participants.

During the summer of 2015, the Telluride Institute conducted six VFLC “previews” that provided a comprehensive introduction to the natural and human history of the Valley Floor. Organized by Telluride Institute Environmental Studies staff members, Laura Kudo, Vicki Phelps, and Alessandra Jacobson, the program ran from July 1 through August 5. Find out more…

The VFLC Advanced Placement program launched in the summer of 2016, headed up by environmental scientist, Karl Topper. Qualified high school students earned Advanced Placement (AP) college credit through Western College State University in Gunnison, CO. The 3 + 1 credit (lecture/lab) course transfers to most colleges and universities. While those students interested in receiving college credit paid $75 per credit, the program was otherwise free to all students who were accepted. This is an extraordinary opportunity to learn about the local environment while earning valuable college credits. To learn more about the VFLC AP course, click here.

Read the article about the VFLC preview by Mary Slosson in the Telluride Daily Planet:

VFLC Receives Grant from Just for Kids Foundation
VFLC received a $3,150 grant from Just For Kids (JFK) Foundation to help support the Valley Floor Living Classroom program. The Valley Floor Living Classroom will provide a field-based environmental science educational program for regional high school students studying the Telluride Open Space Valley Floor. Additionally, the students and teachers will collaboratively implement an educational outreach program that informs and educates the public about this community place-based educational model. The money received from JFK will be used to provide partial support for teaching the high school students.