To inform and transform

Roots and Wings Community School plans benefit ‘Winter Masquerade Ball’


Mardi Gras is still a few weeks away, but Roots and Wings Community School is offering an opportunity to put on a festive mask and dance for a good cause at the school’s “Winter Masquerade Ball” fundraiser.

The gala benefit is planned Saturday (Feb. 11), 4-8 p.m., at Taos Mesa Brewing, 20 ABC Mesa Road, off U.S. 64 west.

Attendees get a masquerade mask upon entrance. Guests of all ages can also purchase a blank mask and decorate it themselves at a craft table. There will be desserts for sale, raffles and auctions, musical performances and surprises.

Taos Mesa Brewing co-founder Dan Irion will perform on mandolin and vocals at the event with the band Last to Know. “We host benefits for local charter schools all the time. I think we’ve hosted Roots and Wings six times now. Like most parents of kids (mine are aged 2 and 5), I think it’s proof of poor allocation of public funds when we have public schools having to routinely host benefits.”

Taos has an impressive selection of schools, each with its own unique learning opportunities, and all of them need support from the community in order to thrive. Roots and Wings, a school located in Lama, New Mexico, has been serving students of the upper Río Grande Valley from kindergarten through eighth grade for 17 years. The school was founded by married educator team Peg Bartlett and Todd Wynward.

“Our dream from the beginning was to allow children of all economic backgrounds to be able to experience adventurous education that integrates the head, heart and hands,” said Bartlett. “We wanted to inspire students with a love of nature, so we located our school in Lama, amidst an outdoor classroom of farm and forest. The school began in 2000 with just 16 middle schoolers and two staff. Now, in 2017, we have grown to 50 students, grades K-8. We regularly hear from our former students how influential their experience was here and the confidence and resilience they felt they gained through their outdoor and indoor education here.”

“Our educational goal has always been not just to inform, but to transform,” said Wynward. “Since its inception, Roots and Wings has been inspired by Expeditionary Learning, a comprehensive school reform movement affiliated with more than 150 schools nationwide. The Expeditionary Learning model promotes rigorous, integrated and engaging curriculum. In past years, students have written 50-page novels, produced their own websites and DVDs, developed forest management plans, done energy audits for institutions and put Kit Carson on trial in front of a real judge and jury. This semester, our [third- through fifth-graders] are writing survival stories with multiple ‘choose your own adventure’ endings. As you might guess, many of them can’t wait to get to school!”

Lynn Letherer-Sugden is a Roots and Wings parent and volunteer who lives north of Questa. Her son has been attending the school since fourth grade and is now about to graduate from eighth.

“I love this school and all the kids in it,” she said. “Some things that I feel make this school special is the small attendance size. With it being a small school, the kids all get to know each other. I walked in today and saw an eighth-grader acting like a big brother to a first-grader. More than a school, this is a family.”

Letherer-Sugden spoke of the special activities offered at the school. “Being mountain kids at school on the mountain, they go on extended trips into the wilderness. This fall, they walked from Taos Ski Valley along the ridge, up and over Lobo Peak, then down into San Cristobal. These trips generally last six days or so. They take their time, enjoy the trip and learn along the way. I feel so grateful to have Roots and Wings in our world. The staff, past and present, goes above and beyond for these kids. They really love them like their own.”

She described the treats awaiting guests at the “Winter Masquerade Ball.” “We have some of the greatest music around with Taos’ own Last to Know, The Noseeums and our primary school ukulele kids, with other surprises in the works. We will have raffles of locally made jewelry and art, gift certificates for local restaurants, massages and some that we don’t know yet. There will be a variety of masks with feathers, beads, bright colors, sequins and mystery. We will have a decadent dessert assortment as another way of raising funds. The desserts will be from the Roots and Wings parents’ best efforts.”

Last to Know’s keyboard player, Howie Roemer, told Tempo that the band has tried a few times over the last couple of years to make something happen with Roots and Wings, but the timing hadn’t worked out until this year. “We’re pretty excited now to finally be playing. A couple of the guys in the band have kids, and although none go to Roots and Wings, we all now appreciate even more the importance of supporting schools in and around Taos. We’re honored to have been asked and happy to be a part of such a great event.”

“One thing for certain is that it is going to be good local fun,” said Letherer-Sugden. “It’s supporting a school that uses the monies generated for things like gear for camping, playwrights that come in and help our primary students write plays, equipment for [physical education classes] and so much more.”

For more information, call the venue at (575) 758-1900. To call the school, dial (575) 586-2076.