Touring grandparents and their grandchildren learn new lesson at Steamboat’s Mesa Schoolhouse

Tom Ross
Ann DeYoung
Tom Ross

Ann DeYoung, of Burlington, Vt., left, and B.J. Hess, of Boston, play a game of cat’s cradle Tuesday at the one-room Mesa Schoolhouse while Annmarie Kirkpatrick, of Fort Collins, watches. Kirkpatrick is one of the leaders of a travel tour group comprising grandparents and their grandchildren who are visiting Steamboat this week.
Tom Ross

— A group of multigenerational, cultural heritage travelers paid a visit to the historic Mesa Schoolhouse south of Steamboat Springs on Tuesday. Or, if that sounds like too much of a mouthful, grandparents and their grandchildren from all across the country gathered at Steamboat’s one-room school to learn while having fun with period educational games and crafts.

“It’s such a rewarding experience to spend time with just your grandchild,” said Ann DeYoung, of Burlington Vt.

She and her 10-year-old granddaughter were traveling with a nonprofit tour organization, Road Scholar associated with Elderhostel. Road Scholar is dedicated to providing educational travel experiences in 50 states and 150 countries. They also offer Alpine and Nordic skiing trips to Steamboat.

This week’s visit to Steamboat is DeYoung’s fourth trip with a fourth grandchild through Road Scholar already having visited places like Quebec and Kansas. Road Scholar planned a variety of activities in Steamboat with the grandkids in mind, and the chance to see the kind of school their grandparents, or perhaps their great-grandparents, might have attended was part of the experience.

The Mesa Schoolhouse is an original one-room school owned by the city of Steamboat Springs and at one time was among about 96 schools that dotted the river valleys from Steamboat to the Utah border. It was restored through a broad community effort from 1998 to 2002.

If Natalie Stanko still were alive (she died in 2005), she could have told Tuesday’s visitors all about what it was like to teach there in the 1930s.

“When you were given the job of teacher, you were also given the job of janitor,” she said in a video produced in 2002 by the Tread of Pioneers Museum. “It was your responsibility to keep the school going and clean, keep the fires going in the winter and carry in coal and kindling.”

The members of the Road Scholar group also tubed the Yampa River together, visited Fish Creek Falls and will make their own tissue paper hot air balloons as well as taking a flight aloft in a real balloon Wednesday. They’ll visit the Tread of Pioneers Museum and give the Alpine slide a whirl, too.

“My granddaughter, who is from California, absolutely loved tubing,” said Ann Hess, of Rochester, N.Y.

At the Mesa Schoolhouse, the youngsters tested their grandparents in a spelling bee and made patriotically themed red, white and blue flowers out of tissue paper. And now they’ve glimpsed what it was like to attend a rural school in Routt County 80 years ago.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

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