Tom Ross: New generation processes rapid changes in Steamboat |

Tom Ross: New generation processes rapid changes in Steamboat

Fourth-graders from Strawberry Park Elementary School quizzed downtown developer Jim Cook of Colorado Group Realty on Wednesday about their changing community. Under the direction of teachers Diane Maltby and Barb Gregoire, the students are using a grant from the Legacy Foundation to create a multimedia documentary on the subject.

— I was reminded this week that change is constant. My lesson came at the hands of a group of iPod-wielding fourth-graders.

I have to say I was taken aback this week when I learned a group of students from Strawberry Park Elementary School was taking a field trip to the Yampa Street offices of Colorado Group Realty to learn about changes to our community.

When I was in fourth grade, we went to the turkey farm, the fire station and the zoo.

However, this group of fourth-graders, taught by Barb Gregoire and Diane Maltby, is reaching the culmination of a yearlong project documenting the visible changes taking place in Steamboat Springs. They used a grant from the Legacy Foundation to purchase digital cameras that allowed them to make a record of what they saw taking place around them.

The students wanted to hang out with developer Jim Cook this week to quiz him about his downtown development projects for half an hour. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I get paid to do that.

The students were confronted by change every day of the school year that ended Friday, as construction crews labored through a record winter to build an addition onto their school.

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There were days when the floor shook and many days when they couldn’t open the sliding glass doors for ventilation. If they had the misfortune to get sent to the office, that office was housed in a plywood shack in the arcade that resembled the forts I used to build in the vacant lot back in fourth grade.

The fourth-graders became even more aware of change, Gregoire said, during an outing in the fall to the Soda Spring in Lincoln Park. Walking past the construction site at the Bud Werner Memorial Library, one of the students called out, “Hey, what happened to that really big tree!”

Gregoire said her students seem to process change differently from many adults.

“They’re definitely aware that their community is changing. But for them, it pretty much is what it is,” she said. “Many of them have had discussions at home about the changes they see taking place.”

When the students arrived at the Colorado Group offices, they had their game faces on.

Cook explained his goals for Alpenglow and Howelsen Place, and he expressed his wishes that someday in the near future, many public celebrations would take place on a revitalized, pedestrian-friendly Yampa Street.

The students had questions to ask. One boy was holding a brightly colored iPod cradled in a microphone dock. He reached over his head to hold it closer to Cook’s chin and gather sound bites for a future Podcast.

“Won’t these buildings bring more people here?” one little girl asked. “I think there are already too many people in Steamboat.”

Cook gently replied that short of putting a gate on Rabbit Ears Pass, there’s no way to prevent people from moving here to enjoy all of the things we enjoy already.

One boy asked, “Why are businesses always moving from one place to another place?”

Constant change is the nature of business, Cook responded.

Finally, a fourth-grade girl asked Cook, “What’s your favorite project of all?”

“My favorite project is the one that’s successful,” he replied with a smile.

Later, Maltby said that during a yearlong unit about Colorado history, her students learned about how the early pioneers coped with changes in their lives. The lessons they were taught serve as reminders that they, and the rest of us, are making history right now.

I still say I’d rather visit the turkey farm, any old day.