Kim Langmaid |

Kim Langmaid

Caramie Schnell

“Every place on earth bespeaks its own rhythm of life. Every locality has its own spirit. There is no accounting for the mysterious magnetism that draws and holds us to that one locality we know as our heart’s home.”-Frank Waters, Mountain MysteryThat quote is printed on a sheet of white paper that hangs above Kim Langmaid’s desk as the Gore Range Natural Science School in Red Cliff, and its poetry is central to Kim’s philosophy and to her life.Kim’s grandparents first came to Vail in 1961 after their friend Dick Hausermann convinced them to start fresh in Vail. They started the first ski shop at the top of Bridge Street, Vail Ski Rentals. Her parents caught the Colorado bug as well and moved out in 1969 from Massachusetts.Kim grew up in the Valley, and had the chance as a young child to explore the wilds of Vail. She lived with her family on Beaver Dam Road back when the beavers, after which the road had been named, still had dams there.She attended Kindergarten in the basement of the Vail Chapel and the first and second grades at the Vail Valley Medical Center. Those early years of her life cultivated a lifelong love of nature and the environment.”I had lots of time to explore the area and hang out with my grandparents and parents who loved being outdoors. Even though I didn’t know it as a young child, (my childhood in Vail) was nurturing that appreciation for the natural world in me,” Kim says.After graduating from Vail Mountain School Kim attended Colorado State University where she majored in Biology. After college, Kim did something she never thought she’d doshe came back to Vail.”When I was a kid I always felt like I would never live up in Vail as a grown-up because there was nothing here for me,” Kim says. “There just wasn’t much going on.”Kim found out that once this Valley is in your blood, it’s there for life. She returned to Vail to work as a naturalist at the Vail Nature Center during the summers and to race snowboards during the winters.”I really found my passion when I was working at the nature center,” Kim says. “Just being able to connect people with the outdoors whether it’s on a wildflower walk or a bird walk or a beaver pond walk, I just loved working with people and sharing my knowledge and seeing them light up when they learned new things about nature.”Over the course of working at the nature center for four years, Kim became the director. She saw a huge need for more environmental education in the Valley.”The development in this community has been very rapid and very intense,” Kim says. “Over the course of my life to that point and it continues to this day I just see the population of this valley growing and growing and growing and people coming here from all different places without an understanding or an appreciation of the ecology and the environment and how to live.”We all get sucked into our lives and we rarely take the time out to learn what’s going on around us. I just hope that people will take the time out to stop and enjoy the reason why they live here,” Kim says.Kim decided to get her master’s degree through the Teton Science School in Jackson Hole, Wyo. in combination with Prescott College in Arizona. After completing her masters, Kim immediately returned to Vail, ready to fulfill her vision.”I started (The Gore Range Natural Science School), modeled after the Teton Science School, which had been around at that time for about 32 years,” Kim says. “I didn’t know exactly what I would do, but I saw a huge opportunity and need. When I first envisioned the school, I didn’t necessarily envision a facility along with it.”Kim was reading the Vail Daily after returning and she saw that the Red Cliff School, left empty by the school district since the spring of ’92, was up for grabs. She saw an opportunity and pursued it.”We negotiated with the school district, the school board, and the town of Red Cliff and got the building open and got a lease,” Kim remembers. “We involved the Vail Valley Rotary Club in getting people to come up and help us get the building ready to be inhabited again.”The first programs officially started the summer of 1998 and ever since, the school has been gaining momentum, working with more and more people each year.”Initially we started with the 5th grade teachers and the 7th grade teachers and we developed the curriculum based on their needs, and we still do that,” Kim says. “We’ve since started working with other elementary aged groups and high school groups and we’ve expanded, especially with Vail Resorts and the discovery center that we do up on Vail Mountain.Two-and-a-half years ago Kim married a local remodel contractor, Peter Casabonne, a longtime local himself. Kim is also pursuing her doctorate degree in environmental studies from New England College in Hancock, N.H. Monthly, Kim travels back east to meet with her 15-member class.In January Kim stepped down from her post with the school as executive director and now is the director of education, a change she says is for the better and the school is where she plans to stay.”(The school) is what I’d envisioned,” Kim says. “I jumped into this thing as a leap of faith. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time developing a business plan and getting support. We basically started and then did that, it all happened at once.”The school now sees about 1,200 students through their youth program and about 15,000 people, youth and adult, through their interpretive programs. And she feels like the school is making a difference in the community.”The ultimate vision is to see the members of this community, youth and adult, really caring about the place where they live and seeing the value in wild nature and in the eco-system, in the plant and animals that survive,” Kim says.”I really feel like in order for people to take care of the places where they live, they have to have a strong connection to that place so I really believe in the power of place-based education. That means teaching people about the ecology and the geology and even the human stories and human history in the places where they lived to give them a greater appreciation. That’s not to say it’s a narrow, regional mindset because I also believe that the power of place-based education is connecting to places beyond where you are and looking for the similarities and the differences.” VT

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