Our Studios

Learning Design
Our Studios

Vail Valley Unbound will have three studios (when we are fully ramped): Transitional Kindergarten, Lower Elementary, and Upper Elementary. These studios are learner-driven one-room communities. Our first year, we will have two studios: transitional kindergarten and lower elementary with the goal of opening upper elementary our second year.

We believe that children learn best when working with children younger and older than themselves rather than split up into groups based solely on age. In addition to individualized curriculum, all ages of students work together in groups.

Transitional K

Transitional Kindergarten Studio is ages 4.5-6: Play based and heavily focused on developing social and emotional skills. This Studio is more Guide directed as systems, processes, and healthy behaviors are modeled and practiced. Learners are ready to move out of this studio when they can consistently use words to resolve conflicts, can set simple goals, and can read level one Bob Books.

Purpose: Be a good friend and learn to read.
Signature Experience: Montessori/Loose parts play.

Lower Elementary

Our Lower Elementary Studio is ages 6-9: Play based with a continued focus on social/emotional development and increased personal responsibility. In this Studio, academically, leaners will focus primarily on developing literacy and simple math while engaging in hands on projects. Learners begin to create and take charge of some systems modeled by the Guide and practice participating in Socratic discussions. Guide holds and models systems and works to hand over more and more responsibility to Learners as freedom is earned. Learners provide some mentorship within younger studio as appropriate.

Purpose: Be Curious.
Signature Experience: Quests and Civilization

Upper Elementary

Our Upper Elementary Studio is ages 8-12: Self-directed Core Skills and hands on Quests along with Civilization discussions and Writers’ Workshops. Learners take increased ownership of their Studio systems and accountability and should be capable of running their own Studio well in the absence of a Guide. Our Guide is a fully Socratic game-maker. Learners provide some mentorship within younger Studios.

Purpose: Be Curious. Lead.
Signature Experience: Ownership & Accountability of Studio

Learning Design

The origin of the word “curriculum” is Latin, in which it means “a running, race, lap around the track, course”. At Vail Valley Unbound, we like to use the term “Learning Design”.


Socratic Discussions

Socratic discussions are used in all of our studios, even our youngest learners enjoy participating. We launch every day with a discussion and close every day with another discussion. For our youngest learners, these are Guide-led. For our upper elementary learners, these discussions are learner-led.


In our elementary studios, learners spend a year immersed in seven Quests, each in its own way struggling with the same profound question like: “When does a hero submit to authority?” or “Does the past determine the future?” or “Does power corrupt?” These quests are a right of passage for our transitional kindergarten learners and they are excited to join the older learners.


Exhibitions of Learning take place at the end of our four- to seven-week sprints that make up a session. Much like an agile software sprint, sessions have a real-world deliverable at the end and are often presented to a live studio audience made up of more than parents.

Exhibitions are performances, with stakes as high as possible. We want learners to feel more like Steve Jobs presenting the iPhone than like a lame middle school science fair. 


How To Register Your Learner for Vail Valley Unbound

We encourage all families to start by reading Courage to Grow by Laura Sandefer. We know time is limited, it’s a quick read and does a great job of explaining our approach. If you still feel like your learner and family are a fit, fill out our application. There is no fee until you schedule a family interview.

Call For Inquiry

(720) 326 – 0932

Mail For Inquiry



Read Courage to Grow by Laura Sandefer


Fill out our Application to join our Waitlist


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