The Fort Collins ADVENTure CALENDAR is a gift to my daughter and her host-family in Germany, free to be shared with anyone interested in her hometown: Fort Collins, Colorado.

Going to school in America is different in many ways.  Here is a glimpse of what it has been like for  Olivia:

There are 27,000 students that go to 50 schools in our district (covering our city, nearby towns and mountain communities) from Kindergarten through grade 12. The district’s School Choice program allows parents to choose the schools that meet their child’s educational needs, based on space availability. We chose the only elementary at the time that offered an IB (International Baccalaureate) program, and the kids have chosen to remain on the IB track through 12th grade. We wanted them to have the option of returning to Germany and not have difficulties defending the level of their education.

Pre-school, called Kindergarten in Germany, is generally a private matter here. As is Day Care, or Tageskrippe. I am not sure if there is much financial aid provided for families in need at all. And the government does not assure a place in a facility, as was the case for us in Germany once Olivia turned three years old.

Kindergarten is integrated in the elementary schools, and a child starts at age 5. The district has about 30 elementary schools, and Olivia first attended the one assigned to our neighborhood, and transferred by ‘choice’ the following year to Dunn, or ‘Dunn IB World School’.

Dunn fifth graders host the swearing in of new US-citizens annually.

When Olivia attended middle school it was called Lesher Junior High School, with grades 7-9, but has since changed district-wide to grades 6-8. In order to stay on the IB track Olivia ‘chose’ Poudre High School, which is actually closer than the assigned HS. The district could no longer afford to provide buses for School of Choice students, so we are responsible for transportation, though, weather permitting she rode the 6km on her bike each way.

Each high school has a different daily schedule, and I think Poudre HS changed theirs every year Olivia attended! But the day usually started around 7:35 and ended at 3:05. Students bring a lunch from home or purchase one in the school cafeteria. There are vending machines throughout all the high schools, and though the offerings have gotten better, they, as well as the quality of school lunches across the nation, are still a point of contention!

All students are required to take Physical Education classes, P.E., but the high schools also offer after school athletic programs including: cross-country, track, football, soccer, golf, tennis, gymnastics, softball, field hockey, volleyball, wrestling, swimming, basketball, baseball, and lacrosse.

As we left Germany before Olivia could attend Grundschule, I can’t be sure, but one thing I believe is very different is the amount of volunteering parents, as well as other community members, do within the schools here: to read a picture book, help in writing their first stories, mentor a group project, fundraising, or even teacher appreciation lunches, and MUCH more! The level is a matter personal to the school, and is dependent on the time and availability of volunteers.

I’d be glad to answer any further questions, but Olivia may be able to herself!


Being so far from a larger body of water, the river that runs through town, the Cache La Poudre, is a main source of recreation for us. There are a number of groups dedicated to maintaining the natural shape of the river, hoping to keep it safe for anglers fishing for wild trout (Forelle), and rafters and tubers, which you can see floating along the river on a drive up the Poudre Canyon into the Rocky Mountains. The conflict is one of water rights, a HUGE theme in the Western United States, as use for irrigation, drinking and industry can create unstable flow environments.

Poudre River (author:

Poudre River (author: Oneliketadow)

*Click on the photo for more information on the Cache La Poudre River at Wikipedia

The name has a story that goes with it: a party of trappers traveling through the area on to Wyoming, buried a cache of goods in a pit to lighten their load after a heavy snow storm impeded them. The stash was retrieved the later in the season, and because a large percentage of the stash was powder (I am assuming gunpowder), the river was called Cache La Poudre, French for “where the powder was hidden’. Before CLP, it was known as Pateros Creek, and even earlier as Piteux Creek, possibly because of a Frenchman left alone by an earlier party of trappers to guard a trap line. He didn’t fare well on his own, went a bit crazy and was in a ‘pitiful’ state when he later found. It is also said that members of the Ki-Ya-Ksa band of Sioux who lived in the area called it Minni Luzahan, meaning ‘swift current’. Today locals call it the Poudre, and Olivia’s high school was named for it as well. Go Poudre!