This fall, the eighth grade students from the Telluride Mountain School backpacked through the picturesque canyons of Grand Gulch in Southeast Utah. The group learned to how to pack a pack, cook with a camping stove, read topographical maps, and keep a tidy campsite by following “leave no trace” guidelines. In addition, they also strengthened some less tangible skills, such as teamwork, perseverance, and leadership. The students developed greater independence, decision-making, and communication skills and were given the opportunity to put them into practice as they guided themselves through the final portion of the trail without instructors. While the trip contained many physical challenges, students developed confidence in tackling their fears of the unknown and extended their physical thresholds.
Historical studies and archeological explorations also played a large role in the trip. Students visited ruins once inhabited by the Basketmakers and the ancestral Puebloans to learn more about the lifestyles of these people. Students were able to physically investigate pieces of history left behind, including pottery, living structures, and food scraps to make inferences about how and why the peoples lived as they did. After learning the migration theory behind the mass exodus of the Cedar Mesa population, students discussed how limited resources may create conflict within a society and made comparisons to modern difficulties with population and resource distribution.
In addition to the people that inhabited these ruins, the students learned about the anthropologists and archeologists who have been studying the sites. During the trip the students were introduced to dendrochronology and the analysis of middens. While students experienced these concepts first hand on the trip, they will transfer this knowledge back to the classroom as they explore ecosystem dynamics and climate change.
Throughout, students found the trip physically and academically challenging, but also thrilling and rewarding. It was a classic opportunity for the students to live up to the school’s work hard, play hard motto.