This year’s 5th and 6th graders set out on a 5-day trek through the desert southwest and four corners region to get an in-depth look at the culture of the Ancient Puebloans (aka Anasazi) and the Dine’ peoples, also known as the Navajo Nation. Accompanying them were 5th/6th grade homeroom leaders Brittany Perrot and Colin Sullivan, as well as fellow teacher Lauren Norton and outdoor education specialist Elliot Baglini.
We explored Anasazi culture and architecture in Chaco Canyon, navigating a series of kivas, great houses and Anasazi ruins that were unparalleled in the ancient world. We learned that Chaco may have been a holy gathering place where the ancient puebloans built advanced infrastructure like aqueducts, held religious ceremonies, and traded everything from macaw feathers to cacao beans, from as far as 1200 miles away.
From there the group travelled South to Window Rock (Tségháhoodzání), the seat of government in the Navajo Nation. We were guests of the St. Michael’s Indian School where we learned about their gardening and ecology projects around the campus led by Joe Pacal. We also spent a day with the students and teachers at St. Michael’s Association for Special Education, helping to run their field day. The students played together, learned about adaptive technologies, spoke with Navajo culture and language experts and were invited to make Navajo frybread, a traditional staple of all Navajo ceremonial gatherings.
The next leg of our trip took us on a jeep tour of Canyon De Chelly (Tséyiʼ). Inside it’s 800-foot red rock canyon walls, there are low-level streams, bands of galloping wild horses, and small family farms that are still operated by 5th generation descendants of the original Navajo settlers. We also encountered Anasazi petroglyphs and dwellings in the cliffsides, the famous Antelope House and White House ruins.
After sleeping in Navajo hogans on the canyon rim, we breakfasted in a rainstorm and hauled through the Chuska Mountains to a historic 107-year-old Toadlena trading post. Once there, our guides Thelma and Delores toured us around the still-functioning trading post and Navajo rug museum. Thelma carted wool with the class with traditional instruments and shared stories. We travelled back home through late May snow, with the San Juan Mountain range rising in the North.
5/6 Teacher & Trip Leader