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 Diné 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.
The students 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. They 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 traveled South to Window Rock (Tségháhoodzání), the seat of government in the Navajo Nation. The students were guests of the St. Michael’s Indian School where they learned about gardening and ecology projects around the campus. They 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 the trip took students on a jeep tour of Canyon De Chelly (Tséyiʼ). Inside its 800-foot red rock canyon walls, there were low-level streams, bands of galloping wild horses, and small family farms that were still operated by 5th generation descendants of the original Navajo settlers. The students 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, the students breakfasted in a rainstorm and hauled through the Chuska Mountains to the historic 107-year-old Toadlena trading post. Once there, the guides Thelma and Delores toured them around the still-functioning trading post and Navajo rug museum. Thelma carted wool with the class with traditional instruments and shared stories. They traveled back home through late May snow, with the San Juan Mountain range rising in the North.
5/6 Teacher & Trip Leader