This spring, the ninth-grade class explored the rocks and rivers of Eastern Utah. They started out with a half-day of guided rock climbing on Wall Street in Moab, where they climbed 5.4 slabs to 5.11 rated climbs, learned to belay, and built trust in themselves and their classmates as they kept each other safe and encouraged each other on the wall.

The skills and confidence they built on the first day helped support them the next day as they went canyoneering in North Wash near Hanksville. Starting with a short, hot hike over slickrock and around cryptobiotic soil, they soon reached their first rappel: 40 feet down with an overhang at the bottom, into a C-shaped basin. As soon as they got down, there was another 100-foot rappel! The students cheered for each other as they rappelled down the wall, some bouncing off with their feet as they lowered down. Sweaty, smiling, and sunkissed, students earned milkshakes at Stan’s and headed back to camp to cook, play games, and reflect on the day around the fire.

Then started our journey on the Green River, launching from the Gates of Lodore and taking out at the end of Split Mountain Canyon. Included in these four days on the river were views of 1.5 billion-year-old rock, eagle and bighorn sheep sightings, splashing through class III and IV rapids, hikes to waterfalls, games of adventure Bocce and trios tag in the sand, student lessons on dinosaurs, desert botany, astronomy, river flow, and life of the guide, and journaling about creativity, equity, art, and the senses. These tough 9th-grade students weathered strong winds and rain throughout the days and spent time unwinding, playing, and learning on the sandy beaches at night, laughing and growing closer together as a class each day.