Just 24 hours after the Spring Equinox, eight Mountain Classroom students arrived in Las Vegas, ready to embark on a ten week journey exploring the natural areas of Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and ultimately, New Hampshire.
As the spring adjunct instructor, I arrived with them to spend Project Period week immersed in Mountain Classroom. My five days with this nascent group allowed me to reacquaint myself with the program and get to know these students so that I can return in April to give the instructors a few days off.
From the perspective of a former Mountain Classroom instructor, visiting the program is like coming home to a familiar friend. So many long-standing traditions and program elements endure: evening meeting, chaos cards, group contract, Crazy Creeks, bus systems, outdoor living, place-based curriculum, and the same trustworthy stove.
From this common substrate, the spring Mountain Classroom group will grow its own dynamic and unique experience and character.
Our first days were full of learning, doing, and reflecting: experiential education in practice. Carol and Jeffrey introduced the academic classes ahead and began to teach the essential skills of outdoor community living.
We greeted the cool mornings with running and yoga, hiked through a body-hugging slot canyon in the Valley of Fire, and paddled canoes on the Colorado River below the Hoover Dam.
The instructors plied the group with questions and prompted them to look for answers in their surroundings.
How can we work together to reach our goals? Why might people have carved petroglyphs thousands of years ago? What causes the various colors of the rocks in this dramatic landscape? How does our choice of words impact the people around us?
Each member of the group began to bring their own personality and perspective to the experience. An astute interpretation of a Barry Lopez reading. An exuberant flourish before submerging in the cold waters of Lake Mead. Supportive words to give a friend the courage to step into a narrow slot canyon. Laughter emanating from tents.
When I departed, the group was busy dreaming up a menu for their first expedition and planning their first grocery shop. They are an eager and thoughtful team, ready to take on the challenge of this first expedition. This week, they are backpacking in the Superstition Mountains, so you can look forward to some photos and first hand stories next week. In the meantime, you might consider sending a letter to their first mail drop at the address below:
Mountain Classroom - Student Name
Bluff, UT 84512
Must arrive by USPS BEFORE 4/08/22