Emerald Connection, May 14, 2024

When snow recedes and tiny green shoots beg for sun, our students, too, show signs that they crave the outdoors; their growth demands space to move, to push their limits, and soak up sun along the way. The sixth-grade class followed traditional mountain town yearnings and headed to the stunning scenery and transformative landscapes of the red rocks and deep canyons around Moab, Utah.

Each day in the land of towering rocks, the students would organize their gear (yes, you still need a water bottle), cook up scrumptious group meals (no, the plastic spatula cannot be resting on the stove’s burners), and rock out to their eight-hour student-curated playlist as we headed to our adventures. (Yes, we can play Downtown a ninth time.)

Our adventures combined awe of unexpected beauty and a humbling reverence for the forces of nature (wind and water being key players) with a respect for stewardship and intentional respect for the ecosystems we stepped into. Students did trail work at Dead Horse Point State Park and cleared litter from natural areas in Arches National Park.

Although the students really wished they could keep their Hi-Vis vests and garbage grabbers, rakes, and shovels, we had to leave these tools behind so we could hike to a hidden swimming hole where there were no reservations about plunging in and cooling off. A favorite by many, too, was a much-anticipated hike to Delicate Arch where the group decided to arrive at the majestic view all at once to be sure it was a team moment. The crew was an impressively unified and inclusive group; hiking leaders kept everyone together, classmates coached each other through moments of fear, and Cole dealt with the spiders in anyone’s tent.

Our final day adventuring was spent splashing down the Colorado River. We rafted, there was a muscle show, a Taylor Swift dance party, some very competitive splash attacks, and a whole lot of smiles.

Although it is hard to say if the geological rock formations or the glow sticks on our night hike will be most remembered, the most important part was what an amazing team this group was. Everyone faced a fear: heights, spiders, sleeping alone, swift water, mac-and-cheese. But everyone cheered each other along during these moments, noticed needs and stepped in to help, and Jed even found his socks at the very end!

We returned with new energy and confidence. It was evident that Edward Abbey is correct, “wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.”

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