Each fall, grade 7 students enjoy a fun-filled Southwestern adventure on the middle school’s annual national parks trip.
This school year was no exception. From viewing the unique red rock formations in Utah and Arizona to experiencing the incredible hiking trails of the Grand Canyon, the students learned firsthand about the American Southwest.
The first stop on the trip was Montzuma Castle National Monument, located 50 miles south of Flagstaff, Ariz., reported Lana Morrison, middle school dean of students. While there, students and chaperones listened to a Navajo presentation before heading to nearby Sedona for some hiking.
The next day’s adventure began with a visit to Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim, where students participated in an organized trust walk (listening to directions while walking with eyes closed). “Students were blindfolded while they walked from the parking lot to the rim,” Morrison recalled. “With one hand on the backpack in front of them and the other on a rope, Harker chaperones provided step-by-step and turn-by-turn directions. Upon arriving at the rim, Harker chaperones counted to three for students to take off their blindfolds and see the Grand Canyon together as a group. I noticed many of the foreign tourists watching us seemed more amazed by this activity than the majestic Grand Canyon!”
Another trip highlight was a tour of Monument Valley, known to many as “the eighth wonder of the world.” Monument Valley, located in Southeast Utah, has been a significant place for centuries, and houses ruins that some believe to belong to the mysterious Anasazi people who disappeared from the area hundreds of years ago. The area is also notable for the fact that it is not a national park, but rather a Navajo park.
Monument Valley became an icon in the late 1930s, thanks to valley resident Henry Goulding (owner and founder of Goulding’s Lodge), Morrison explained. Goulding heard about a new Western movie being made in Hollywood and decided that the valley should be the location. Acclaimed film director John Ford agreed, and the film “Stagecoach,” starring John Wayne, showed the majesty of Monument Valley to the world. The iconic buttes and open sky continued to be emblematic of the American Southwest, and can been seen in movies such as “Forrest Gump,” “Cars,” “The Lone Ranger” and “A Million Ways to Die in the West.”
After leaving Monument Valley, the contingent drove to nearby Moonlight Springs Ranch, which is owned by the Holiday family. Members of the Holiday family taught the group about “The Navajo Way,” as part of a special program for Harker students.
“During our stay, we learned how to make delicious tasting fry bread and created sand paintings. Members of the Holiday family also sang traditional Navajo songs and danced with some of our students and chaperones. At the end of the ceremony, the eldest member of the family chanted a blessing for the rest of our trip and travel back to San Jose,” recalled Morrison.
On the final day of the trip, the seventh graders spent time in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park, where students and chaperones alike marveled at the world-famous Hoodoos (pillars of rock formed by erosion).
The trip ended with the now close-knit group traveling to Zion National Park before packing up for their return flight back home. The grade 7 visit to the national parks of the Southwest was one of several weeklong middle school class trips held during the fall. Grade 6 went to the Santa Cruz Mountains and grade 8 traveled to Washington, D.C.