With great preparation and many layers of health and safety precautions taken, Grade 6 students were able to once again attend the Southwest Trip, a hallmark of Graland’s historic experiential learning. This trip originated 50 years ago, in 1971, and was the idea of teaching legend Nancy Nye ‘39 Priest, who passed away just last November at the age of 93.
As written by Rosemary Fetter in Graland’s 75th Anniversary book (published in 2001), Climb Every Mountain:
In 1971, Nancy and Ben Priest began leading sixth grade trips to McElmo Canyon in southwestern Colorado, where they owned property. As the culmination of a year’s pre-anthropology study, the children explored Mesa Verde, studying Anasazi ruins and the petroglyphs along the San Juan River. According to Nancy Priest, “They [students and teachers] made camp at Navajo National Monument to be ready for one group to ride to Keet Seel the next morning with Navajo horsemen. The group who did not ride that day hiked to the great ruin of Betakin.” In the evening, the children would experience a real Navajo meal of roasted goat, fry bread, roasted green peppers and blue corn cakes. They’d end the day with ghost stories by the campfire.
The Priests’ trips were also quite challenging. Originally, everyone pitched tents and camped outside. “To bathe, they had nothing but a garden hose,” school nurse Judy Proctor remembers. “Students tried to clean up after the sun had warmed the water in the house, because after that they got a freezing shower. Most will remember ‘sunrise and sunset’ outhouses on either side of the property. It was traditional for children to write their names inside, for a brother or sister to find years later.”
Students still camp on the same property as they have for the past several decades and cook meals at the campsite using a chuckwagon. Students use Pancake Rock as their recess area and explore the ravines and ridges while relaxing with their classmates. New just this year: students worked with a traditional mason to learn about puebloan structures and even laid sandstone bricks at a building site. For decades into the future, visiting students will be able to add their brick in a cumulative effort to learn about the ancient architecture and further build up the site. In future decades, the students will build a multi-room dwelling and possibly dig out a kiva site.
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.