This past October, I boarded a plane alongside Sandry Sachar, John Babcock and twelve Seventh and Eighth Grade students to head to New Mexico, where we would spend a week learning about leadership, sustainability, as well as indigenous foods and culture.
This trip was created through Calvert’s partnership with World Leadership School, an organization that partners with K-12 schools to reimagine learning and create next-generation leaders. One of the most unique parts of this program is that we would have the opportunity to work with an indigenous community and to learn more about the rich cultures within the United States. Many travel programs tend to focus on the diversity outside of our borders and students don’t often get to learn more about the vast diversity within this country.
We began our week by working alongside members of the Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute to harvest foods and to learn more about traditional foods of the Pueblo People. Under the guidance of Roxanne Swentzell, one of the founding members of Flowering Tree, we learned to husk corn and separate seed corn from grinding corn, as well as sort the husks based on future use (tamale wrapping or firestarter). In addition to husking corn, we also learned how to take the kernels off the cob, roast them and then grind them (using a bicycle connected to a grinder!). After our hard work of processing the corn, we got to try atole, a traditional hot corn drink, made from the corn we processed. Not only was it delicious, we had first-hand appreciation of all the steps that went into making it! We did not just learn about corn, we also learned to separate amaranth seed, weave rope from yucca and make clay pots.
When we were not at Flowering Tree, we spent the first half of the week camping out at Bandelier National Park. Our campsite had beautiful mountain views and very cold frosty nights! Luckily, we had a warm toasty fire that allowed us to cook biscuits on a stick for breakfast. As a teacher, my heart was warmed to see students working together to make a fire and some of them learning to cook over a fire for the first time. One of my favorite quotes from the week was “This is the most fun I’ve ever had eating!” That quote alone made the whole trip worth it.
In addition to camping and learning about indigenous cultures, the World Leadership School curriculum builds-in opportunities for self-reflection, teambuilding, and leadership. Each day was led by a different team of students that would guide the group through games, reflections, and would write the daily blog (check it out to read more about our trip). The overall impact of programs like this was put best by my colleague Sandry Sachar, “through different activities, students had a chance to identify their skills and passions while reflecting on their connection with the Earth and its people. Lessons they will never forget.”