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Trip to New Mexico 2013

Greetings. A conclusion on our trip to New Mexico that is long overdue.

Benjamin Burg, Author of Gaja Learning organized with Cottonwood Gulch and Primus Foundations the Beyond the Classroom New Mexico & Arizona Trip 2013. 17 students and 3 teachers from The Primus Foundation joined the trip. The expedition that went through much of New Mexico and Eastern Arizona was from Oct 15 to Oct 28, 2013.

The aim was to broaden students’ historical cultural and ecological awareness of not only the USA, rather specifically, the southwest. New Mexico and Arizona enjoy a rich tri-cultural heritage of Native American Indians, Spanish and Angelo influences. The unique ecosystem and landscape through extreme environments help illustrate the delicate balances necessary to sustain life.

By camping many nights as well as being hosted by American families from The Montessori Elementary School through “live learning” students sometimes had to cross comfort and familiarity zones to truly engage themselves. It was evident that initial steps can be difficult but only last a moment as students openness to new and different ideas quickly become of interest and fascination. The practice of listening to instructions and recognizing that self-control enabled the group to go farther and deeper was evident through exploring canyons, setting up camp, and even cleaning up after meals.

Based on student and parent evaluations the trip was huge overall success. Student evaluations gave marks of mostly 5s and 4s out of 5 to 1. Positive comments included making closer friends, learning about new culture, overcoming difficulties. Negative comments were rare and included changed plan due to Federal government shut down and not liking camping food, while others expressed excellent organization and enjoying food. Parent evaluations have been 100% positive so far. Best recommendation, “We recommend due to the facts, that the cross-cultural value, experiences of such different environments and society is giving strengths and better life preparation. Nature, mixed with farming, disable school and history is a great value.”

In conclusion, we learned that both parents and students value the challenge of carefully getting out of the comfort zone and gain confidence and knowledge by exploring history and ecology through direct activities. In future expeditions it will be important to prepare students that many of the activities will be community based, eating food together and in an orderly manner to assure fairness. We will be responsible for working as group which includes setting up camp and cleaning up after meals. I was extremely proud to see how quickly so many of the students eagerly engaged in these activities. I must note that cleaning up the kitchen soon became a party with loud music and total commitment to have fun and do great work. The Cottonwood staff several times commented on how much fun it was to work with our students. It simply shows that our children inspire to be fully engaged and when given the opportunity their talents and gifts will brightly shine.


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