Freshmen Visit Western States National Parks and Las Vegas
“Tikkun Olam.” What does that mean to a freshman at SDJA? We at SDJA see it as part of our mission to make helping the world and appreciating our planet a way of life. In order to achieve this goal we have to take our students out of their comfort zones from time to time.
The freshman class recently returned whole, happy, and richer in experiences from a field trip to Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, which encompassed community service at a food bank and visits to National Parks. Our first stop was the Three Square Food Bank in Las Vegas, a large organization where the daily meal goal is 12,000. Sometimes they do not reach this as the food bank needs a great number of volunteers each day. On the day our SDJA students were there, however, we were able to achieve this lofty goal. It was hard work, but when you are doing a specific task and fall into a steady rhythm together it is like playing music in a band. You get into a groove, and It’s fun. We worked in food lines, assembling meals for children. We filled crates with box lunches and moved them to massive coolers where they stacked up near freight doors waiting to be picked up by semi trucks and distributed throughout the state. All told SDJA freshman assembled 6,400 meals. One student was shocked to see how many children did not have food to eat every day. Seeing the enormous amounts of food necessary made their need less abstract.
The next day we left the artificiality of Vegas behind us and moved on to Utah towards nature and the open desert. Using Utah as our home base we trekked parts of the Grand Canyon, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, and Zion National Park. There was a moment during a particularly scenic hike in Zion that a student said to me, “Mr. Collins, it is such an amazing view. It looks like a picture you would see on a computer screen saver.” The comment was different from some of the other things I was hearing like “How much further?” or “This is hard!” or “I’m tired”, normal things to say when you are taken out of your comfort zone. For most of the students the wonders of our outdoor classroom eventually took hold and they began looking beyond themselves and started feeling as part of something bigger.
They were absorbing these places – the cold, the heat, the dryness, the smells, the sounds, the vastly complex processes of biology and geology unfolding. All things that we cannot replicate at this scale by staying on campus. You can learn about the billions of years of erosion, weathering, and climate impact that created these places, but seeing the actual strata and sedimentary rock, some of which are half the age of the planet, gave us perspective. We hiked strenuously in thin air, waded through a rocky river bed, through muddy water, and climbed up a steep finely grained sand dune. The environment was creating a deeper understanding about our connection to the Earth. With the help of our expert guide, Eric educating us along the way, we got a little closer to the natural world.
We can all be proud of how well our students represented SDJA on this trip. Maybe a seed was planted in them that will inspire curiosity and make them want to come back with family and friends to share in the wonder