Further Afield: Telluride Mountain School’s Experiential Learning Trips

Further Afield: Telluride Mountain School’s Experiential Learning Trips

[click “Play”, Emily Shoff interviews her husband, Andy]



Excerpt from 2003….

Wandering the streets of Birmingham, Alabama with Telluride Mountain School’s students, it’s difficult to put a single word on all that I feel. Rage? Relief? Mostly what I feel is awe. Awe for all that has happened in this country. Awe for all that I do not know.

I’m here with the 7th and 8th grade class to learn more about Civil Rights in America. For the past week, we have explored the Deep South, touring major battlefields from the Civil War and meeting with former Civil Rights activists. We have visited Memphis, seen the spot where Dr. King fell, and listened to some Blues musicians sing on Beale Street. Now, we’ve come to Birmingham, the heart of Civil Rights activism during the 1960s. 7th Grader Miles Galbo Jumps In on Beale St

After a somber morning service at the 16th Street Baptist Church, the place where four little girls died in a bombing in 1963, we have just stepped out of the Civil Rights Institute and into its sculpture garden. One of the sculptures depicts a girl who struggles to free herself from the jaws of a police dog. The dog holds onto her tightly, gripping the hem of her dress.

For the first time in a while, the group is silent. The girl speaks to them. She is not much older that any of them, perhaps even younger, and yet she risks her life for freedom. This has been a revelation for everyone as we learn more about the protest movements of the 60’s—learning about the children’s efforts in Birmingham and elsewhere. Across the South, children went to jail and risked their lives in order to draw attention towards the hatred and mistreatment of blacks.

Sketching in the Scupture Garden When we go out for ribs that night, no one feels much like eating, even though the ribs are supposedly infamous. We are numb with all that we have tried to absorb. For a moment, I worry that this trip has been too heavy. Perhaps we tried to do too much.

Then I overhear one student whisper to another, “We are so lucky”. I realize that we’ve done the right thing by bringing them here. Our students have not only learned a tremendous amount; they are walking away with a better sense of themselves, and all that they have been given.

In March of 2003, just before the US entered into war with Iraq, I was fortunate enough to be able to help design and lead the trip described above. Since then, it has gone out every other year, alternating with a science-focused trip to Hawaii. The South Trip has had a few amendments, but it remains essentially the same. Through museums and battlefields, interviews with musicians and former civil rights activists, and through service, students walk away with a deep sense of the South’s struggles and of US history.

It is trips such as these that distinguish the Telluride Mountain School. In recent years, the school has taken students to Mexico, Peru, India, and Ecuador. Younger children have learned more about their local environment through river trips, archeological digs, and service projects with disabled Navajo children.

Check out the podcast with Dean of Studies, Andy Shoff, to learn more about why the Mountain School takes these trips. Until Justice Rolls Down Like Water

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.