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Video: Uintah River High Schoolers Replaced Classroom Walls with Canyon Walls

by Brennan Gillis

Twenty two Uintah River students embarked on an educational adventure in the Canyon Country of Southeastern Utah. Their expedition took place along the Colorado River from Dewey Bridge to the BLM Takeout. As students navigated the twists and turns of the river, they
embraced the world of outdoor learning. Students cooked meals, camped under the stars, and navigated the whitewater rapids of the Moab Daily. The trip was outfitted through the Canyonlands Field Institute of Moab Utah, whose naturalist guides use techniques of expeditionary learning to achieve curriculum objectives. 90% of the students identify as Native American and are either enrolled in or descendants of the Ute Indian Tribe.

Dynamic Curriculum

Throughout the trip, students participated in curriculum designed to help them develop scientific and emotional connections to the natural world. Lessons included hydrology investigations and in-depth examinations of the riparian ecosystem. Additionally, students practiced Social-Emotional skills like self management, group awareness, and communication. By unplugging from their devices for the entire trip, students had the opportunity to slow down, look around, and generate meaningful connection to the world around them.

First of three years

This trip marks the pilot trip of a three-year program for Uintah River students to spend time exploring Utah’s Riverways with the Canyonlands Field Institute. Over the next three years, students will spend time deepening their connection to the riverways through educational and skills training programs. The three years is only a start of what we envision as being a rebirth of a healthy stewardship of the River by the Ute Indian Tribe, led by the youth.

Slowing down to Connect

Uintah River high schoolers took the opportunity to slow down, unplug, and connect to their surroundings in a natural setting. They ditched technology for a few days and spent time deepening their friendships in a meaningful way while exploring the world around them.

When asked about a story that they wanted to tell, students said:

“about how we slept outside for the first time” Buck, Student

“about how the stars were beautiful” Tyler, Student

“about our mud fight, talent show, and going down the riffles” Julie, Student

Aron, a URHS teacher said: “I love the combination of enjoying the outdoors and teambuilding”