Liz Gray, Middle School Head

LizGray, Middle School Head; Grade 7 Social Studies Teacher

Heights and Horizons: Experiencing the Southwest

Each year, the photos our students and chaperones snapped on the eighth grade trip to the Southwest are simply stunning. Filled with incredible landscapes, vivid colors, and magical moments of learning and joy, each frame is an archive of something special our oldest students are fortunate to experience. Travel opens our lives to new cultures and environments and can inspire and challenge us along the way.

For each Southwest trip since it launched in 2022, one of the chaperones becomes our “roving reporter,” sending out nightly dispatches with photos of that day’s adventures. This year, Sana Aslam, eighth grade English teacher and advisor, compiled the daily highlights and reflections. Here are a few excerpts of the travelogue she skillfully and beautifully crafted for those waiting back East.

New Heights

Of the many splendors of the Southwest, its geologic features may be the most dramatic. Getting to climb around and learn about these impressive natural structures allowed our eighth grade students to reach new heights as individuals and as a class.

“[In Zion National Park], the hike down the slot canyon pushed every one of us outside our comfort zone. Seeing how the eighth graders encouraged each other, gave one another space to go at different paces, and worked as a team was truly outstanding.”

“The verdict is in: students agree the Grand Canyon definitely lives up to its name … We hiked down into the canyon today via the South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point. Oohs and aahs were indeed had!”

“Our final day in the Southwest took us to the Sunset Crater (Arizona) where we hiked around a historic non-active volcano that had once erupted.”

Broader Horizons

The Southwest Trip also allowed our students to witness and engage in parts of nature and life they had only learned about in their science and social studies classes.

“[At Zion] we walked down a path bordering a stream that gets all its water from snow melt. The stream is surrounded by resilient and vibrant cotton trees, which have long been a marker in the Southwest for water sources.”

“Students sketched and journaled independently for a meditative moment of reprieve and quiet.”

“On the way to Flagstaff, Arizona, we stopped by two amazing sites. The first was the Glenn Canyon Dam, where we learned about water sources in the Southwest and enjoyed the view, walking across a bridge overlooking the dam. Next up was a visit to Horseshoe Bend! Students remarked that they could simply not believe their eyes—they were in a true state of awe and wonder.”

“[The eighth graders] explored the Coral Pink Sand Dunes (Utah), hiked Bryce Canyon, witnessed a longhorn cattle tour, and had dinner with Cowboy John at his ranch! One especially meaningful moment from today was a beautiful friendship dance we participated in with a member of the Southern Paiute tribe and his grandchildren after hearing about the Paiute history, songs, and stories of the land.”

And finally,

“The students are feeling the nearing end and are living up each moment of quality time with each other.”

What a perfect description of how our eighth graders are approaching the end of the school year and their journey at Belmont Day. They are going to graduation and beyond with even broader horizons ahead!

Thank you to the faculty who volunteered as chaperones for the Southwest trip. Without you, this milestone in these students’ lives and education would not have been possible.

LizGray, Middle School Head; Grade 7 Social Studies Teacher

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