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SSU students travel to the US Southwest for Summer 1 Travel/Study class

Professors Keith Ratner and Stephen Young (Geography and Sustainability Department) took 14 SSU students to the US Southwest for a Summer 1 Travel / Study class. The group flew in and out of Las Vegas, Nevada and in between they travelled in two vans and camped for 12 nights, traveling in Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Colorado. The group explored Zion National Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park (Utah), Navajo National Monument, Monument Valley, Masa Verde National Park, Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, Arches National Park, Capital Reef National Park, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park (Utah), Bryce Canyon National Park and finally ending the camping at the Grand Canyon National Park (North Rim). In addition to hiking and exploring the region, the students went on a day-long white-water rafting trip down the Colorado River near Moab Utah.

The four main academic themes studied during the trip included: 1. Water issues in a drying region which is increasing in population. 2. Settlement patterns from the thousand-year-old cliff dwelling Ancestral Puebloans (also known as the Anasazi) to modern day metropolises such as Las Vegas and Durango, CO. 3. Climate Change in a hot and dry region which is becoming hotter and drier. 4. The differences between federal, state and local organizations conserving the natural and cultural aspects of the Southwest from National Parks and State Parks to the local government. In addition to these main topics, students have the flexibility to also study additional topics that interest them. The results of their studies will culminate in a portfolio of research papers, reflective essays, museum reviews, scrap book of material collected and a dozen other potential products from the trip.

Most of the students joining the class didn’t know any fellow travelers before the class, most had never been out West, and most had never been camping or hiking. The class not only taught the four academic topics, but students also learned how to camp, cook, clean and hike safely. Students engaged in a number of world-famous hikes such as Angels Landing (Zion NP), The Narrows (Zion NP) and Delicate Arch (Arches NP) in addition to hiking along the rim of the Grand Canyon. After dinner and our evening camp fires, many nights were spent gazing at the stars and seeing the Milky Way for the first time. Most of the students have had their high school and college life under the isolation of Covid and many felt that this experience was like an anti-Covid therapy session where they socially engage extensively with people they had never known. Many of the students are already planning summer trips with their new-found friends, many of which will become life-long friends. While at Arches National Park, Chris Schoen, Chair of the Sport and Movement Science Department joined the class for dinner and a night.



1 – at the Delicate Arch (Arches NP), which is on Utah license plates.

2- at Bryce Canyon NP

3 – Danny with his camp breakfast – we ate well.

4- The stars at night (photo by student: Danny Villanueva)

5- One of our vans and the southwest landscape we drove through.

Stephen Young
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