Classroom in the Desert
Photos and story by BLMer Rachel Carnahan. Pictured above, the Virgin River Canyon Recreation area managed by the BLM Arizona Strip Field Office.
Seventh grade students Reagan Bradford and Mia Reyes sat with their class near the edge of the Virgin River at the Cedar Pockets Campground drawing the geologic formations that surrounded them. “It’s kind of soothing out here,” Bradford said as she drew rock and sandstone features. “I like the sound of rushing water,” Reyes added.
Bradford and Reyes were among 893 sixth and seventh grade students from Sunrise Ridge Intermediate who participated in a unique outdoor classrooms program called “Day in the Desert”.
“A long time ago, this was our school for your youth,” said Carmen Clark of the Paiute Tribe of Utah’s Shivwitz Band, who taught students dozens of ways Native Americans still use desert plants, including for food and medicine. “When the youth come out here, they learn where food and medicine can come from,” she said. Clark has gained her knowledge of desert plants from Paiute elders and extensive study and is happy to pass the knowledge she’s gained onto the next generation.
Seventh grader Austin Phillips observes and records geologic formations at the Cedar Pockets Campground on the BLM Arizona Strip during Day in the Desert. Students learn more about archaeology, geology, and botany in an outdoor setting which allows them to connect with these sciences.