The Langley School 8th Grade Class Experience in New Mexico
8th Grade students from The Langley School (McLean, VA) were full of excitement and nervousness as they arrived for a week in northern New Mexico and a chance to learn and explore. This year a group of 60 students and staff joined GYLI to study the cultures and landscapes of the Southwest and dig deep into the themes of community and leadership.
Our journey began with a full day at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center where students learned about the 19 pueblos of New Mexico and got to witness traditional dancing. That evening we gathered around a bonfire, at our accommodations at SMU Taos, to set intentions for the week and take time for some reflection on the first day. Many students shared that they hoped this experience would bring their grade closer together and increase the feelings of trust and belonging. Each day was extremely unique and gave students the opportunity to take in the variety of cultural influences of the area, as well as the distinct landscapes, which are vastly different from Northern Virginia. A recurring theme throughout the week was water. The value, power, sacredness, and how that is portrayed in different communities. This was evident in our visit to Taos Pueblo, Lama Foundation, and Bandelier National Monument. Students were engaged in this topic through a variety of speakers and were also put to the test during a Water simulation activity where they were broken up into groups and through a challenging communication game they had bring enough water to their communities. This activity pushed students to collaborate (not compete) with one another, negotiate, and challenged their vision of what defines a community.
In between our outings we incorporated leadership stations that included movement activities, discussions, and time for reflection. It was amazing to see the growth of the students throughout the week. Our last journaling session was full of great conversations where the students had time to process everything they experienced and how that would influence their choices once they returned home. The experience concluded with rafting down the Rio Grande where they got to admire the area’s beauty and bond with their classmates.