Observing the “Super Bloom” in Death Valley

Peak Experiences live at the heart of our school’s DNA. These experiences (a.k.a. field trips on steroids) effectively balance and integrate academics, character and adventure. They push students to their limits, embody constructive adversity and create tight-knit bonds between crew members.

Peak Experiences live at the heart of our school’s DNA. These experiences (a.k.a. field trips on steroids) effectively balance and integrate academics, character and adventure. They push students to their limits, embody constructive adversity and create tight-knit bonds between crew members.

Last week’s trip to Death Valley was no exception. For 21 students, the 5-day, 1000 mile journey was one to remember. They observed a natural scientific phenomena, called the Super Bloom, firsthand, had to ‘survive and thrive’ in adverse conditions and strengthened their relationships with peers.

For their academic study, students met with wildflower expert, Laird Blackwell, to collect data on the effects of this year’s climate and weather patterns on wildflowers. They also hiked through the Mesquite Sand Dunes to study the habits of desert honey mesquite, observe the effects of climate change on these amazing desert trees and record their data using Nature’s Notebook. To top off the academics for the week, students wrote poems inspired by the stark and otherworldly landscape.

In terms of character and adventure, we definitely had our share of constructive adversity. We faced a dust storm that forced us to retreat and seek shelter in a Las Vegas hotel. Students showed incredible fortitude and adaptability on this 2-day, 8 hour detour which included a night of dirt bagging and frigid temps in Mt. Charleston. Further, every single member of the crew tried their hand (and feet) at sandboarding as they hurtled down steep sand dunes on old snowboards. The crew also ventured into a slot canyon for a two-day, one-night backpacking mission, with an intrepid group conducting a night-hike through the Narrows, a section of the canyon less than five feet wide and 1000 ft high. Finally, students spent the last night of the trip in the sulfur waters of Wild Willy’s hot springs, soaking beneath a full moon and the Eastern Sierra skyline.

The events from this Peak Experience connected the students, literally and figuratively, with our spring Learning Expedition titled “Be a Movement Maker.” They moved through fields of wildflowers, traveled at high speeds down sand dunes, relocated camp four times, learned more about the climate change movement and moved closer together as a Crew. It was a signature TEA trip that tested the mettle of students and gave them a hearty push towards creating a movement of their own to impact the world – something that also lives at the heart of our school’s DNA.