5th Grade Joshua Tree Camping Trip

This May, Oak Grove’s 5th grade class ventured out on a four-day/three-night excursion to one of the country’s most widely recognized national parks, Joshua Tree. Home to spectacular metamorphic rock formations sculpted by wind and rain, an array of rich, diverse wildlife, and those famous other-worldly Seuss-like trees, it’s no surprise that this iconic southwestern destination attracts over three million visitors per year.

Upon arriving to stunning desert vistas of Indian Cove Campground, our lizards’ temporary home away from home, the 5th grade caravan was warmly welcomed by a full-grown desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii, which has most recently been identified by the state of California as an endangered species. Alone, this rare encounter with California’s official state reptile marked the start of an unforgettable adventure teeming with the hallmarks of traditional camping in a unique, desert ecosystem.

From early morning sunrise hikes to daylong expeditions exploring giant boulder piles, our campers embraced their natural sense of adventure and adopted a deeper appreciation for nature.

No stranger to the dangers of unpredictable flash floods, extreme desert heat, and venomous animals in an unforgiving landscape, Joshua Tree National Park has proven time and time again to be the perfect natural environment for our 5th grade lizards to further develop self-knowledge by awakening their relationships with nature and each other.

Far from creature comforts like running water and cell phone service, campers challenged themselves, pushed their limits, overcame obstacles, and exceeded expectations in surviving the elements of the great outdoors.

Together, they reached the peak of Mt. Ryan, a steep 3.0 mile out-and-back climb, prepared and shared every meal as a group, engaged in fun team-building exercises, and held open dialogue each evening reflecting on their experiences around an open fire before tent-sleeping under bright, starry night skies.

The camping trip wrapped up with a visit to the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center. Here, our 5th graders explored exhibits on display, asked pending park-related questions, became Junior Ranger certified, and brought home their experiences in the form of a memorable souvenir before returning back to Oak Grove’s beautiful campus to reunite with their families.

With nature as teacher, our school’s outdoor education program allows students to discover their inner-lizards when immersed in the surreal geological wonders of the vast wilderness.

“If the educator and the student lose their relationship to nature, to the trees, to the rolling sea, each will certainly lose their relationship with humanity.” – J. Krishnamurti

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