Granite Pools and Middle schools

On September 12th, 2018, 13 students from Imago Dei Middle School embarked on an adventure into the Santa Catalina Mountains using Sunset Trailhead. This was the first expedition of the season for this group of students, and one they were sure to remember for a long time. The students were ready for an adventure wearing uniforms and huge excited smiles. Our goals were to escape the heat, explore the different biomes of the Santa Catalina Mountains, and learn just how important these biome changes are to every animal and plant in the Sonoran Desert. In order to become competent explorers and learners of the outdoors, we must first learn to enjoy it. Playing in this incredible natural playground is the most important goal we had for this trip.

Tall pine trees of many varieties, douglas furs, arizona cypress, made a think quilt of needles high above our heads. To the youth, it seemed to be a blanket of green that made a choir of soothing sounds when the wind rolled by. For the youth of the low deserts, landscapes like these are foreign and exist in television screens of other peoples experiences. Imago Dei Students were shocked in may ways. The sizes of the trees, the smells, the chilly air in September, the texture of the ground and the lack of cactus that impedes free running and jumping, all different than anything they’ve experienced. We followed a soft trail that led us over hills, across creeks, and along waterfalls that collected mountain water in granate containers. Water?! Waterfalls?! POOLS OF WATER?! Bring dry sand to water, and it absorbs all the moisture it can. Desert people are no different.

SPLASH….SPLASH..SPLASH SPLASH. One by one the students in uniforms were in. Smooth granite bowls have been carved by the creeks, making slippery pockets for the students to slide back into the water when they would try to crawl out. The laughing, the screaming, the roaring! The students were in extasy, experiencing sensations, in landscapes, that they had never before experienced. All of this sums up to joy, the foundation of learning. The kids eventually were convinced to leave the heavenly pools of water, and they spread out across dry white granite bedrock to cook dry in the sun before continuing our hike. 

Our trail wound its way past elder trees and found itself to a massive terrace of bare mountain bedrock that suddenly sloped away to a 60’ fall, exploited by the creek which turned into a wonderful waterfall. In front of us was a perpendicular valley that sat much deeper than the platform the waterfall found. With our vantage, we could see huge views into and down the valley, all of which was covered in carpets of pine forests which from our distance blurred into furry green aspects. Here the kids were grouped together, and while they sat eating lunch we discussed the personality, characteristics, and qualities of Sky Island ecology, geology, and both natural and human history. All of their experience from the day has given the perspectives to understand better the properties and principles of the ecology systems, the weather systems and their effects, and the reasons the habitats exist that create the biodiversity we have in the Sonoran Desert. In order for youth to understand their local landscape, it must include the high elevation Sky Islands. This the students understood.

We hiked back damp, satisfied, played, and learned. The youth did not seem like aliens in a new world during our hike back. Instead, it all seemed like the neighborhood park to the students. Each tree was an old friend, each creek pool was a pocket of pleasant memories. The education provided tools for the students to further explore, interact, and communicate with the landscape they’re exploring. This was only the first trip, we indeed had much more to explore.