Students often report that the Class 8 Big Bend trip is the most memorable experience of their St. John's School career. For over 40 years, faculty and staff leaders and a team of Upper School counselors have joined the entire 8th grade student body in this 7-day, 6-night expedition. All told, Team Big Bend numbers nearly 150 members! In late February, the crew drives across the state in a 15-vehicle caravan of buses, suburbans, and cargo vans containing camping equipment and food for nearly 2,500 meals to the best outdoor classroom in Texas for a week of camping, hiking, and exploration.
Providing a unique opportunity to log off, unplug, and shut off the noise of modern urban life, the excursion offers profound educational opportunities for all who go. Daily hikes across the Chihuauan Desert and throughout the Chisos Mountains, an orienteering adventure out of the Grapevine Hills, and a float trip down the Rio Grande highlight the experience. Students have the opportunity to spend a night at a remote, desert, backcountry campsite near Ernst Tinaja or in the stunning Chisos Mountains.
This trip is truly a student-led endeavor. Upper School counselors lead 10-student "Work Groups" in various tasks necessary to life in base camp. All gear and food is packed, cooked and cleaned by students. Following the mantra "Group needs first, then individual," young and old alike learn that a team of committed individuals working together can overcome any obstacle presented.
*Due to group size restrictions in Big Bend National Park this year, Class 8 students camped at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Southern Utah. They also hiked in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. While we hope to return to Big Bend National Park soon, this year's excursion proved the Class 8 camping trip will continue!