Students often report that the 8th grade 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 in this 7-day, 6-night expedition. The Big Bend medical team, led by Medical Director Dr. Scott Dorfman, is comprised of 8th grade parent M.D.s and nurses. All told, Team Big Bend numbers nearly 170 members! In late February, the crew drives 640 miles across the state in a 15-vehicle caravan of buses, suburbans, and cargo vans containing equipment (including school-issued duffels and tents) and food for nearly 2,500 meals to the most beautiful spot 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.