High Desert and Heritage

In this Flagstaff-based program, students get to build friendships while exploring the extraordinary landscapes of the American West. After a visit to a local geologist’s lab, students explore Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Wupatki National Monument, the Lava Tubes, and many other locations to add experiential understanding to each site. We use Flagstaff and Sedona as case studies for looking at (un)sustainable tourism and its effect on local communities. Finally, throughout each part of the program, including our hike to the top of Mt. Humphreys at 12,635 ft. of elevation, we explore the complexities of Indigenous land rights that apply to every state in our nation. We ask the tough questions about heritage, culture, and water rights through interviews with local experts and families.

Learning Objectives

Explore and build an understanding of the geological history of the rich landscapes offered by the American southwest including Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Wupatki, and the Lava Tubes.
Demonstrate an understanding of regionally relevant issues of native land rights, water rights and management, and sustainable tourism.
Learn to find human stories of the past and the present in uncommon places through unique empathic interviewing techniques.

Places and Activities

This program is flexible, and can be offered in 3, 5, or 7 day itineraries.

We arrive in Flagstaff and get the lay of the land. We settle into our accommodations and make plans for learning about the area.

Traveling around the outskirts of the San Francisco peaks helps us understand the rich geology of the area while also learning about the ancient Indigenous cultures of the region. We explore the mile-long underground lava tubes and ask questions of an expert local geologist.

We hike to the top of Mt. Humphreys (12,635 ft) where we can see the Grand Canyon in the distance and place ourselves in a world much bigger than we often imagine. Back in town, we explore the issues of land rights and water rights through interviews with local people and conversations with experts from the Grand Canyon Conservancy.

We take a day trip to the Grand Canyon and another to Sedona, two of the most geologically stunning places in the world. We explore the challenges of conservation around the rim of the canyon while hiking down into the ancient layers of earth exposed over time. In Sedona, we explore the impact of tourism on the state park and look at what would need to be done.

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