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The Field Academy

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Jen Lazar

on 11 September 2013

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Transcript of The Field Academy

Mesa Verde, CO
On June 21st, 2013, the Field Academy brought together ten students from eight different states to embark on a 31 day trip through Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.
Durango, CO

Rio Chama, NM
Arcosanti, AZ
Zuni, NM
Our mission? To learn about water, survival, and resilience in the Southwest. As we traveled, we had science, history, citizenship, and leadership classes. We learned from the people we met and the communities we visited. We asked questions, we investigated answers, we sought perspectives different from our own...

And we had a ridiculous amount of fun.

Here is the story of our adventure together.
We flew from all over the United States to meet for orientation in Durango, Colorado...
We began with a four day backpacking trip where we were responsible for our own water, food, shelter, and orientation on the trail. We hiked along the San Piedra River and it was absolutely stunning. On the trail, we learned what it means to survive with limited, critical resources, how to navigate by the stars, and how to take care of ourselves and each other in the outdoors.
Then we traveled to Mesa Verde National Park to learn about how the Ancient Puebloan civilizations lived. Where did they source water in such a dry climate? And how did they sustain themselves in the desert over the course of generations? What challenges did they face? We found seep springs at the base of the rock walls and learned about how they cultivated food on the mesa tops above their dwellings.
We spent five days on the Zuni reservation where we were graciously hosted by several members of the tribe. We had the opportunity to learn about the tribe's relationship to water in many different ways: witnessing the beautiful Zuni rain dances, touring the Nutria River Valley with the tribe's hydrologist, learning about traditional agricultural irrigation methods, visiting natural springs and sacred sites in the area... AND getting bombed with water balloons by summer camp staff of the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project!
Grand Canyon, AZ
THEN, we were Grand Canyon bound! Our epic eight hour road trip included the longest, most eclectic music playlist ever, many bathroom breaks, and a very important roadside stop at the Continental Divide.
Phoenix, AZ
(Annnd, we totally rocked it. We even finished our hike a day early!)
Suffice it to say rafting the Rio Chama was AWESOME. We were on the river with "Uncle Steve," a river activist and guide who explained to us how the river works (How is whitewater classified? What is an eddy? How do you read the water to understand what is happening below the surface?). He told us about how people are struggling over water rights in the Southwest and described the contentious dam issues that people are currently facing.
(Later that very same night, we ran up the side of the Canyon with our dinner to catch a rainbow sunset pouring into the basin of the park. No, really! Look...)
We spent our final week in an experimental city in Arizona called Arcosanti. We pored over architect Paolo Soleri’s "arcology"
(architecture + ecology) plans, talked with the members of this community, and created our own designs for a Field Academy campus in the desert - meeting the food, energy, water, and waste needs for a community of 50 people. Our designs were inspired by things we saw in our travels and our own ideas about what it takes to build strong and resilient communities. For our final synthesis, we presented these plans and discussed them with the architects and engineers of Arcosanti.
At the end of every Field Academy expedition, we have a graduation ceremony where we share what we've learned with friends, family, and the people who supported us on our adventures.
To see more of Terrill's speech and to see other photos and videos from this summer, visit the Field Academy's Facebook page: facebook.com/fieldacademy
The Field Academy exists because people across the United States believe in our vision and in our students.

We are endlessly grateful to everyone who helped make this expedition possible. Thank you for hosting us, feeding us, and teaching us. Thank you for sharing your ideas, your expertise, your favorite games, and your tents with us. Thank you for believing that incredible educational opportunities are meant for all students, regardless of financial background or prior school experience, and for supporting the scholarship fund that makes this possible.

The Field Academy believes in young people, in the transformational power of travel, and in the experience of returning home.

Thank you for believing in what we do.

To find out more about the Field Academy and support our studies, please visit our website:

Then we spent a week looking at the urban side of water issues: touring Albuquerque's waste-water facilities (looking at wastewater under a high powered microscope, identifying the organisms that help to break it down, and mapping where it all goes), helping out with an urban agriculture cooperative, visiting public swimming pools, and talking with people throughout the city about the drought, climate change, and the impact of both on their lives.
During this week, we also spent an incredible night in the northern Chihuahuan desert with the Quivira Coalition: an educational organization founded by ranchers and conservationists and dedicated to building ecological and economic resilience. In a place that averages less than 3 inches of rainfall a year, we were surprised by a spontaneous (and unprecedented) 10 hour rainstorm. Once the rain stopped, we hiked into the desert alongside tarantulas, desert mites, and Mormon Tea plants and learned how each of these species have adapted to thrive in such a harsh environment.
Red Canyon Ranch, NM

What did we really learn about water? About the Southwest? About the United States? What did we learn about ourselves and each other? What are we taking home with us?

Here's what one student, Terrill, had to say...
We flew out on the morning of July 21st. It was hard to leave but we all agreed that it felt really good to return to the places we call home.
Albuquerque, NM
Full transcript