High School’s First Retreat to Quail Springs

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Later this week, Sequoyah will be sending its eleventh and twelfth graders on a four-day, three-night retreat at Quail Springs Permaculture Farm in Maricopa, California. Students at the K–8 have camped at the farm before. This is the first time the high school will be going there.

According to Brian Eagen, Director of Field Studies, “Quail Springs is a spot the 5th & 6th graders visit annually, so we are already familiar with it. We are collaborating with the folks at Quail Springs and Patrick from Celebrate Life to design this trip.”

Students will depart from the K–8 campus on November 15th at 7:45 AM and will arrive at the campsite around 11 AM. They will return back to the K–8 campus on November 18th around 2:30 PM.

Once students arrive at the farm, they will split up into two different campsites, by grade level. The eleventh graders will be learning about permaculture. Permaculture is a sustainable agricultural system meant to imitate natural ecosystems. They will be helping around the farm, doing chores around the farm, and working on projects and with the animals. They will be going on hikes and participating in land-based crafting activities.

While the eleventh graders are doing their activities, Celebrate Life will be hosting the retreat for the twelfth graders, which, according to Eagen, will be “a rite of passage-based experience.” Talbot, according to Celebrate Life’s website, is known for his “transformational seminars.” He “introduces Nature as ‘the Teacher’ and Soulful journeys as ‘the Lesson.’” Some of the activities for the senior class include a medicine wheel activity, early-art and beauty way activities, and an extended solo, a time where students spend time by themselves, away from others, to reflect on their day or to appreciate the space they are in.

Though the two classes will be separated throughout the day, they will be having dinner all together as a big group. According to High School Director Marc Alongi, dinner is the “only time students [from different grade levels] will spend time together,” aside from the final campfire at the end of the trip.

Students will be sleeping in tents, and “Students had the opportunity to pick up to four students they’d like to be grouped with both in vans and tents,” said Eagen. He added: “We take this into account when planning the groups and work hard to make sure everyone feels supported by their social group. Our goal is to try and make sure everyone is with at least one of these people.” Teachers frequently weigh in and help make these groups as well.

Teachers going on the trip are mainly the Social Innovation Program advisors for the eleventh and twelfth graders. Eleventh graders will be with Justin Thompson (chemistry teacher), Sean Hamidi (Humanities teacher), Lindsey Graham (Humanities teacher), and Eagen. Twelfth graders will be joined by Justin Kenderes (Math teacher), Ian Chang (head of the Humanities department), Arden Thomas (theater teacher), Elsa von Heydenreich (Director of College Counseling), and LeeMichael Krieger (K–12 Field Studies Specialist). Eagen mentioned that Head of School Josh Brody and Alongi will also be joining in on the trip on Thursday and Friday.

Eleventh grader Sophia Barrera, who has visited the site before, shared how excited she is to be going on the trip, saying:, “If there is an opportunity to interact with animals on the trip, I am excited. I would be very disappointed if we don’t.” Besides hoping to work with the animals, Barrera is looking forward to camping with the senior class because, to her, it would be “just like [her] freshman year.”

Aimee Martinez, another eleventh grader going on the retreat, shared that she would prefer to go somewhere else other than the farm. Martinez has “had fun on previous camping trips at Sequoyah,” but she would prefer that “the school put some money into setting up a week of college tours and visits.” Martinez explained, “A lot of us are antsy [because] we, especially juniors, have to start applying for colleges soon.” Martinez mentioned “not all students able to go down the coast or to a different city to see different colleges. [The money] should go to scheduling maybe a week long retreat to see different colleges considering that we have spent up to ten days at a regular campground before.”