It’s amazing the images that people can see in other things if they look hard enough. Clouds becoming rabbits, Virgin Mary’s in the grilled cheese sandwich, or even the faint outline of a Spartan warrior’s helmet upon a rock face. This was one of the first things that greeted the eighteen Castleton students as they arrived at the Ghost Ranch educational retreat center in Abiquiu, New Mexico on August 30th. For the next week and a half this isolated desert environment would be the first of many unique “classrooms” before moving into the main facility in downtown Santa Fe.
“It seemed to stand out naturally to us”, remarked student and Spanish instructor Paul Chrisman about the eerie formation of the Spartan outline. “We all looked up and there he was in the side of Kitchen Mesa” (aptly named because it could be seen from the Kitchen).This was one of several local mountains that would play host to sunrise and sunset hikes for the group over the next week.
By the week’s end, the southwest students had already experienced visits to local museums, kayaking in the Lake Abiquiu reservoir, and touring ancient Native American settlements. All of which contributed to school credit earned under the Southwest Exploration course.
“Were trying to experience another place and its cultures” says Anthropology of the Environment professor Paul Derby. “For us to be able to learn about prehistoric cultures and the continuity on native one s today, this is Living Anthropology!”
Also heavily embedded into the semester’s curriculum is that of Southwest Arts. Under the guidance of Art professor and longtime New Mexico resident Liza Meyers, students learn valuable art history of the area.
“Immersion of students into art and culture and its numerous realms in Santa Fe through exploration and personal artwork is the goal.” Talks of famous local resident Georgia O’Keffe are frequented in this time and watercolors are a must.
And the free time outside of class? Students can be found happily bonding with one another and designing ways to better explore the desert area.
“There’s so much of this place to take in!” says Samantha McClay. “Even though we’ve only been here a week, it seems as though we’ve been here longer, and we’ve all become so close. Less of a class and more like comrades.”
Almost every night the group could be found in the front field of the ranch taking advantage of the minimal lighting and uninterrupted night-time view. Meals were preceded with moving three separate tables into one big one for all to sit together as one.
And indeed there is still far more to come with their arrival in Santa Fe and settling into their new quarters, more galleries, unique foods, and scores of other southwest adventure lye in store for the eager bunch. Only time will tell of the greatness that they will accomplish in the three month span of their semester.
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