Making Connections

A few weeks ago, the 10th grade class at UrbanPromise Academy travelled to Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland. Every year around this time, the sophomore class can be found playing football on the beach, digging for sand crabs, paddling the bay behind Assateague Island, and camping on the beach. The trip is a 

favorite of mine; I grew up camping with my family at Assateague and hold the place close to my heart. Students each year are awed by the beauty of the sunrise over the Atlantic and the clarity of the night sky.

One activity that we often do with the students is to walk the Life of Dunes trail, a path in the national park that takes you through the dune ecosystem to the forest and explains how barrier islands function to protect the mainland. It’s the best lesson in ecosystem adaptations you could ever ask for, as students can see right in front of them the differences between a plant that grows on the dunes versus in the woods or how a dune could come to be formed there.

On this particular trip, we had several students along who participated in our Colorado and Utah expedition over the summer. Those students visited Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, which has a very different ecological and geological history than the sand dunes at Assateague. And as we were reading signs on Assateague about how the dunes come to stand and stay standing there, Tabitha, who went to the Great Sand Dunes, spoke up with a question. She said, “So wait. How are these dunes different than the ones I hiked all the way up in Colorado?” We went on to explain the differences in their formation and function and Tabitha can now tell you the difference between those two sets of dunes.

For me, when Tabitha asked that question in her typical sassy and curious fashion, her travels and adventures with UrbanTrekkers came full circle. Tabitha is a student that takes every opportunity she can get to travel with UrbanTrekkers and as a result has been to and seen more places than the vast majority of students her age. Because of her willingness to jump in headfirst to whatever Trekkers has to offer, she is able to compare and contrast ecosystems from firsthand experience, rather than just from pictures in her science textbook. And for a student like Tabitha, who shows a refreshing curiosity that is often lost in teenagers, learning and making connections like that on a beach will keep her engaged and eager to learn. That’s the beauty of UrbanTrekkers.