By David Kelly-Hedrick, English Faculty and Experiential Education Coordinator

We Rolled into the parking lot of a Hanksville gas station at 11:30 PM with two vanloads of sleepy Eastside Prep students. The previous five hours were spent driving from Salt Lake City down to southern Utah beneath constellation-laden night skies while also dodging free-range cattle crossing the highway. The station was closed; all was quiet. Then a car door opened from a rusty Pathfinder and out walked Jake—our desert guide and our friend. Hugs and greetings ensued.

Thus began the third year of EPS working with the guides from Desert Highlights out of Moab, Utah. We are friends now with this small business and its employees. They teach us about cryptobiotic soil, safe rappelling practices in the canyons, and how to secure our tents against the mighty desert winds. These guides now know EPS, a group of our faculty, our students, and most importantly, our culture and our values. They help our students to learn, grow, and become independent and respectful adventurers. We also do a lot of laughing, smiling, and kidding around with these folks, but when it comes to moving through the canyons, they are laser-focused on safety, best practices, and helping our students learn to navigate, be safe, and support one another while scrambling down slots and cliffs.

Every EBC experience has unique opportunities like this for students and chaperones to grow, deepen, and extend our learning community. We work to design and implement EBC trips to maximize the chance for students to put our school’s vision and mission into hands-on practice. In 2023, the EBC program bounced back from the pandemic years to offer a robust set of offerings both domestic and international. As Experiential Education Coordinator, it is my job to continue building and offering a wide variety and type of experiences for our students to positively engage in the world beyond our regular campus walls.

For this issue of Inspire, I asked several students to write about the kinds of community engagement and growth that occurred for them on EBC trips in April 2023. We hope you enjoy their stories and insights into the experience.

By Rhea, Class of 2024

Embarking on an educational adventure to the mesmerizing island of Oahu, we explored the history, culture, and natural beauty of Hawaii, while not only escaping the confines of the classroom but also unlocking a world of knowledge, understanding, and appreciation for the Independent & Sovereign Nation State of Hawaii.

Our first speaker, a native Hawaiian, set the scene for the rest of the trip—the first thing she corrected was our pronunciation of Hawaii. We quickly understood we had a long way to go in terms of our knowledge about Hawaiian culture and history. We all grew as people over the course of the trip, whether it was because of the 4:00 AM arrival at SeaTac, the field work at Taro farms, or the understanding of the privileged perception we have of Hawaii as tourists. We grew our connections through our visit to the Kamehameha School,
where we spent a day with high school students.

A big part of being a global citizen with an inclusive point of view and knowledge on various topics is making connections with people across the world. Our visit to the high school showcased impressive achievements in all fields, including having players from the school on national teams. We spent our last three days at a YMCA camp where we bunked together in cabins, visited the University of Hawaii, and were a part of a service project at Taro farms.

Good Medicine
By Sydney, Class of 2024

Have you ever been invited to a party where you did not know a single person? That is exactly how I felt as I boarded the first of three planes that would take me to Dawson City in the Yukon. I hardly knew anybody on my trip and was flying to one of the most remote parts of North America, and I didn’t even know who my roommate was going to be! I waited for the worst week of my life. It never came.

Dawson City was what I had been waiting for. The weight of junior year, the stress of my mundane life was almost instantly lifted from my shoulders as I stepped into the tiniest airport I’d ever seen.
That evening we hiked to Midnight Dome, a lookout that showed me the entirety of Dawson, the frozen river, the snow-covered town, the formidable mountains, and the stubborn sun that did not want to let us sleep. I sat in the snow, bundled like Randy from A Christmas Story and the silence was deafening. I had never felt more at peace.

A woman from the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Nation named Margie Kormendy was kind enough to share with my group about the traditions and belief systems of her people, and she shared with us
about good medicine. Medicine can be for your mind, your body, your spirit. I came to Dawson City perfectly healthy and yet it healed me. Dawson City was good medicine for me. Dawson City and its people cauterized the wounds of a broken heart
and sent me back south like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis with wet wings, too fragile to fly,
but so close.

A Community in the Wilderness
By Alyson, Class of 2027

The community of Yellowstone National Park greeted us kindly at the gate of their home. Bison, elk, and pronghorn grazed or rested on the yellow-green grass, waving hello with a swish of their tails. Their home had no walls to keep us out; only a large, welcoming stone arch to invite us in.

Within the first seconds, I had already viewed more wild animals than I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Over the next week, we tracked down four moose grazing in the bushes, a bear eating from a bison carcass dragged out of a frozen pond, two otters at play in a snow-lined stream, cranes standing still in a shimmering pool, bighorn sheep climbing to the top of a hill, and a lone wolf traveling at dawn.

The wolves have been hurt by hunters and farmers oblivious to their importance as apex predators. At one point in history, not a single wolf could be found within Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, or forty-four other contiguous U.S. states. But the consequences of the wolves’ absence quickly became clear, pressuring the states to reintroduce wolves into their land and protect them.

We hoped to spot one of Yellowstone’s 100 wolves, rarely seen by visitors. On day five, our group woke up early to meet with a biologist studying Yellowstone’s wolves. After driving for less than two hours, we spotted a car parked on the side of a road with a wildlife telescope close by, pointing at a nearby hill. Eagerly, we crowded around the telescope, but the wolf was close enough to see without one. It was a lone wolf, trotting up a hill toward a herd of elk. That wolf was one of the many members of Yellowstone’s community that we had the honor and opportunity to meet. Working with the laws of nature, they help preserve biodiversity in this anthropogenic age.

Bay Area: Tech, Culture, and So Much More…
By Tanmay, Class of 2025

Eastside Preparatory School’s mission is to “inspire students to create a better world through critical thinking, responsible action, compassionate leadership, and wise innovation.” This concept extended into my 2022-23 EBC trip to the Bay Area.
Accompanied by my fellow students and chaperoned by the (ever-patient) Sudo Sensei, Ms. Hollingshead, and Mr. Gummere, we soaked up San Francisco and Silicon Valley culture in a whirlwind week of walking, talking, meeting people, and eating great food. Amidst all of the socializing and fun with friends, I ended up learning a lot.

EPS is a school that prioritizes interdisciplinary thinking, and our trip was designed along similar lines. Each day, we spanned a variety of fields: from cutting-edge startup technology, to the lives of bold entrepreneurs, to the art and culture of San Francisco.

In the Mission District (a space for entrepreneurs, designers, and all sorts of creative people to work), we had the opportunity to meet people taking risks seeking to make their ideas reality. One man we met booked a one-way ticket to San Francisco without an official job offer from the incubator he would end up working with! Another such person was Franck Marchis, the co-founder of Unistellar, a smart telescope company, who actually started his company to fund his main scientific research into exoplanets. As we ate lunch (prepared by the cooks in the Mission itself) and listened to his story, I remember seeing faces light up by tales of the SETI Institute and Marchis’s own background (including being in a hacker group at seventeen!).

New Zealand
By Anderson, Class of 2023

In my culminating EBC experience, I had the honor of going to New Zealand to see both the country’s natural beauty and learn more about the culture of the Māori people. I was captivated by the people that I met. I’d heard about how the Kiwis were welcoming and friendly, but we really experienced it firsthand from our guides, and the other people that supported us along the way.

Throughout the journey, we got to experience the awesome wildlife, flora, and fauna present there. We hiked along the Abel Tasman Coast Track, a beautiful section of the northern coast of the South Island. We canoed along a beautiful mountain lake, taking in the soaring peaks along the way. We also saw many unique plants and animals not found anywhere else. We also learned that, unfortunately, the ecosystem in New Zealand is in danger due to introduced predators such as mice, rats, stoats, and cats.

Throughout our stay in Whenua Iti (the outdoor program that hosted us), we were exposed to many Māori teachings and customs. We were welcomed with a pōwhiri, a traditional Māori welcoming ceremony, and then asked to participate in the custom by singing a song back. Before each meal, we would sing a waiata to bless the food and the cooks. We also learned about traditional Māori medicine and how its approach to treating patients is different than Western medicine. We also used the hongi every morning to greet and connect with each other by sharing the same breath. Learning about these practices and values really enhanced my trip to New Zealand and my respect for the Māori culture.

By Dingchen, Class of 2028

During our seventh-grade trip to Bellingham this year, we were introduced to a lot of new forms of artwork in the city. In the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, we learned about certain parts of Japanese artwork and their effects on Japanese culture. We also saw plenty of other modern and interpretive artworks.

One of the most memorable experiences was at the SPARKS Museum. After being informed about all the events that were going to happen later, everyone immediately rushed into the exhibits. There were many demonstrations, and a really fun one made your hair into somewhat of an electrical pom-pom through the power of (definitely mad) science! There were massive demonstrations, including nine-foot-tall Tesla coils and a giant metal birdcage that all our chaperones went into and got “zapped.” But, surprisingly, they were protected by the giant conductive metal cage, because science (I definitely understood).

One significant part of our EBC trip was having much more freedom than sixth grade, especially to be able to hang out with our friends or new people during our trip. On one of our trips to Fairhaven, we were given some money to go out and eat, which was an important memory for me. During our trip, most of us were exposed to new experiences with new people, and were able to better connect with our classmates who normally would’ve just been giving a passing wave in a hallway, or a glance in a classroom. We chose different restaurants to go to, which gave us plenty of time to get to know other people and explore the area and culture in general.