On the majority of our trips, Link staff and students can be found venturing deep into the backcountry. However, in November we trade our long underwear for dress clothes and head to Denver to explore museums and deepen our understanding of class content through all the resources the city has to offer.
This fall’s academic program has centered around the Depression Era and Dust Bowl. In social studies, students are reading The Worst Hard Time and developing a comprehensive understanding of the Dust Bowl. In English, students are currently reading To Kill a Mockingbird (I/II) and In Dubious Battle (I/IV), both novels set in the early 1930s. And in history, students have studied local history leading up to the Great Depression.
This year’s Denver trip was unique as we extended the trip by a day and traveled far east to Dalhart, Texas and Boise City, Oklahoma, two of the hardest hit locations during the Dust Bowl. Students witnessed first hand effects of ranching, farming, and drought on the region and observed ways that the Dust Bowl has permanently altered the landscape. We also visited the local XIT Museum and the Cimarron Heritage Center, which house artifacts from the Dust Bowl, including a dug out home that housed a family of six!
On Monday, we drove back to Denver and visited the History Colorado Center to tour exhibits on the Dust Bowl, the Sand Creek Massacre – an event that English III/IV students learned about while reading There There this fall – and the 10th Mountain Division.
Tuesday began with a block of service at Food Bank of the Rockies. Students sorted products from industrial bins into smaller boxes to be delivered to food pantries serving families across Colorado and Wyoming. Link students are practiced at participating in service, and Food Bank staff praised this group for being thoughtful, hardworking, and respectful.
After their morning of service, the students switched academic gears from historical landmarks to the arts. As this trip is one of the few opportunities where we can bring the arts into our curriculum, visiting the Denver Art Museum has been a staple in the Denver experience. While there, we started with a group walk through of the “All Stars: American Artists from The Phillips Collection”. The museum provided audio devices programed to give detailed information and analysis of selected pieces within the exhibit. Many of us who had been to DAM in the past commented on the use of music throughout the exhibit, which was a beautiful new feature that drew rhetorical connections between visual and audio art.
After the first exhibit, students explored the museum independently, visiting exhibits that most interested them. Prior to the trip, students learned about tones and themes in literature during the depression era, and at the museum they were encouraged to look for parallels between the art and what they’ve been reading in class as they explored. Many of us enjoyed the exhibit “Soul of Black Folk” by Amaoko Baofo, inspired by civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois. Walking through the Indigenous Arts of North America left some of us in awe of the monumental poles that towered two stories. An interactive exhibit called “Space Command” also captured a lot of attention. One of the students, aware of my interest in Asian culture, made sure I saw his favorite piece in the Japanese weaponry section.
Finally, after enjoying dinner at Illegal Burger, we grabbed treats and walked to a live showing of the musical Annie at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. In preparing for the Denver trip at school, we learned that Annie was inspired by James Whitcomb Riley’s poem “Little Orphant Annie”, originally called “The Elf Child”. While some were familiar with the story of Annie, a few were not. As the lights went up for the intermission, one student found herself wiping away unexpected tears, finding the relationship between Annie and Warbucks to be sweet and endearing. The play was also rich with the portrayal of what life was like for the poorest people during the Depression, as well as references to events of that time period.
We wrapped up the trip with a visit to Denver’s renowned independent Tattered Cover Bookstore. This is a trip tradition and something we all look forward to.
As we prepared to depart, one student commented on the generosity of Link donors who enabled us to experience some of the best Denver has to offer. This sense of gratitude carried through the rest of Thanksgiving break.
A huge thank you to all our donors and supporters who make trips like these an inspired reality. Happy holidays to all!
-Ariana Stevens, English Teacher