Students Seek Culture in the Upper Wind River Valley
Amongst rolling sage fields, the winding Wind River, and thick patches of Cottonwood trees, middle school students explored the cultural practices of the Sheepeater, or Mountain Shoshone, on their recent fall journey to Dubois, Wyoming. The fall journey serves a two-fold purpose: 1) Academic Theme: students are introduced to the cross-curricular theme for the academic year. World Cultures is the focus of studies in Language Arts, math, Spanish, Science, and Social Studies this year and there is no shortage of culture throughout Dubois’ rich history. 2) Community Building: through activities such as cooking a meal for 40 people, setting up a tent, and keeping a Leave No Trace campsite, students inevitably work together and form strong bonds that will certainly last throughout the coming months.
Students and teachers had the opportunity to stay on the property of Teton Valley Ranch. This local summer camp is situated on a stunning 2,500 acres surrounded by the Shoshone National Forest. On the first day of the journey, students explored the property as they were introduced to Edward T. Hall’s culture iceberg model. Using this model, they identified visible and invisible characteristics of both Sheepeater and their cultures. The following day, the group ventured into downtown Dubois to work with local experts and learn more about Sheepeater life. Visits to the National Bighorn Sheep Center, the Dubois Museum, and with local tanner Joe Brandl, helped inform students about Sheepeater food sources, migratory patterns, belief systems, and survival tactics. After lunch in the town park, we traveled south to the gateway to the Wind River Mountains. Along the banks of Ring and Torrey lakes, students explored petroglyphs left behind by the Sheepeaters. Engaging discussions and thoughtful inquiry ensued as students pondered how this art fit into Hall’s iceberg model.
Our final evening included a delicious meal of tacos and s’mores by the campfire. Working on the annual Classmate Biography project, students got to know each other through thoughtful questioning and identifying commonalities.
Upon our return to campus, students worked hard until the final period of Friday afternoon cleaning equipment, vans, and writing thank you cards to the many people who helped make this fall journey such a success. Thank you to our students and teachers for a wonderful start to our year’s studies of World Cultures!
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