Field Trips

“From the school’s beginning through the Field Trip program, the most unique and significant venture we undertake, we affirm our basic values. Travel can be the most rewarding form of introspection, taking us not only outward, but inward as well. Education can be a blend of reflection and action, study and experience, thought and feeling..”

                                                                        -John Huie, VVS Headmaster 1970-1974


Many schools offer field trips, but none do it the way we do at VVS.  From the school’s beginning students have been exposed to the study of man and his works with the added opportunity of finding out about other peoples through field work and immersion. Getting students out of their usual surroundings and engaged in a culture different than their own has been the guiding force behind our field trips since our first trip in 1948.  Trips to parts of the American Southwest that are often off the tourist route are our guide when planning trips. The outdoors play an extensive role in trip planning as well, with extended stops for rock climbing, kayaking, hiking and camping.  The third essential component of a trip is service projects where each student plays an integral part.

Students are introduced to Field Trip offerings each September during our Field Trip Fair and trips depart for their two-week journey the second week of November.


Field Trip Packing


Joshua Tree


Grand Canyon Trip

Past Field Trip Descriptions:

Burro Creek/ Canyon de Chelly introduces students to the Navajo culture and lifestyle, while also emphasizing learning how to feel confident in an outdoor setting. The first half of the trip is spent near Burro Creek where students learn to use navigational equipment and read a topographical map. The second half of the trip is in Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo Nation in Arizona – one of the most beautiful places in the West. Winnie Henry’s family, who has lived in the canyon for centuries, hosts our group. Students live much like people did a hundred years ago – doing chores, mending fences, and preparing meals during the day, while at night sitting around Winnie’s wood stove sharing stories.

Climbing & Leadership helps students hone their climbing skills on the towering granite domes of Cochise Stronghold, a world-renowned rock climbing site near Tombstone, Arizona. Days are spent ascending the striking features that rise out of the desert while learning about technical rock climbing systems and climbing techniques. Each day ends with a return to camp for meals and group activities. The MetoWe Leadership Center in Patagonia, Arizona is the setting for the second week of the trip. During the day students take part in leadership training and complete service work by helping to build water catchment systems, working on the organic farm, and learning about border issues.

Spiritually & Ecology: students spend one week experiencing various religious traditions in Crestone, Colorado and one week building an Earthship home in Taos, New Mexico. In Crestone we visit a Catholic monastery, a Hindu ashram and a Buddhist temple. In Taos we spend several days helping to build an Earthship home, in which the outside walls are made of recycled tires filled with sand and dirt and the inside walls are made of glass bottles and aluminum cans.

Grand Canyon:  is one of the most physically & mentally demanding trips at VVS. After a service project for the National Park Service, students descend into the Canyon, covering over 5,000 feet of descent, shouldering packs containing food, clothing and necessities for the next 10 days. Students cover over 50 miles, as well as an additional 25 miles of day hikes. On the final day they ascend over 4,000 feet. In return, students are exposed to some of the most breathtaking scenery in North America, from the rim of the canyon to swimming in the Colorado, to impressive slot canyons and waterfalls.

“Field Trips were such a unique VVS experience! I came away from each Field Trips changed, with new knowledge that I carry into the future. I went into each of my trips with a group of students that I didn’t really know, and wasn’t quite sure I would get along with – and came out of each trip with a new family. I love how all of the students at VVS, with their diverse cultures and backgrounds, are tied together by common experiences like Field Trips.”

                                                                                                                 – Meme Bill, Class of 2010

California Ecosystems: explores the various ecosystems of Southern California, from the Mojave Desert basins through the coniferous forests perched 10,000 feet above Palm Springs, from the chaparral coastal areas to the rocky and sandy coast around Santa Barbara.  There are three main stops: Joshua Tree National Park, the coast near Santa Barbara and San Jacinto peak near Palm Springs.  In Joshua Tree National Park students are part of an ecological service project, an anthropological study, outdoor activities, and a creative project. In Santa Barbara they work with professors at the University of California, Santa Barbara on coastal research projects. The trip ends with a hike to the top of San Jacinto Peak during a two-night backpacking adventure.

Food and Justice: explores social and environmental justice issues associated with global food production.  Students experience life on the other side during poverty simulations, learn basic cooking skills, and how to make the most of minimal resources.  We live at Cold Creek Ranch, a 10,000 acre cattle ranch raising grass-fed beef in an ecologically sound, humane, and sustainable way. We also learn about holistic resource management, local ecology, and ranch culture. Rancher Eric talks about the development work he has done in Africa, Afghanistan, and other regions of the world.

Nature, Philosophy and You:  immerses students in nature while helping them understand themselves in the context of and in connection with their environment. Rigorous hiking pushes the students to their perceived physical limits and reflection exercises help them explore their dreams, strengths and moral compass and a two-night/three-day solo.

Exploring the Anasazi and Hopi: starts with day hikes to ancient Anasazi ruins and rock art sites in Colorado and southern Utah. The first stop is the Ute Mountain tribal park in southwestern Colorado with a hike into Lion Canyon and a guided tour of the cliff dwellings there.  The trip then travels to Bluff, Utah where we honor the code of ‘the living museum’ while exploring Navajo history. Students live on the Hopi reservation in northeastern Arizona, working on a farm and in the village of  Old Oraibi, thought to be the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the U.S. The trip visits Kachina doll makers and potters while learning about the Hopi culture.

On The Road: Following in the footsteps of Kerouac and Cassady, this journey takes students through the wilderness, the towns, and the cities of Northern California.  Walking the docks that Jack London stalked and following the trails that John Muir blazed, students learn about the roles these writers played in creating deeply personal works of art that helped push our culture in directions previously unknown.  We spend time in Death Valley, the Sierra Nevadas, San Francisco, and Big Sur.  Nights are spent camping in gorgeous locations along the coast, in the mountains, and beneath towering redwoods.  Students volunteer with organizations dedicated to preserving both the natural and cultural landscapes, and work together on a communal travel document combining poetry, painting, photography and found art.

On The Edge: focuses primarily on outdoor education, teambuilding, and camp craft with students hiking, cooking, and journaling. Our time in Moab helps students become self-reliant in a physically challenging environment; push physical limits and find strength while living and hiking outdoors; develop wilderness skills such as route finding, water and waste management, and camp cooking.  In Kanab our focus shifts to community service where work extensively with the Best Friends Animal Shelter completing several different work projects.