Hopi & Sedona Student Exchange
Children Share Cultures and Water Resources
Hopi/Sedona Student Exchange Photo Credits to Sharon Harris of Sedona, AZ
March 20 - 22nd
A group of school children made history on March 20th. Elementary students from Sedona went on an adventure-learning trip to Hopi. Then, students from Hopi returned with them to Sedona. It was a chance for young children to visit with people like themselves from another culture…without leaving their own state. This historic youth bridge between cultures was part of the “Carrying the Gift of Water” program developed by the Institute of EcoTourism and the Gardens for Humanity with theHopi Tribe and Black Mesa Trust.
Dr. Lisa Hirsch, curriculum and instruction coordinator for Sedona-Oak Creek School District, has been involved in planning the exchange. “We see the student exchange as an ideal way to promote understanding and empathy among young people from both cultures,” explains Dr. Hirsh. “Also, it was an opportunity to educate about using and sharing our natural resources, in this case, water. The trip was structured to encourage the children to make long lasting friendships that can carry on for a life time.”
About 40 fourth, fifth and sixth grade students from the Sedona Oak Creek district and Desert Star Charter School, and about the same number of Hopi students, were accompanied by their teachers and parents for the exchange program.
A Special Day on Hopi
Early on March 20th, the Sedona students
traveled by bus to Hopi where they spent the day with their young counterparts. As tradition dictates, the boys learned to make greasewood planting sticks and work in the Hopi dry farm gardens. The girls helped cook a traditional Hopi meal. Both groups learned some of the “old ways” from Hopi Elders. Along with gourds of sacred water, the planting sticks and seeds from Hopi gardens were part of a special planting ceremony for April 23 at Crescent Moon Ranch in Sedona.
“When you are a farmer in a waterless world, you get to know water’s power,” says Vernon Masayesva, Hopi Elder and founder of the grassroots organization Black Mesa Trust. “Every planting is special. You plant
deep to reach the moisture. You carefully cover
each seed, making a little dam around it so the
rains puddle up.”
That night, everyone shared a traditional Hopi meal and watched a screening of the H2OPI Run to Mexico 2006. The Sedona students spent the night at Hopi. Zeke Saxman, Morgan Andrews and Elodie Arbogast are three of the children from West Sedona School who participated. They all agree it was a very exciting opportunity. Zeke had never been to a Hopi Mesa and looked forward to “talking and planning with the Hopi kids.” Morgan said she was interested in learning how the Hopis cook and garden. And Elodie was crazy excited. “I just like learning about other people and how they live,” she bubbled.
The next day they all went on a dusty drive to hike and to view examples of ancient petroglyphs and that afternoon the students went to Sedona, where they enjoyed several stations of activities.
When they arrived at the Institute of EcoTourism (IET), spring equinox, they planted seeds, created eco-art, learned about their eco-footprint and observed birds in a wild habitat.
At First Piggy Park at Los Abrigados Resort the students enjoyed dinner provided by local restaurants and enjoyed storytelling sessions around the fireplace along the banks of Oak Creek. Finally, they all trooped to West Sedona Elementary School for some singing and dancing and a fun sleepover.
The seeds they planted at IET were planted at Crescent Moon Ranch April 23rd. Geoffrey Worssam, a teacher at Sedona Red Rock High School, led the planting in April.
"The old ranch site there is a great way to introduce the students to the ways of the pioneers used water to grow food in the area,” explains Worssam. “There are old irrigation ditches and water wheels that can bring the history of the place to life for the children."
This experience, along with their experiences at Hopi, tie into the special garden they planted there.
World Water Day,
with guidance from Artists in the classroom, Joan Bourque and Carol Hildebrand, the students created four murals which were shown as part of
the World Water Day, Sustainable Visions exhibit at the Sedona Public Library and New Frontiers Organic Grocer
Artists Adele Seronde and Firusi Stalcup helped the student’s craft stepping stone mosaics. The stepping-stones will grace gardens in Sedona and Hopi.
After a sack lunch, the Hopi students returned to the Mesas, and the Sedona students returned to their homes.
“This was a wonderful opportunity for Sedona students to be guests of the Hopi, and to learn about one of the most ancient cultures in America. It is also wonderful that the children of Hopi visited us and learned about our culture,” says Adele Seronde. “This is how it should be…children from different cultures coming together to create art, plant gardens, learn from each other and have fun together. It is so important to build relationships early and to see we are similar in many important ways.”
Water Awareness Month
The student exchange was the lead in to “April is Water Awareness Month” in Sedona. As part of the Sedona Water Wise Alliance, the Institute of EcoTourism held an entire week of special events with the Hopi Tribe, Black Mesa Trust, Gardens for Humanity, Sustainable Arizona, Keep Sedona Beautiful, the Sedona Visual Artists Coalition and the Sedona Arts Center.
The events kicked off with the H2OPI Run to Sedona and celebration. The Hopi runners carried sacred water, seeds from their gardens, "mother corn" and planting sticks.
The Gardens for Humanity hosted a Heritage Seed Planting Ceremony with the school children and Hopi Elders at Crescent Moon Ranch, where some of the stepping stone mosaics they made during the exchange will be placed.
For more information contact the Institute of EcoTourism at 928.282.2720.