A crew from St. Mary School in Medford on the banks of the Colorado River.
Major changes at St. Mary School
MEDFORD — With an increase of 130 students in seven years, or 40 percent of enrollment, St. Mary School is embarking on its first new construction in a decade. The school is within $1 million of completing a capital fundraising campaign that will expand the campus to include a fine arts and athletic center, a chapel and parking and landscaping improvements. The project is scheduled for completion by June of 2012. Capital campaign efforts have raised $4.5 million since 2006.
St. Mary's enrollment has increased from 320 students in 2005 to more than 450 this fall. "Faced with a need to expand facilities to best serve our students, our donors have shown amazing vision and generosity and we are close to meeting our goal," said Frank Phillips, St. Mary's Head of School.
Improvements will include a large gymnasium with separate lockers, a fitness center for weight training and aerobics, music and art rooms and chapel and landscaping dedicated to Patrick Naumes, longtime teacher at St. Mary's.
Founded in 1865, St. Mary School is one of the oldest educational institutions in Oregon. For the past five years, St. Mary's has won the Oregonian Cup which recognizes overall school excellence in academics, activities, athletics and sportsmanship.
The school promotes Mandarin Chinese language instruction, travel opportunities, and intercultural understanding. In addition to scholastic achievements, high school students donate 15,000 hours each year to community service.
MEDFORD — We had been floating for miles through the steep-walled meanders of the Colorado River. For the last hour, students worked individually or in pairs attempting to map the twists and turns in the river corridor, making note of the important landmarks and rock features passed along the way.
As incentive, the guide promised a reward after dinner to the map maker creating the best match to an actual USGS map of the river. Of course, each and every participant won a deep appreciation of what the early explorers (renowned explorer John Wesley Powell and company) contended with when navigating and mapping this remote and desolate river for the very first time more than 150 years ago.
In July, 11 students from St. Mary School in Medford — plus teachers, and parents — trekked across the American west to pay a visit to the desert canyons of eastern Utah. The trip featured an exciting day of mountain biking along the rim of the Colorado River canyon, plenty of hiking along trails in both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and five full days floating a remote and rugged stretch of the Colorado River that was first named Cataract Canyon by Powell in 1869.
After St. Mary’s Outdoor Program’s maiden voyage to Utah, each member of the party has more than a few adventurous tales to tell of our time in the desert. For most, it was their first visit to this region of the United States and the day spent hiking the trails of Arches National Park proved an excellent introduction to the steep desert walls, fascinating and unusual rock formations, and the intense heat of the desert sun.
The mountain bike tour along the canyon rim, led by Solfun Bike Tours of Moab, was another highlight. Once fitted to “desert bikes,” fat-tired and geared for rough terrain through both sand and rock, the group set off on a loop that offered stunning vistas of the deep Colorado River canyon bathed in morning sunlight. Student and adult adventurers quickly learned to negotiate the uneven terrain, dodging the rocks and hopping the cracks and holes in the red slickrock. After lunch, the guides from Solfun led the group to the top of Upheaval Dome, a hike that offered a view of the entirety of Canyonlands National Park.
The time spent up on the canyon rim was an excellent preamble to the five days spent down in the river canyon itself, floating the calm stretches and running the exciting rapids of Cataract Canyon. Along the way, participants learned a great deal about the geologic, natural, and human history of the region; viewed ruins, granaries, and pictographs left behind by earlier native cultures; noted inscriptions carved in the rock by Powell and other early explorers; and better mastered the skills of camp cooking.
The St. Mary’s Outdoor Program itself is now entering its 27th year. The annual outdoor calendar has grown over time to include double-overnight inflatable kayak trips, hikes, mountain biking activities, caving trips, five visits to Mount Ashland Ski and Snowboard Park, summer bicycle tours of the San Juan Islands, multi-day wilderness backpacking trips, and more.
The writer is a math teacher and outdoor activities coordinator at St. Mary School.