by Shelli Cammenga, ’13

The Avodah program is off to an unforgettable start! Taking full advantage of California’s natural wonders, the Earth Science class spent four days last week touring the Golden State and seeing formations they  had been learning about in the classroom. This time though they were close enough to touch. Students experienced earthquake faults, lava flows, and glacial moraines firsthand during several intensive days in the Sierra Nevada Mountains as textbook science came to life.

Much of the first day was spent driving north to Bishop, where students spent a few days. After staying the night in a motel, students rose early and spent the day in Mammoth and Yosemite, learning to recognize horns, scarps, volcanic craters, stratified drift and many types of rock. Other stops included hot springs, lakes, the Devil’s Postpile and a side trip to Manzanar, a Japanese internment camp from World War 2. The uniqueness of Providence to extend education beyond the classroom was not lost on the students. Senior Mark Hogan agreed as he described the trip, “We saw the most geologically diverse area in perhaps the whole World. This was hands-on learning at its best.”

While wondering at the creation around them, students also drew closer as a community as they experienced this adventure together. Some of the most memorable moments included climbing into an open fault at a high altitude and finding chunks of ice preserved in its depths, as well as showing off feats of strength lifting pumice, a rock which appears solid but is truly vesicular (contains many air cavities).

One senior reflected on the Devil’s Postpile Monument as the highlight of her trip, “The most memorable part of the trip was…seeing the natural hexagon-shape-tiled surface; God’s creative power and the joy he takes in creating was certainly evident in the places we visited.” For many others, what could possibly be considered the most breathtaking experience came on the last night, when students watched the sunset at Mono Lake through towers of tufa, a rock which effervesced when it came into contact with calcium carbonate.

Providence’s unique dedication to liberal arts afforded many students who may not be naturally inclined towards the scientific to take a look at the world around them in a different way. Thanks to the expertise of Professor Larry McHargue, they realized how the formations and landscapes around them were formed and continue to be part of a dynamic system that is the world. As student Brittany Sims noted, “It may not be the typical way of learning about earth science, but seeing people get excited about rocks and fault lines should prove how great of a trip it really is, with huge thanks towards Dr. McHargue.” For these students and many others, Providence truly has provided a “classroom without walls,” combining academics with practical experience and giving students an unforgettable glimpse into the grandeur and complexity of God’s world.