Building community in Sabino Canyon

Among the many large challenges posed for schools because of the pandemic is how to build community during a time when distancing is the expectation. The Gregory School prides itself on our sense of community; after all, “community” is one of our 6 Cs, the principles that guide our students’ education throughout their time here. Since March of 2020, teachers and administrators at The Gregory School have creatively found ways to continue to build community for our students, teachers, and families. Among the most recent community-building events was the April 10 Sabino Canyon Challenge.

Organized by Mr. Kelly Thompson, a TGS Middle School English teacher and the Upper School Cross Country/Track coach, The Sabino Canyon Challenge invited students in grades 8 –12, as well as faculty and staff, to walk or run up Sabino Canyon from the visitor center to the top of the road, 3.7 miles up the canyon, to a loop turnaround. In his invitation, Mr. Thompson wrote, “In doing so, I hope the shared effort will foster TGS camaraderie, an appreciation for the natural beauty of the canyon, and get in some measure of physical exertion.”

10 students and four faculty members participated in the challenge. As an added dimension to the experience, participants created a simple TGS rock sculpture at the top of the canyon road to commemorate their achievement and celebrate our TGS community in an artistic way. 

"Although challenging, completing the 7.4-mile run to the top of the Sabino Canyon road and back was quite rewarding,” Chris Allen ‘22 said. “I hadn't had the time to go to the canyon in a while, and running it again brought back memories from cross country." 

“I'm so happy for the students that were able to join in on the Sabino Canyon Challenge,” Mr. Thompson said. “We had 10 students participate, and everyone made it to the top of the canyon to see the sights and contribute their stone to our rock sculpture at the top of the road. It was a beautiful morning and a beautiful sense of community!”

"At The Gregory School there are many ways to engage the students in meaningful activities. One of my favorite aspects of the school is to guide students in exploration and extracurricular activities. Being able to share opportunities such as the Sabino Canyon Challenge, where students strive for athletic accomplishment while embracing the community context of the outing, is extremely gratifying. I am so honored to be able to facilitate their engagement in and out of the classroom."

Kelly Thompson, M.Ed.

Kelly Thompson holds an M.Ed. from the University of Arizona and a B.A. in History & Humanities from Northern Arizona University. He has been on The Gregory School faculty since 2019.


3231 N. Craycroft Road, Tucson, AZ 85712
Phone: (520) 327-6395
Fax: (520) 327-8276
The Gregory School is an independent, private,
non-profit 501(C)(3), coed day school for grades 5-12.