Friday, July 6, 2012

Montezuma's Castle - The United World College

I consider myself fortunate in that I have been able to spend five days in Montezuma, New Mexico attending an IB workshop at the United World College. This is my third such workshop at the UWC.

The UWC is located on about one hundred acres at the southern terminus of the Rocky Mountains which include the famous Montezuma Castle. Do not confuse this with this Montezuma's Castle. The castle has more than 400 rooms and occupies approximately 90,000 sq ft. It is the third such building on the site. The first two were built and burned down in the 1880's. An interesting fact is that those two buildings were the first buildings in the state to have electricity. They were built by a railroad company that hoped to use its rail line to bring guests to a resort that included several hot springs that are located just below the castle.

The existing building was a hotel until 1903, but it has since been owned and used by a variety of religious organizations. For more than three decades it was a Catholic seminary for Jesuits. A lasting feature of that era is a prayer building (rt) located on a ridge above the castle.

Unfortunately, the castle was left vacant for more than a decade. Locals, who I met at the hot springs, have told me that it became a hangout for teens and vagrants during that time. The building suffered significantly since normal repairs and upkeep were not attended to.  Damage from vandalism added to the breakdown of the building and resulted in the United World College having to spend more than ten million dollars to complete repairs.

Free concert on campus
The eventual salvation of the property came in 1981. The purchase and urgently needed repair of the property were made possible through monies ($30 million) donated by oil magnate Armand Hammer. He bought it to create a US campus of the United World College. Though the Hammer money was withdrawn by plan after thirty years, another fifty million dollar grant has kept the college functioning.

UWC IB students perform for us
It still serves as a United World College campus. And it has ties to the International Baccalaureate Programme. My visit to the castle has been for the purpose of attending an IB teacher workshop: Level III Physics. Along with seven other physics teachers from around the country, I have learned from the world's chief IB physics moderator (ultimate world grader) how to instruct my students to design, carry out, and write reports on physics experiments. It has been a huge learning experience for me, so I am glad I came.

Canyon trail
Some of my free time after the workshop sessions (and homework!) has been spent trail running and road cycling in the canyons east and west of the UWC campus. Together, the 6800+ ft altitude and the mountainous terrain have made this week's training quite strenuous. And I loved it! That winding, wavy, cracked, and narrow road did cause the hair on my neck to stand up a few times, but the bike handling skills are well polished!

Polar RCX5 Data file for one of the rides up into Gallinas Canyon
On Wednesday the workshop only lasted a half-day in order to allow for field trips to nearby tourist destinations. I chose to go to Santa Fe where I created my own brewery tour. I sampled beer from four local breweries and ate a fantastic half-pound buffalo burger at one of them - the Second Street Brewery.

I also visited the tourist trap known as the Santa Fe Plaza. Unfortunately, the natives I would have done business with were taking down their stands when I arrived. No problem. I walked through some shops, people watched (!!), and took in the world famous art and architecture.

Sante Fe St. Francis Cathedral Basilica
Great food and expertly designed brews!
Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. - Albert Einstein 

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