2017- Fall Roadschooling Trip to the Black Hills, SD

Instead of taking an airplane trip, we loaded up the minivan and headed out to the Black Hills.  Our main objective was to see some buffalo (which we did!), but we also researched Mount Rushmore, and brushed up on Paleontology (ancient sea life) in preparation. 

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Day One:
Travel Day
Jolly Green Giant (Blue Earth, MN)
Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village (Mitchell, SD)
Al's Oasis

Anthropology: early Plains peoples
Archaeology: Dig site etiquette 
After a quick stop for a picnic lunch, leg stretch and photos at the Jolly Green Giant, we kept heading West towards our final destination.  We skipped the usual "Corn Palace" break in Mitchell, SD, in favor of a first visit to the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Site.  I had arranged for a 'homeschool' informational packet to be waiting for us-- it was more like a 100 pages of great information, worksheets and projects!  

We explored the museum, with their recreation of ancient buffalo-hunter dwellings, observed the active archaeology dig, and learned a lot about the prehistoric peoples of this area.  They had a 'kid dig' site set up outside, where (if you were lucky), you could unearth plastic arrowheads to exchange for 'prizes' in the gift shop.  

Continuing West, we lunched on buffalo burgers at Al's Oasis .  We arrived at our first night's stay just after dusk and enjoyed a comfortable cabin just on the outskirts of Badlands National Park.

Day Two:
Wall Drug
Badlands National Park
Mount Rushmore
Custer State Park- State Game Lodge

Entrepreneurship: Wall Drug
Art/History: Mount Rushmore & Gutzon Borglum
Nature Study: Badlands
We woke up early, did our daily book work (math and reading) and then headed out to breakfast at Wall Drug.  The kids learned all about how the Husteads came up with their business idea and used marketing techniques to grow it into a tourist destination.  Then we rode a jackalope.... 

After our stomachs were full, we backtracked a bit to the Badlands National Park.  It had rained the evening before, so the rocks were a bit slick, but these kids had a great hike amongst (and on) the cliffs.  We even found a spectacular ladder that made us face some inner dragons and emerge victorious!  

We picnicked within sight of a herd of bighorn sheep (cool!) and then stopped by Mount Rushmore on our way to our next hotel.  The kids had studied Mount Rushmore and its maker (Gutzon Borglum) before leaving, and were able to complete their assessment in the shadow of the famous mountain sculpture.

Upon checking in at our State Game Lodge room, we discovered a lone bull buffalo...... in our 'front yard'!  We made sure to keep our distance (we were on our porch), but it was utterly amazing to watch that guy for the evening!
Day Three:
Hot Springs Mammoth Site
Wind Cave National Park
Custer State Park Buffalo Safari

Paleontology (Dig Site)
Earth Science (Cave)
Zoology (Buffalo)

We've sure seen a great number of dig sites on this trip.  The mammoth site at Hot Springs was really impressive.  Also an active excavation, the guided tour was fantastic- it really helped to have an expert point out some of the neat findings (instead of just seeing a lot of bones!).  

Then my spelunkers and I headed to Wind Cave National Park, where we took a tour of some incredible boxwork.  This cave was fun to compare and contrast to Kartchner Caverns (from our last trip).  It was quite different.

The highlight of the day had to be our Jeep Buffalo Safari and cowboy dinner.  It was quite chilly out, so we snuggled under thick blankets in the back of an open-air jeep that drove us over some really fun off-road parts of the State Park.  The buffalo had recently been rounded up for vetting, so our wrangler brought us to the pens.  We happened to arrive during some husbandry activities (yikes!), but the kids got a great herd management education.
Day Four:
Helicopter Tour (Keystone, SD)
Black Hills Institute (Hill City, SD)
Bear Country, USA
Dinosaur Museum

Paleontology: T. Rex and more
Zoology: Black Bears and local wildlife

We took advantage of the beautiful weather to have a once-in-a-lifetime helicopter tour of Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park.  The kids were a bit nervous, but enjoyed themselves immensely.  After our flight, we hit a few more museums, including the Black Hills Institute, where Justin got to HOLD a Spinosaurus claw!  The BHI has a massive collection of T. Rex fossils, and we spent quite a while comparing and contrasting Sue's skull to Stan's skull.  

After an educational morning, we drove through Bear Country USA to see the black bears up close and personal.  Then we headed next door to the Dinosaur Museum, which was an unexpected gem.  Instead of fossilized skeletons, like we'd seen earlier that morning, they have a huge collection of full-size museum-quality replicas.  The mirror maze was also fun.

Day Five:
Reptile Gardens
Dinosaur Park

Zoology: Reptiles

Our last day in the Black Hills was spent learning about reptiles (and playing with prairie dogs) at Reptile Gardens.  After our morning, we visited Dinosaur Park, on a hill overlooking Rapid City, to scramble around a herd of concrete dinosaurs constructed in 1936!
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