Parkers Prairie - Eighth Grade Field Investigations Trip
May 12 - 16, 2014

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Ryan at Devil's Tower
Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Share in the Adventure!

  • To see and feel real earth science processes beyond the classroom walls.
  • To experience how geology has affected our human history and culture.
  • To interact with friends and new people from new places and cultures.
  • To develop an appreciation and better understanding of others.

Trip Overview

The South Dakota Field Investigations trip is in its 11th year. This adventure takes students beyond the doors of the school, to observe and feel real Earth processes that are not visible in the classroom or immediate area.  The emphasis throughout is on careful observation.  Students use these observations to then develop scientific questions and/or to further investigate natural phenomena by collecting data.  Fairly extensive investigations are developed at Door Trail in the Badlands and on the grounds of Wind Cave National Park.  Throughout the trip, students use observations, data and questions to put together the formation stories of the places that they visit: Pipestone National Monument, Devils Gulch, The Badlands, Black Hills Formation, Wind Cave, and Devils Tower.  Excursions to the wind turbines at Lake Benton, MN and the Black Hills Geology Institute further illustrate the complexities and interconnectedness of Earth and its inhabitants throughout time.


In the summer of 2001, science teacher, Marlene Schoeneck participated in the TIMES (Teaching Inquiry-based Minnesota Earth Science) Project, a venture of the Science Museum of Minnesota, and hosted at the University of Minnesota, Morris. The purpose of the course was to infuse more inquiry-based field investigations into earth science. Instructors for this class were Lee Schmitt, director of teacher programs at the Science Museum, and Dr. Peter Whelan, geology professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris. Peter went on to join Marlene on several day-long field experiences with her 8th grade students. In Fall 2002, Peter proposed a week-long series of investigations through the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota, and a partnership in adventure was born.

After lots of planning and support from UMM and the Parkers Prairie community, the first journey took place May 12 through 16, 2003. "It is hard to put into words what we feel has happened over the course of these five days. Words are by far inadequate, but many times we have summed it up as simply (or unsimply) "magic." We have watched kids grow. They have learned cooperation, new friendships, responsibility, and that they can do far more than they ever felt possible." (Marlene Schoeneck, May 2003).