Open Letter to My 8th Graders 2014

posted May 19, 2014, 8:55 AM by Pamela Gades

(The "open letter" has become an annual tradition at the conclusion of the 8th grade South Dakota Field Investigation Trip. As always, feel free to ride along, but know that this is written for my students.)

Throughout our South Dakota Field Investigation Trip, a series of Essential Questions were meant to develop connections between landscapes and processes.  What we saw in the Badlands was connected to events that occurred further west. The formation of Devils Tower was linked with the rise of the Black Hills and later erosion.  Though much of our trip dealt with geology, the connections go way beyond rocks and landscapes.

On the trip, you made connections to classmates. You put tents up together, served meals, cleaned buses, and walked trails. You learned now to make things work, even when things were tough. Many of you made new friends, though your class has mostly been together for years.  Both of these are important life skills. Sometimes you will need to work with people in difficult conditions, or even with those whom you don't likely all. In these circumstances, you will still need to the best of it. As well, it is easy to judge people for life over first impressions. Take the time to really see people and sometimes they will surprise you with their talents and character.

The trip built connections in your brain. So many of you sell yourselves short when it comes to learning...You look at your abilities like a gas tank that can only be filled part-way. I hope that you learned about learning...that it is about building connections from one (seemingly) isolated piece to another, and that you all can do it. The setting of the trip in the real environment helps tremendously, as it pulls those separate pieces together into the whole story. You can continue to do this, no matter where you are.  The first step is believing that you can!

You also forged connections with adults. A few were your parents, but some were new to you, like our college students and our bus driver, "Uncle Dave". I hope that you observed their caring, their talents, and their skills throughout the week. I am always amazed at how all of these adults come into the trip picture from different directions and make the trip run like a well-oiled machine. More importantly they come because they care about you and they build the family that is ours for this week on the road.

Finally, you build connections with community. This may be the 8th grade South Dakota Field Investigation Trip, but the whole community comes with us in a very real sense.  They have watched you grow up.  They have contributed both time and dollars to your trip, and they have  traveled with us virtually on the website. The trip happens because we live in a small enough community where kids are still visible and important. Trips like this don't happen in big cities where schools and kids just become a part of the background fabric. Please take the time to say thank you to everyone in the community who helped to make this a reality - not just for this year, but for 12 consecutive years.

Stay connected to your community, your teachers, your classmates and perhaps most of all, yourself. Life as a human being is about being a social, connected person. Live it to the fullest and live it with those around you.


Marlene Schoeneck

8th Grade Science Teacher/ Trip Leader

Friday's Journal - June 16th

posted May 18, 2014, 1:56 PM by Pamela Gades   [ updated May 21, 2014, 9:43 AM ]

Swimming at Cascade Falls

View the trip photo gallery

Day 5:   Friday May 16th, 2014

Journal Crew: Nic Aldrich, Jayme Aune, Austin Koep, Hailey Marquardt, Jake Martin, Cody Springer, Holly Thiel, Tanner Wambeke

In summary of the week we all had fun. We visited so many cool and exciting places. My favorite time during the trip was going through Wind Cave National Park. The ranger shut off all the lights and we were silent. You could hear nothing and see nothing. It was cool to be underground and know what it's like to be in a cave. On the trip we learned a lot about geology, ourselves and others. We had our ups and downs, but in the end of the week we we're all friends, laughing and joking like our usual selves.

~ Jayme Aune

It was a fun week with lots of sights to see. My favorite part of the trip was also at Wind Cave National Park, but the Badlands was pretty awesome too! I also liked jumping in the Hot Spring. Camping out in the tent was fun. This was the best week ever and I'm sure a majority of the people here could say that too. Thank you Mrs. Schoeneck and everyone else who helped to make this possible.

~ Austin Koep

It was a really fun time for me and I'm sure everybody else this past week. There were a lot of places to visit and learn about and to have fun at. My favorite place was probably a tie between the Badlands and Wind Cave National Park, they were both extremely fun places to visit and they had a lot of history in them. I thought this was a such a fun trip because other little schools like us don't get a chance to do this kind of stuff, so it

was really special.

~ Tanner Wambeke

The South Dakota trip was fun. We went to a lot of amazing places and seen the animals. I really liked DevilsTower. Every place we went we took observations. When we went to the campground it was fun but cold❄️. This week was very fun, I'm very glad I had this opportunity.

~Hailey Marquardt

The trip was really fun. We went to a lot of cool places like the Badlands and Devil's Tower. My favorite place was the Badlands, but I also liked Devil's Tower and Wind Cave. Camping out was fun until you woke up shivering. Overall the trip was a good, fun and exciting learning experience of how things are formed.

~Cody Springer

The trip was very fun and I had a lot of fun. My favorite parts were Devil's Tower, Wind Cave, and the Badlands. The Badlands was the highlight of my trip because it was really cool and it was really fun to stand on the edge and and climb out on different pieces of land. All of the 8th gradersc learned a lot and had a fun time

~Jake Martin

This trip was amazing!! I had a lot fun it was a chance to get closer to everybody and they are like one big family! Anybody that gets a chance to go will have a great time!! My favorite part was Wind Cave and Devils Gulch!

~Sam Christensen

This trip was the best thing ever! We all had so much fun and it was a great learning experience. This trip made us closer as a class and now we are like one big family. I learned so much on this trip and think all 8th graders should get a chance to go.

~ Katelyn Simonson.  

This trip was so cool we went to a lot of places like the Badlands and Devil's Tower, also the Black Hills. We also went to Wind Cave. My favorite part was the Badlands where I conquered my fear of snakes. I saw a bull snake 3.5 ft long and I didn't run. My second favorite place was Wind Cave.  The bad part was the cold at night around 38 degrees ❄️


The trip was fun because I got to go to a lot of cool places most people never get to and come closer and have lots of fun with my friends.

~Jonathon Schwartz

I am so glad that we all had the chance to go on this trip. We all learned things about ourselves and others that we didn't know. My favorite place had to be the Badlands - it's such a cool scenery, so different from Minnesota. I hope everyone had fun on this trip and I hope all the classes after us go on this trip and have just as much fun.

~Nichole Albright

This trip was so fun. We went to a lot of cool places. I got closer to my friends and had a lot of fun with them thank you so much for taking us on this trip

~Matt Ferley

Thank you for the opportunity of letting me be a part of this trip. I had a great week with getting to know the 8th graders I didn't really know and then getting to know the 8th graders I already knew better. My favorite parts of the trip were Wind Cave because I knew some things already, but I learned even more from the time I went on this trip. Also jumping in the Hot Springs was a blast.

~ Amber Guenther

Trip+class+best teacher = once in a life time experience!

~ Mason Nibbe

First off thank you Mrs. Schoeneck for setting this up and bringing us to all the amazing places. Thank you to all of the chaperones for every thing you did this week to make this happen. I had a great time experiencing all the great sites for the first time! I think my favorite was the Badlands and jumping into the Hot Springs.

~Megan Dreger

This trip was so much. I got learn a lot more about my friends and the teachers. We all had a blast and a few laughs. Especially when I sent butt right through the wall! My favorite part of the trip was visiting the Badlands, walking around and seeing all the animals. BEST TRIP EVER!!!

~Ryan Blake

This trip was really fun and we all got to learn a lot about each other and geology. Definitely the best trip ever

~Zach Schneiderhan

I want to say thanks to Mrs. Schoeneck, it was an amazing trip that I will never forget. It was an amazing learning experience and I know we all learned something new about ourselves. It was fun to hang out with friends but we still got our work done and it was worth it. I loved Devil's Tower and the Badlands the most. Those were a fun couple of days! By far the best trip ever.

~Kendra Thoennes

I got to say the last 5 days were the best time I ever had. My favorite spot that we stopped at was the Badlands. It was really a thrill knowing that one wrong step you could fall to the bottom. Thank you Mrs. Schoeneck for the once in a life time experience.

~Bowen Makela

Being a PPHS alumni this is my second time on this trip and once again I had a blast. It's a great thing that all of these kids can get to go on a trip with hands-on experiences. Not only do you learn for the classroom, but you learn how to work with others and build friendships. I still enjoyed the dinosaur and fossil museum the most since we get to look at a lot of pieces that only a few people have seen. I hope to see this trip continue for many more years, and students continue to learn hands on since it will help them the most in the real world.

~ Kevin Bunde

I have to say this one of the most fun expiriences I've had and ever will have. Not only did we get to see some amazing things and learn tons about geology and the way they were all formed, but we all built bigger and better friendships and became even closer. This will be something I'll never forget.

~ Wil Hezlep

This trip was a very fun experience. From learning how 500,000 wind turbines can produce the same amount of energy as the oil wells today, to learning that Wind Cave National Park is only 10% discovered! to eating great food (Thanks Bob and Jerome), and a great teacher that organizes everything. Thank you Mrs. Schoeneck!!

~ Hunter Haggenmiller

As of right now this trip has been the trip of the school year. Thank you Mrs. Schoeneck!, I also have to thank the cooks for the amazing meals so thank you Bob and Jerome.

~ Ethan Schlosser

The trip was amazing I don't think anything can top it off. I would just like to say thank You for making this happen. It wouldn't have happend without: Mrs. Schoeneck, Bob, Jerome, Mike, Laura, Elizabeth and all the collage students, so thank you and its one of the best trips I've been on in my life.

~ Aaron Blackstone

Most seniors say that the South Dakota trip was one of their best memories. I can definitely see why! From walking through the Badlands to jumping into the hot springs, I can definitely say that this trip is one I will never forget!

~ Katie Koegel

Many people that have graduated from Parkers Prairie say that the South Dakota trip was the biggest highlight of their high school life. I agree! My best memories will be hiking around national monuments and hanging with my 8th grade friends. I will never forget this trip!

~Garret Wehking

The South Dakota Field Trip has been one of the best experiences of my life. From peering over the edge of the rocks in the Badlands and watching out for snakes,  to swimming Cascade Falls, this trip never ceases to amaze me. Over the past five days I have learned so much about both geology and my classmates. This is an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life!

~Maddie Schroeder

All in all this was an amazing trip. I went to amazing places that I probably would have never heard of. This is an amazing opportunity for all of us because not many teachers bring students on trips like this. I will never forget this awesome experience. I can't say I have a favorite place I went because all of the places we went were amazing. I can truly say that I learned a lot and had fun at the same time.

- Grace Ruckheim

The 2014 South Dakota trip was amazing, fun, unforgettable, and cold. I will remember this trip until the end of my life. I cannot decide my favorite part of this trip, but my least favorite part was the long, long, long, bus ride home. I will never forget this week. I see now why the freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors say why this trip is so amazing.

~ Dillon Vogt

From the windmills of Lake Benten to the shores of the Hot Springs! The trip was great! I was so happy to work with such a great group of kids. My favorite part of the trip is when my group "accidently" crawled up the boulders of Devils Tower. I only hope that I get a chance to teach students this fun during my career!

~ Evan Beranek

This was my second 8th grade science trip and it only gets better.  I learned a lot more the second time around. The class of 2018 is a great class and I was proud to be a part of the 2014 Minnesota, South Dakota and Wyoming science adventure.

Cheers Troy Dodds

It was such a pleasure to be able to help out on this field investigation trip to South Dakota! As a future educator, I learned so much about the importance of asking questions, creating inquiry based activities, and integrating memorable hands-on learning. I really enjoyed the Badlands and looking at the dinosaur fossils in the museum. I hope these students were inspired to think for themselves, work as a team, and develop a love for life long learning. A big thank you to Marlene for this unforgettable experience!

-Claire Goodrich

This fall, I learned from Marlene about best practices for a science teacher, and I am thankful I got to see it in action!  It was amazing watching students construct their own explanations based on observation, prior knowledge, and key questions.  Plus, we got to be outside!  My favorite parts of the trip were the geology museum and Devil's Tower.  Thank you Marlene for inviting us as chaperones, and to the great students and chaperone crew for welcoming us and laughing with us.  This trip and its huge community support is so valuable for science learning and for individual and group growth...keep it going!

--Luciana Ranelli

Thank you for this awesome trip. I had lots of fun at the KOA campground. It was nice to go hiking and to see things I never saw, like Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower, the Badlands, and the inside of a wind tower. You are an awesome teacher! Thanks again for the trip.

~Holly Thiel~

I'd like to thank Mrs. Schoeneck for the great week I had. I honestly couldn't say I'd have more fun with any other class. I enjoyed getting closer to my classmates, even in the morning when we're all super crabby. It was cold at night, but we made it. My favorite thing was the Badlands. I loved seeing the snake and getting to climb around. I also really enjoyed swimming in the hot spring. Thank you all for a great time. Including the chapperones who took time from their schedule to spend the week with us!☺️

-Morgan Allen-

I had a great week,  all thanks to Mrs.Shoeneck, the college students, and the chaperones. My favorite part of the week was going to the Badlands and experiencing what is there. Thank you again for making it possible for me and my classmates to have this experience!

-Will Dodds over and out-

This week was a blast thanks to Mrs. Schoeneck, the college students, and the parents! My favorite part was the Badlands and seeing how it was formed. The place I had the most fun was when we went swimming. Thank you for everything you have done for us the past 5 days!

~ Emily Shircliff~

These past 5 days have bean so much fun!  I'd like to thank Mrs. Schoeneck, all the parents and college students who came and made this trip fun and exciting! Also all the parents and people who helped make this trip happen. It was an amazing experience! My favorite part had to be the Wind Cave! It is so big and cool to see what's inside! I had the most fun at Bufflo National Grasslands when we were able to slide down the rock hills! That was great! Hope future 8th graders get to go on this amazing trip!

~ Katelyn Schlosser~

What a wonderful week this was, it was great to see the kids get excited about what they were seeing and learning.Thank you to Mrs. Schoeneck for making this happen for so many years.  This being the third time going on the trip, it still amazes me how much the kids change as a class.  

~Laura Shircliff~

This was a fantastic week and I am so glad I was able to be a part of this experience.  I have been to the area before, but it was wonderful to see it again with such a great group of kids while we all learned so much in the process.  Thank you, Mrs. Schoeneck, for everything you do to make this happen!  

~Elizabeth Hezlep~

This was a awesome trip! Thanks to Mrs. Schoeneck. The best part was learning how everything was formed and seeing the landscape.

~Adam Foster~

I'm very glad Brady asked me to chaperone this trip. I've never seen these sites before, so it was great for me to be able to do this. I had a great time and found every stop on the trip very interesting. I also enjoyed getting to know more of Brady's classmates this is a great group of kids. Thank You Mrs. Schoeneck and the rest of the crew for the great time. I will chaperone this trip again if I have the opportunity.

Mike Hoppe

Thank you Mrs.Schoeneck and all the other chaperones for a great week, we had a great week and we couldn't have made it through the week without you guys. Our class can get a little crazy at times but, we still managed to handle each other all week. We learned so much and it was such a great experience! I had an amazing week!!!

Kelsi Leeseberg (:

Thank you Mrs.Schoeneck for a great trip, I really had a good time. Also a big thanks to all the chaperones.


Thank you everyone for a great week.


The trip started out with high winds and rain and the kids were excited and ready to go. Throughout the week each stop brought a new geological wonder for the kids to ponder over and try to figure out what caused the feature and why the feature is there. As we moved across the state of South Dakota the landscape changed and many of the students were amazed at how glaciers and time has changed the topography. As we visited sites the students were eager to get to their journals and answer the questions for the site. Learning was fun and challenging for them to figure out what caused the geological feature. In the evenings you could hear students talking about the sites of the day and how cool things were. For me the most amazing stop we made was the Wind Caves. How many miles of caves exist underground and how they were formed. Even though the caves were discovered many years ago they still do not know the extent of the caves. Close to the cave stop would be Devils Tower. As we drove up to the site it was amazing to see the tower over the pines. Once we walked around the tower it was impressive how tall Devils Tower is. Overall the trip was an excellent learning experience for both me and the students. Not many students have the opportunity to experience hands on learning of geology that the South Dakota trip offers. The trip combines fun and learning at the same time giving the students hands on learning. Also with 40 students and many personalities overall things went well with only a few minor problems. I hope this Parkers Prairie School activity will continue for many years and feel fortunate that I was able to attend as a chaperone. -- Jerome Haggenmiller

Thursday's Journal - May 15th

posted May 15, 2014, 8:42 PM by Pamela Gades   [ updated May 15, 2014, 9:08 PM ]

View all the photos in the Photo Gallery

Day 4:   Thursday May 15th, 2014

Journal Crew: Nichole Albright, Morgan Allen, Megan Benzinger, Will Dodds, Megan Dreger, Matt Ferley, Kelsi Leeseberg, Mason Nibbe

First, we went to Wind Cave National Park  We went on a tour in the cave. We learned that 95% of all the boxwork in the world is in the Wind Cave.  It is also the 6th largest cave in the world. They have only explored 142 miles and that is only 10% of the cave. When we went in the cave, we went 200 feet below the surface. When there are no lights on in the cave, there are no sounds and it is pitch black. We also went out and did an investigation on the surface of Wind Cave National Park and presented it to each other.  

Our second stop was The Black Hills Institute of Geology. There you can see many dinosaur skeletons and cast replicas of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. We got to take a sneak peak of a work in progress of a T. Rex head which was being prepared for display. Matt Larson's dad and uncle found Stan.... the 2nd most complete T. rex  dinosaur skeleton in the world.

On our third stop,  most of our group went to Cascade Falls in Hot Springs and swam. We had the opportunity of jumping off a clay ledge. If most of your body was underwater, you were pretty warm but if you weren't then you got pretty chilly.  It will be a great memory even though it was cold.  

Wednesday's Journal - May 14th

posted May 14, 2014, 9:09 PM by Pamela Gades   [ updated May 14, 2014, 9:32 PM ]

Wednesday's Journal Crew
View all the photos in the Photo Gallery

Day 3:   Wednesday May 14th, 2014

Journal Crew:  Aaron Blackstone, Wil Hezlep, Bobby Hoppe, Brady Hoppe, Joe Long, Ross Ruckheim, Jonathan Schwartz, Garret Wehking

First stop of the day was Devil's Tower. Our mission was to climb the mountain... But sadly we couldn't get our permits. We walked around the trails and found out what types of rocks there were and figured out how the tower was formed. We took some fun photos along the way and we saw three people climbing the tower. After we finished walking the trail, we went down to the souvenir shop and ate lunch made from our favorite/only cooks Bob and Jerome.

Second we drove through Spearfish Canyon which is 25 miles long and 6222 ft. at its highest elevation. There we saw amazing sedimentary rock on the canyon walls and some pretty interesting houses. We learned that the canyon was once flat and a river eroded all of the flat earth away and formed the canyon.

Third we went to Homestake Gold Mine in Lead.  The gold mine is no longer in use and was insanely far down. The rock there is metamorphic and has various different minerals and color bands. While the gold mine was in use, 40 million ounces of gold was mined, and one ounce equals $1300. That adds up to slightly over 52 billion dollars! That's just in that mineral alone, because they also mined iron ore and other minerals.

Lastly we stopped at Mt. Rushmore. We learned how the landscape and mountain was formed and what quaquaversal meant. Quaquaversal means that the rocks slope together away from the center in four different directions and make a mountain or other landform. We also stopped at the gift shop and had some nice refreshing ice cream under the historical faces.

Tuesday's Journal - May 13th

posted May 14, 2014, 5:32 AM by Pamela Gades   [ updated May 14, 2014, 7:01 AM ]

"Ready, Set, Go" - On Top of the Sliding Hill
View all the photos in the Photo Gallery

Day 2:   Tuesday May 13th, 2014
Journal Crew: Sam Christensen, Katelyn Schlosser, Katelyn Simonson, Emily Shircliff, Kendra Thoennes, Katie Koegel, Maddie Schroeder, Grace Ruckhime. 

   Even though the sun was shining it was windy! Today we started out taking a hour in a half bus ride to Chamberlain Rest Stop, and observed the Missouri River, and figured out how the valley was formed. Next we went to Badlands National Park, and we observed the rock formations and discovered just how deep they really are. Some of us were surprised how far down the rock formations were. We also went hiking on a trail in the Badlands, and did an investigation on a question we came up with. While we were presenting our findings it was so windy we could feel the dust in our eyes and taste it in our mouth. Our final stop of the day was Buffalo National Grasslands. We observed and compared 5 cool looking rocks, and some slid down the big hills covered in gravel. One cool thing we found was petrified mushrooms, trees, and leaves. Now we are camping in Hot Springs KOA. For supper we are having chili and hot dogs! Yum!!

Monday's Journal - May 12th

posted May 12, 2014, 7:44 PM by Pamela Gades   [ updated May 14, 2014, 5:40 AM ]

Looking down from the quartzite cliffs
View all the photos in thePhoto Gallery

Day 1:   Monday May 12th, 2014

Journal Crew: Ryan Blake, Adam Foster, Ethan Schlosser, Dillon Vogt, Brad Swenson, Hunter Haggenmiller, Bowen Makela, Zach Schneiderhan

We started off the trip at 7:04 A.M according  to our bus driver Uncle Dave. After 3 hours of a bus ride, we arrived in Lake Benton. In Lake Benton we visited Jim Nichols, and his wind turbines. We learned how they produce energy, and how it is environmentally sound. Jim showed us how the turbines operate and that the turbine produce energy for the cities. A turbine on average produces more energy than oil fields and coal.

We stopped at the Pipestone National Monument and visited the park. Many of the students stopped to watch a Native American man carve the pipestone into peace pipes. We learned about the crossbedding in the rocks. We saw an active pipestone quarry where the pipestone is being dug up and quarried.

The next stop was Devils Gulch. There were several daredevils that dared to stray a little off the path. We learned Jesse James jumped the gulch to escape the posse chasing him. We saw how the rock formations were caused by erosion to make the gulch. A couple of us got a little in the rivers.

The campground is wet and windy. Everybody compliments the chefs' cooking - a "five course meal" of taco in a bag. The weather is cold, windy, wet, and cloudy, it wasn't the best, but it wasn't the worst either.

We're On Our Way!

posted May 12, 2014, 6:35 AM by Pamela Gades   [ updated May 12, 2014, 6:40 AM ]

Our trip has begun!   

Check out our photos in the Photo Gallery!

screencapture of Trip Photo Gallery image with play button

You Can Feel the Electricity!

posted May 9, 2014, 3:26 PM by Pamela Gades

Eighth Graders posing in their Trip Sweatshirts
Eighth Graders Posing in their Trip Sweatshirts

Less Than a Week to Go!

posted May 7, 2014, 9:18 AM by Pamela Gades   [ updated May 7, 2014, 9:19 AM ]

We are under a week away from the big 2014 adventure! 

Right now there is a fair possibility of rain for Monday...I am hoping that changes, but we go on with activities unless weather becomes severe.  (Two years ago we had rain, snow, more rain, and then some rain...Been there and don't want to do it again!)

Please remember to bring a lunch for Monday...although I am most likely the one to forget in the midst of chaos in getting ready!

Your shirts, by the way, are at the school.  Pick them up in advance if you like, but do wear them Monday morning!  

If you are into Twitter, our hashtag is #sdtrip2014. The website, flawlessly ran by our UMM website goddess, Pam Gades :)

Daily journals and photos will be added as we go.  Take a peek at the site when you get a chance.  It is awesome, and Pam volunteers many hours to make it happen.

See you on Monday morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed - or at least bushy-tailed!

Ms. Schoeneck

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