"Connections" is the theme of the park's environmental education program. The program is designed to enhance learning in many curriculum areas and to illustrate the connections between the mixed grass prairie, the ponderosa pine forest, Wind Cave, and the plants and animals that live in the park, as well as the connections between each of us and other organisms on our planet.
We offer the Connections program in May. After the teachers make reservations for the program, they will receive an information packet. The packet includes a description of the grade specific concept, curriculum goals and objectives, pre-visit classroom activities to introduce the concept, a vocabulary list, park background information, and post-visit activities to reinforce the ideas presented at the park. For reservations, please contact the park at (605) 745-4600.
The Connections program introduces specific ecological concepts using activities that awaken enthusiasm, focus attention, allow for direct experience, and encourage students to share inspiration. These concepts increase in complexity with grade levels and are designed to match children's developmental stages. The concepts presented at each grade level include:
First grade Similarities and Differences - This unit sensitizes students to the environment and excites them about exploring nature. They will look at the different park habitats and animals and have a chance to visit the cave to see how it is different.
Second grade Homes and Habitat - Students begin to identify a variety of "homes" or habitats in the natural world and their different components. Discussions will cover the effects of changes to the habitat and how we protect habitats.
Third grade Adaptation in Nature - Students explore how plants, animals, and humans adapt to changes in their environment.
Fourth grade Order in Nature - By observing and understanding patterns in nature, many things can be predicted. This unit introduces the concept that there is a natural order in the way things occur and in the way they are arranged. It illustrates that patterns assist animals and plants to survive.
Fifth grade Continuity and Change - This unit introduces students to natural cycles and changes in the environment and that all components of nature are in a constant state of change.
Sixth grade Interaction and Interdependence - Students will explore the idea that all parts of an ecological system are interdependent. Plants and animals live in a community in which each species contributes to the functioning of the overall system. In a functioning ecosystem, life forms and environmental factors interact to maintain a dynamic equilibrium.
Seventh/Eighth Limiting Factors - This unit exposes students to the concept that limiting factors control all parts of an ecosystem. These limiting factors will differ from system to system and from species to species. Discussion will involve fire, predator/prey relationships, habitat, adaptation, and the role of humans.
Did You Know?
Fire is an important factor in protecting the prairie. Historically, fires burned across the prairie every 4 to 7 years. Fires burn the small trees that would otherwise march across the prairie and turn the grasslands to forest.