A Teacher's Perspective

June 17, 2014 Posted by: Josh Menke

We’re now one week into the program and my excitement for this summer only continues to grow. Jayden, Trevor, and Santana have completed their first two days and Emerald and Jenica start tomorrow.

A little background on myself and the history of this program:

I have been the high school math teacher at Crazy Horse School (CHS) in Wanblee, SD since 2011 and last summer I began working at Badlands National Park as a supervisor for local youth as they started internships at the park. Two of our three new interns that year, Dwan and Earl, are my students at Crazy Horse School and I still can’t believe how much they have grown, both professionally and as young leaders, over the past 12 months. This past school year Earl and Dwan led a group of their peers from CHS on two separate overnight leadership retreats to the Badlands, gave presentations to elementary and middle school students on the geology and history of the park, performed puppet-shows alongside our park Artist-in-Residence, and led our entire middle school (grades 6-8) on an end-of-year field trip to the park. We even had the opportunity to travel to New York City in January as ambassadors for the park, Pine Ridge Reservation, and our school! (Thanks in large part to the generosity of The Calhoun School and park ranger Gary Cohen.) And to think that Dwan once said public speaking was her greatest fear!

The expansion of our program this year to include 5 new interns (plus 4 returning) is a testament to last summer’s interns and the passion and commitment they brought to their work. Simply put, the promise we have seen from Dwan, Earl, Joseph, and Nathan has encouraged us to be ever more audacious with our plans. That our 5 new interns are all Crazy Horse School students also speaks to the incredible excitement Dwan and Earl were able to build up for the program among their peers. Over 1/3 of the high school students at my school applied for the 5 spots! As part of their application, all of this year’s applicants were asked to complete 3 essay questions and participate in a formal interview with a park ranger, which was a wonderful professional learning experience, even for those who weren’t selected. I have heard over and over from my students that they want to work and earn money for their families, but that there are simply no jobs to be found in our very rural context. So to again supervise 9 wonderful students as they begin or continue with their first jobs is pretty special.

And who knows? The 2012 General Management Plan for the South Unit of Badlands National Park recommends the establishment of the nation’s first tribal national park in partnership with the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Today’s interns may well be the leaders of tomorrow’s National Park Service.

Josh Menke, Park Ranger, Badlands National Park and Math Teacher, Crazy Horse School


Josh poses with student/park intern Jayden, dressed as "Smokey": https://www.flickr.com/photos/badlandsnationalpark/14388329349/

1 Comments Comments icon

  1. June 20, 2014 at 06:09

    Inspiring... Very uplifting to read about you and your students making big strides towards individual goals, and to read about the real people who are backing such a positive movement! Sounds like you guys are in for a wonderful summer.

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