We’re back from a fabulous four days in the Badlands of South Dakota.
This was the first time the kids and I had ever been there, though Daryl was there years ago.
It was absolutely magical! Not only is the landscape breathtaking, but it’s rife with educational opportunities and it’s all sorts of fun to climb and explore.
It will definitely be a regular vacation stop for us.
We all agreed that May seemed to be the perfect month to visit, too. The weather was warm but not hot, the landscape was green and filled with the start of wildflowers, there weren’t many people yet, and hotel rates were cheaper since it was before Memorial Day.
Thank goodness we homeschool and can go on adventures all year, instead of waiting until school is out and the rates are highest.
There were so many magical experiences…. watching thousands of prairie dogs running around and chirping at us, seeing our first burrowing owls (read “Hoot” to fall in love with these darling birds), having bighorn sheep crossing in front of us on the road, driving past grazing buffalo (no fences!) in the park, seeing spectacular views, climbing landscapes that felt like the surface of Mars…
And there were so many educational aspects too…. touring the Minuteman Missile museum (SD was once filled with missiles during the Cold War and you can still tour one site!), earning ranger badges at the parks, getting up close to animals we’d only seen in zoos like pronghorn antelopes that just lay in the grass as we drove by, learning how the Badlands were formed, seeing fossils preserved under glass at the site from animals that lived there millions of years ago, learning the Native American history of the area, stopping at educational sites along the way and so much more.
Here’s 50 fun subjects we learned about on our quick trip!
- burrowing owls
- prairie dogs
- bighorn sheep
- bull snakes
- The Cold War
- Minuteman missiles
- The Great Inland Sea
- black-footed ferrets
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
- short, medium and tall grass prairies
- Wall Drug
- animal sounds (miss Fiona learned many!)
- new words (Fiona again — including vulture, buffalo and goat)
- Dr. Seuss and how his books were written to help children deal with fears of the Cold War and to diffuse politics
- Lewis and Clark
- long boats
- The Corn Palace
- pronghorn antelopes
- two-layered animal coats
- soils, sand and dirt (components, how they’re made, etc.)
- Native American names and how they’re given
- the meaning of Badlands
- outlaw history
- wagon trains
- The Wall Wildlife Museum
- baby prairie animals (Fiona)
- baby forest animals (Fiona)
- ghost towns (we explored one, Okaton)
- Pine Ridge Reservation
- vulture courtship
- Greek myths (on tape for the drive)
- baseball cards
- Lovecraft/Cthulhu (Victoria’s reading for the trip)
- Mt. Rushmore (we didn’t visit but we learned about it)
- vocabulary through Bananagrams at the hotel
- river bluffs and landscapes
- prehistoric animals
- South Dakota geography and news
- distance (we drove across the Missouri River and found out it was exactly a mile even though it seemed small)
- change, time and impermanence (Jack had a bit of an existential crisis at ten about how “someday this will all be gone” and we talked about how much it had changed and the vast amount of time it had all been there.)
- “Prairie Dogs Have Plague!”
Stay tuned for pictures of the ghost town we explored and more.