THE MAMMOTH Site of Hot Springs, South Dakota, Inc. is the largest accumulation of Columbian Mammoths discovered in their primary context in the world. The site was found in 1974, during excavation for a housing project. Over one million visitors from all over the world have come to see the bone remains of 48 Columbian and 3 Woolly mammoths, plus 25 species of other animals that lived together 26,000 years ago.

The Mammoth Site is a popular tourist attraction, but it can also be considered a giant classroom with numerous educational possibilities available. In 1991 our Outreach program was started to encourage students within a 150 mile radius to visit the site for 30 minute guided tours.

It soon became apparent that something more interesting than a guided tour was needed to keep students coming back year after year. In 1993 we added our Junior Paleontologist dig for students ages 7 to 15. The children who participate in this program learn how to properly excavate fiberglass casts of mammoth bones that are buried in a mock dig. Depending on the age and interest level of the student, they can also learn how to identify the bones they find, prepare field notes, and map their excavation sites.

To further develop the educational possibilities of the Mammoth Site, we met with local teachers from the Hot Springs Elementary school district. Eleven teachers (Kindergarten through Fifth grade) volunteered to help develop hands-on curricular activities that would take students out of their classrooms and into the Mammoth Site. Dr. Lois Veath, education specialist from Chadron State College, Chadron, Nebraska was hired to develop activities in a hands-on way to re-enforce concepts learned in the classroom.

We wanted to encourage return visits, so the activities are designed so that students learn a new concept about the Mammoth Site each year. Some examples: what makes a fossil; excavating, mapping, graphing; adaptation / extinction; and what animal tracks can tell us. The activities are in three segments: pre-activities done in the classroom prior to coming to the Mammoth Site; on-site activities done at the site; and post-activities that can be done back in the classroom. It is important for students to understand that the study of the animals found at the Mammoth Site help us learn what the environment in our area was like 26,000 years ago.