Summer Exploration Institute teacher Mariah Weber helps student Laura Dennison use drafting software during an introduction to architecture lesson.
 Student Chris Reeves designs a building using drafting software during the Black Hills State University Summer Exploration Institute, one of several academic camps held at the University this summer.
Nearly 40 area elementary, middle and high school students recently explored the past, present and future of the Black Hills during the third annual Black Hills State University Summer Exploration Institute (SEI).

The students, ages 7-14, participated in a variety of activities during the weeklong course which focused on engaging their minds in creative and critical thinking. Topics explored included: architecture, land surveying, cryptography and music, identifying animal tracks, historical and contemporary printing presses, gridding and recording artifacts at an archaeological dig, and building a sustainable temporary structure in the wilderness.

After the classroom activities, students took field trips throughout the Black Hills to see what they had learned put into action. The group visited the Black Hills Pioneer, the High Plains Western Heritage Center, the Fort Meade Museum, an archaeological site near Fort Meade, and the Game Fish and Park’s Outdoor Campus West.

“The Summer Exploration Institute is a program we’ve developed for kids who would most likely be in gifted programs if they had the opportunity,” according to Dr. Mary Jones, director of SEI and assistant professor of education at BHSU.

Jones has 25 years of experience in developing programs and writing curriculum. SEI teachers included nine BHSU students, graduates, and community volunteers, several of whom are working on or have completed their gifted endorsement for the state of South Dakota.

“The teachers exceeded what we had planned by really researching their topics and making sure all the students were enjoying each of the activities. If it seemed like a student wasn’t enjoying an activity, they always did an excellent job helping them out, so all of the students ended up having a great time,” said Teri Bauerly , assistant director for SEI. Bauerly has been in the SEI program since the first year and was the first BHSU student to complete the gifted endorsement. She was a teacher the first year and has been the assistant director the last two years. Bauerly is currently completing her master’s in curriculum and instruction at BHSU.

Aaron Bauerly was one of the teachers for SEI this year and was a co-developer of the cryptography and music session using Garage Band curriculum. He noted that the idea for the lesson came from pondering different ways sound patterns could be used to communicate. “The idea was that sound patterns can be used to communicate even without words, which is how animals communicate. Moreover, there was a challenge message that, once decrypted, opened the door for questions about a different group’s activities at the Western Heritage Center,” he says. “This was my first time teaching a class like this, and I enjoyed a sense of fulfillment when I found students throughout the room completely engrossed in their compositions.”

The curriculum developed for SEI will be donated to the Western Heritage Center, Outdoor Campus West, and Fort Meade Museum. Plans are already underway for next year’s SEI, as well as the several other summer academic camps offered by BHSU. One more academic remains this summer—a camp for potential music majors called, “So you want to be a music major…” This camp will be held August 24th on the BHSU campus. For more information or to register for the music camp, visit the camp’s web page at https://edoutreach.bhsu.edu/music/. For more information regarding SEI contact Jones at Mary.Jones@BHSU.edu or 605.642.6833, or Teri Bauerly at Teri.Bauerly@yellowjackets.BHSU.edu.