The Black Hills, Part II: Custer State Game Lodge

The beautiful and historic Custer Game Lodge in Custer State Park, South Dakota. Two small wings have been added for extra guests, and a campground is down the road, but the original building just oozes beauty, class, and style. The “Game Lodge” is the epitome of nature and comfort in the state. My cousin’s dacha near Scotland has been described as “Game Lodge East,” both in reference to his brilliance at decoration and as an homage to what all South Dakotans aspire to.

The Game Lodge has played its role in American history, serving President Coolidge as the 1927 version of the Western White House. Eisenhower, who vacationed here, gets a small and obviousl added-in plaque

The Game Lodge is surrounded by small hills. Decided to climb one, and half way up we met (hid from at close range behind big rocks) a buffalo. This creature, who is not referred to by any non-pretentious South Dakotans as a “bison,” is not tame and kills a tourist or so a year.

Even the flowers are tough out West River!

The Black Hills, which Wikipedia describes as “island of trees in a sea of grass,” itself is a sea of trees with islands of grass above. A bad fire years ago burned much of Custer State Park, and it is through miracles (as well as firefighters) that the historical lodges survived. The top of the hill we climbed was destroyed, and offers the sort of views not seen anywhere else in the state.

Evidence of the destruction:

Welcome back down, decided to take a “short-cut” (actually, it was my idea). “This looks like an easy trail!” I thought. Ha!

The last part of our stay at Custer State Game Lodge was the famous wildlife loop. Buffalo move in small herds from one place to the next, and we followed the migration of one such group.

The grasslands of the Hills also are home to more graceful herbivores.

Not native to the Hills, the “begging burros” are the cute descendants of donkeys once used by the Park to bring visitors to the top of hills. They were let loose, and they learned (as the deer and buffalo never did) that visitors will feed them if they act docilely. These donkeys are spoiled. Unlike regular donkeys, who will east grass out of your hand, the begging burros want good food.

All is not peaceful, however. Several of the animals had visibly nipped ears, presumably from intra-donkey rivalries.


The Black Hills, a tdaxp series
0. Pierre
1. Crazy Horse
2. Custer State Game Lodge
3. Blue Bell Lodge
4. Mount Rushmore
5. Goofy Custer
6. The Badlands

Curriculum Development (with Thoughts on Genetic Factors)

Teaching Through the Curriculum: The Development of a Comprehensive Honors Program,” by Anthony Lisska, in Inspiring Teaching, October 1996,

Formulating and Clarifying Curriculum Objectives,” by John Biggs, Teaching for Quality Learning at University, 1 February 2003,

Multiple Intelligences After Twenty Years,” by Howard Gardner, Paper Presented at the American Educational Research Association, 21 April 2003, (from Wikipedia).

Mark of ZenPundit‘s recent call of autotelic education kindly listed both Howard Gardner and myself as inspirations. Happily, an online paper by Howard shows that, hopefully, we are inspiring in different ways. On genetics, for example:

Second, from the start, one of the appealing aspects of MI [Multiple Intelligences] theory was its reliance on biological evidence. At the time, in the early 1980s, there was little relevant evidence from genetics or evolutionary psychology; such speculations were mere handwaving. There was powerful evidence from the study of neuropsychology for the existence of different mental faculties; and that evidence constituted the strongest leg on which to justify MI theory.

At the time that MI theory was introduced, it was very important to make the case that human brains and human minds are highly differentiated entities. It is fundamentally misleading to think about a single mind, a single intelligence, a single problem-solving capacity. And so, along with many others, I tried to make the argument that the mind/brain consists of many modules/organs/intelligences, each of which operates according to its own rules in relative autonomy from the others.

Happily, a piece I have to read for college teaching this week also includes an excerpt from Gardner on page 44:

The greatest enemy of understanding is coverage — I can’t repeat that often enough. If you’re determined to cover a lot of things, you are guaranteeing that most kids will not understand, because they haven’t had time enough to go into things in depth, to figure out what the requisite understanding is, and be able to perform that understanding in different situations

Which he repeated in the same public speech, on page 9:

Efforts to cover too much material doom the achievement of understanding. We are most likely to enhance understanding if we probe deeply in a small number of topics. And once the decision is made to “uncover” rather than “cover,” it is possible to take advantage of our multiple intelligences. Put concretely, we can approach topics in a number of ways; we can make use of analogies and comparisons drawn from a range of domains; and we can express the key notions or concepts in a number of different symbolic forms.

The rest of my notes for the week’s reading are below the fold:

“In fact, the longer most undergraduate students… stay in most tertiary institutions, the less deep and the more surface oriented they tend to become, and the more their understanding is assessment related.” (Biggs 2003 34-35)

“The Harvard Project Zero Team (Garder 1993; Wiske 1998) focused on the higher levels of understanding in high school science. They came up with the idea that if students ‘really’ understood a concept they would act differently in contexts involving that concept, and could use the concept in unfamiliar or novel contexts.” (Biggs 2003 35)

“This distinction between knowing more and restructuring parallels two major curriculum aims: to increase knowledge (quantitative: unistructural becoming increasingly multistructural); and to deepen understanding (qualitative: relational, then extended abstract).” (Biggs 2003 39-40)

“In sum, functioning knowledge involves declarative knowledge (the academic knowledge base), procedural knowledge (having the skills), and conditional knowledge (knowing the circumstances for using them).” (Biggs 2003 41)

“What level of understanding are the students to achieve? The following steps are needed. 1. Decide what kind of knowledge is to be involved [and] 2. Select the topcis to teach [as well as] 3. The purpose for teaching the topic, and hence the level of knowledge desirable for students to acquire.” (Biggs 2003 44-45)

“High-level, extended abstract involvement is indicated by such verbs as theorize, hypothesize, generalize, reflect, generate, and so on. They call for the student to conceptualize at a level extending beyond what has been dealt with in actual teaching. The next level of involvement, relational, is indicated by apply, integrate, analyze, explain, and the like; they indicate orchestration between facts and theory, action and purpose. Classify, describe, list, indicate a multistructural level fo involvement: the understanding of boundaries; but not of systems. Memorize, identify, recognize are unistructural: direct, concrete, each sufficient to itself but minimalistic.” (Biggs 2003 46)

“The following questions need addressing: Why [for what student benefit] are you teaching the subject? [and] Is it an introductory or advanced subject?” (Biggs 2003 47)

“Quantitative definitions of a grade make true criterion-referencing extremely difficult.” (Biggs 2003 50)

“To meet these [Honor Program] needs required, we suggested the accomplishment of several goals as articulated int he following propositions: … 5) a physical space was required that would be devoted to honors students and their work.” (Lisska 1996 93) (compare to importance of geography in creativity)