Buffalo jump calls for field trip volunteers

By Sarah Pridgeon

Showing kids how the buffalo were jumped and what the site can tell us about Native American history has become an important focus for the Vore Buffalo Jump over the years. This May, volunteers are needed to facilitate more school field trips than ever before.

“This part of the Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation mission is very important to me and to the rest of the board. We try our best to make the experience fun and educational for the students,” says Jackie Wyatt, board member.

“This is more field trips than we’ve done other seasons.”

Unfortunately, that milestone has coincided with several of the jump’s usual volunteers becoming temporarily unavailable. The foundation hopes that members of the community will be able to help keep the program going through the spring.

Though a training session is planned for the first Saturday in May, says Wyatt, volunteers do not need extensive knowledge of the buffalo jump and its history

(courtesy photo) Fourth graders from the Rozet school soak up history during a field trip at the Vore Buffalo Jump.
(courtesy photo) Fourth graders from the Rozet school soak up history during a field trip at the Vore Buffalo Jump.

“Really it’s just if you enjoy kids and are interested the archaeology of the Vore site or the Native American history that we try to cover,” she says.

“Our volunteers don’t need to know a whole lot because it’s board members like me, who have been with the site for a long time, who do the parts of the story that you have to have more than just a basic knowledge of.”

Volunteers will be tasked with facilitating the trips and supervising activities. Each field trip lasts around two hours from the moment the kids arrive to the time they climb back onto the bus and includes around 60 students in groups of eight, each with an adult from the school.

“Volunteers man the stations. The rotation includes an arrow point dig box (each child takes home a souvenir point), the uses of the bison puzzle, a story, the tipi with a board member who tells them about how the hunters jumped the buffalo and who these hunters likely were, and the bone bed where a board members talks about the archaeology,” says Wyatt.

“This year, we are pleased to be partnering with the USFS to have a station where the students can throw spears at a target using a throwing stick called an atlatl.”

Students come from near and far to spend time at the buffalo jump in both the spring and fall. The field trips began even before the site had buildings, Wyatt says; the men and women excavating the site would simply raise the metal door leading into the dig site and talk to the kids.

Last fall, says Wyatt, a total of 425 students were welcomed to the site – and more are expected this season.

“The Gillette, Moorcroft, and Deadwood schools are all returning. Some of the Gillette schools have come for at least four years,” she says.

Schools from Casper heard such good things that they asked to bring their kids to the jump, Wyatt says, while the Gillette students have been coming for a long time.

“It’s grown so that I think we have four in the spring and the other three come in the fall, so we see every fourth grader,” she says of the Gillette schools.

“We’re geared towards fourth graders because that’s the year that all the states do state history.”

This will be the third year that Deadwood third graders have visited, while Newcastle comes every fall and also requests classroom presentations. The Spearfish sixth graders also come every fall.

Spearfish sixth graders come every fall.

Volunteers needn’t be able to attend each field trip this spring – the site will take any help you are able to offer, Wyatt says. The schedule for the field trips is as follows:

May 11, 10:30 am: Gillette Sunflower 4th grade;  May 12, 10:30 am: Gillette Conestoga 4th grade; May 15, 9 am: Sundance 4th grade; May 16, 4 pm: Casper Wood’s Learning Center 4th/5th; May 17, 9:15 am: Moorcroft 4th grade; May 18, 10:15 am: Deadwood 3rd grade; May 19, 10:30 am: Gillette Buffalo Ridge 4th grade; May 22, 10 am: Gillette Lakeview 4th grade; May 22, 12 pm: Calvary Christian 4th grade; May 23, 11 am: Casper Park 4th grade.

Contact info@vorebuffalojump.org or call Wyatt at 307 281 0011 if you are able to volunteer for any of these field trips.