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Spearfish students step 'In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse'

Seventh-grade students at Spearfish Middle School recently visited Crazy Horse Memorial as the culmination of an interdisciplinary unit, thanks to a grant from the Spearfish Foundation for Public Education.

Kathy Wolff, seventh-grade English and language arts teacher at Spearfish Middle School, explained the seventh-graders read the book, “In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse,” by Joseph Marshall III. The students also participated in a cross-curricular unit to research and learn about the impact Crazy Horse and Korczak Ziolkowski — the designer and sculptor of the Crazy Horse Memorial near Custer — had in the Black Hills.

“The capstone event was our trip to Crazy Horse Memorial and meeting Monique Ziolkowski, Korczak’s daughter and CEO of Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation,” Wolff said.

Students traveled to the memorial on Oct. 27 and participated in various activities, Wolff said the students learned about the history and future of the memorial, the culture of Native Americans and their influence in the Black Hills, and relevant Native American traditions.

“We are proud to support this fabulous team of teachers and their recent journey to Crazy Horse Memorial with their seventh-grade students,” Mary Pochop, chairperson of the SFPE board of directors, said. “Thank you to our teachers, Kathy Wolff, Paula Farley, Dale Singer, and Hayley Baker for their leadership and innovation on this project.”

This school year marks Wolff’s 14th year with the Spearfish School District, and she explained this is not the first time the Foundation has supported an innovative learning opportunity for students using the area’s local history. She first applied for a grant with the SFPE when she taught sixth-grade ELA and social studies.

“My vision was to teach my students the history of gold in the Black Hills, take them to important historical places, and have them experience gold panning,” she said. “In cooperation with the Black Hills Mining Museum, Wharf Mining and The Adams Museum, the Foundation gave my students a unique learning experience.”

In addition, Wolff has received grants from the SFPE to incorporate diverse reading materials into her ELA classroom, as well as funding to purchase an informational reading platform to meet a variety of Lexile reading levels. Wolff expressed her thanks to the SFPE and all of the supporters who make the grants possible.

“Thank you for the long hours and hard work the Board of Directors puts in for our students; to the people who monetarily support the Foundation; to the administrators who support our efforts; and to the teachers, who continually work to come up with and execute amazing learning opportunities in the Spearfish School District classrooms,” she said.

Work on Crazy Horse Memorial began in 1948 and was commissioned by Lakota elder Henry Standing Bear with Ziolkowski as the sculptor. When Ziolkowski died in 1974, his wife Ruth took charge of the project until her death in 2014. The remaining members of the Ziolkowski family continues their work on the complex.

In addition to the carving of Crazy Horse into the side of the mountain, the Crazy Horse Memorial complex also includes the Indian Museum of North America, the Native American Educational and Cultural Center, the Sculptor Home and Studio, and the Mountain Carving Gallery.

Crazy Horse Memorial is a nonprofit organization that does not accept any federal funding. When the carving is complete, the mountain sculpture will become the second-tallest statue in the world.

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