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Minuteman Missile Launches School Outreach Program

2/5/2008
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Minuteman Missile National Historic Site– Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is proud to announce the success of its first educational outreach program to West River region schools. The park is currently giving a series of in school programs to teach West River students about Minuteman Missiles and the pronounced effect the missile field had on the South Dakota landscape and the lives of West River citizens for nearly 30 years.

Interpretive Park Ranger Chris Wilkinson has been presenting educational programs in classrooms throughout the winter. Among the districts covered thus far include schools in the Milesville, Wanblee, Kadoka, Midland, Long Valley and Cheyenne River areas. Additional programs are now scheduled for Faith and Wall. Students from elementary through high school classes have learned about the 150 strong Minuteman Missile Field and the associated 15 Launch Control sites which once covered the West River region.

Students and teachers have been surprised to learn that the missiles along with nuclear bombers stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base would have made South Dakota one of the five most powerful places in the world if it had been a separate nation during the Cold War. The Minuteman Missile once stretched from Belvidere, northwest to Faith and over to Spearfish.

Teacher feedback has been tremendously positive. As Milesville school teacher, Teresa Deuchar stated, "we were looking so forward to this program and it met all our expectations. We are now considering a field trip to the site."

Students first watch a park produced film that leads them on a virtual tour of the site. Ranger Wilkinson then presents a PowerPoint program that educates each class on the Cold War and why Minuteman Missiles were sited across Western South Dakota for national defense purposes. The program allows ample time for discussion and feedback. Many students are amazed to discover that their parents and grandparents once lived literally at what could have been "ground zero" during the Cold War. Others feel a personal connection with the missile sites, since many have direct ancestors who once had silos placed on their property.

The program also consists of a hands-on component, where students handle a section of the 1,732 mile underground cable which once connected the silos to their remote launch centers. Each program concludes with official Minuteman Missile Junior Activity Programs distributed to all students. These are completed and sent back to Ranger Wilkinson who issues official patches and certificates for each student.

Ranger Wilkinson will continue to provide these education programs throughout the spring. There is still time for schools to sign up for a ranger visit. Interested teachers and schools can call Ranger Wilkinson at: (605)-433-5552 to schedule a program specifically tailored to meet their classroom needs. Inquiries can also be made via e-mail at: mimi_info@nps.gov

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