Mount Rushmore is easily the most well-known landmark in South Dakota, drawing more than 2 million visitors in 2011. Thanks to some teachers in the Black Hills, students around the world are using the monument to learn about art, geometry, and algebra.
A visit to Mount Rushmore can be both fun and educational. But thanks to three-dimensional digital mapping of the monument, it's a learning experience that comes to you.
"They hit it with over 3 billion images, and the 3D imaging and what it does is just amazing," Hill City math teacher Ken Raga said.
Four teachers from Hill City and Custer partnered with the National Park Service to craft lesson plans from the Mount Rushmore data. Now, ten lessons for kindergarten through 12th grade students are available to teachers for free online at CyArk.org.
"The kids are excited about it because it is something hands on, real, that they can see," Raga said.
"The kids think it's really neat because we can move it. It's three-dimensional and you can twist it, you can see what the rock structures are like," Hill City art teacher Lori Jones said.
Students from all grade levels are using the curriculum to answer burning questions. Questions like, how many 1st graders can fit in George Washington's nose?
"I always think little kids like gross stuff, so the fact that they get to crawl into his nose is a kick," Jones said.
But the exercise is actually teaching kids about size and scale.
"We see it so far away that when we actually measure it and draw it out in art they can actually see how big the monument truly is," Jones said.
"It looks small because it's so high up," Hill City 1st grader Abby Cutler said.
The young students are also learning how to apply their new-found knowledge.
"They're drawing their favorite animal and then we'll sculpt it small. And then we can do some research and see how big the animal actually is compared to our little, tiny sculpture," Jones said.
"We're just going to make it into sculptures like the Mount Rushmore," Cutler said.
And in case you were wondering how many 1st graders fit in our first president's nose, the answer is 20.
If you would like to take a look at the 3D imaging of Mount Rushmore and the lesson plans available to teachers featuring the monument, visit CyArk.org.