Sep 15, 2023

CSC student gets taste of his future career in teaching

Posted Sep 15, 2023 1:00 PM


CHADRON – Chadron State College student Ethan Tussing of New Underwood, South Dakota, has completed two summer internships at the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota. A Social Science Education major, he said the summer job sounded like an interesting change of pace from his past work and more closely related to his future career.

“An internship gives you a great way to increase your confidence. It gives you a taste of teaching. If anyone's planning on going into education, I would highly recommend it,” he said. “It's good to get experience while you're still a student, especially doing something you're interested in.”

Chadron State College student Ethan Tussing, left, teaches children about fossils and the scientists who recover them July 26, 2023, in the education building at The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, S.D. (Courtesy photo, used with permission)
Chadron State College student Ethan Tussing, left, teaches children about fossils and the scientists who recover them July 26, 2023, in the education building at The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, S.D. (Courtesy photo, used with permission)

He chose CSC for several reasons, including its proximity to his home, the outstanding reputation of the Education program, more financial aid than at other institutions, and three generations of his family had attended in the past. He is a member of the Education Club and Vice President of the Blue Key Honor Society. In the community, he has been a TeamMates volunteer and mentored the same student since 2021.

Tussing visited the Mammoth Site often as a youngster.

“I was one of the dinosaur kids. I grew up in a very science-centered household, so it really interested me,” he said.

He and the other education staff members at the Mammoth Site took turns roving through the main building with carts full of items intended to spark conversations with guests. One memorable moment in the summer of 2023 came when he was teaching from a cart of fossilized animal scat.

“I was roving with the dung cart. A boy about eight or nine was with his grandparents and they were really interested. He was pretty quiet, so I was trying to get him engaged. Partway through our conversation he stopped me and told me I was doing a good job. It surprised me because he had been just sitting and listening. It really made me feel more confident. To have that spontaneously happen was super cool and reaffirmed I was doing a good job,” Tussing said.

Science Educator Seth Vandenberg said Tussing was such an exemplary employee that he won the Intern of the Year award, which includes a $1,000 scholarship.

“Ethan has a combination of knowledge and attitude that make him excellent at working with guests of all ages and backgrounds. Using skills he learned both here at the Mammoth Site and at Chadron State, Ethan was able to take topics that might be unfamiliar to guests, such as coprolites, and teach them not only the importance and utility of studying fossil droppings, but also keep their interest and spur them to ask further questions,” Vandenberg said.

Another of Tussing’s favorite memories came during the summer of 2022 while he was teaching a paleontology class for children ages four to 12.

“A boy about seven or eight was digging in the pit when his parents asked me to be in a picture with him. They showed me a picture of the boy’s older brother eight or nine years before. He had taken the same class in the same building with a different instructor. So, they wanted to set up a similar photo of the younger son and I was honored to be part of recreating that memory,” Tussing said.

The internship has provided Tussing insights into teaching techniques he wants to implement in his future classroom.

“We make sure the people on the tour remain interested and willing to listen, as well as developing skills like being able to read the room,” Tussing said. “We like to talk about context or the story around the fossils. An example we used was the exhibit at the Trailside Museum at Fort Robinson of two mammoths locked together. If they had dug around one and immediately taken it out of the ground, they could have ruined the story about how the animals died.”

Tussing highly recommends meeting new people and forging connections during an internship. This opportunity was readily available to him in the on-site housing provided for the 13 to 18 summer interns.

“This year we had a student from Canada and last year we had people from California, Maryland, and everywhere in between. It's been absolutely fantastic,” Tussing said.

Tussing’s family has long-term ties to CSC, science, and the Mammoth Site.

His maternal grandparents, Gary and Nancy Fisher of Crawford, Nebraska, knew the late Dr. Larry Agenbroad, chief scientist and director of the Mammoth Site. Gary Fisher was a geoscience major while Agenbroad was on the CSC faculty.

“My grandpa took about every class taught by Dr. Agenbroad. He loved his classes and knew him pretty well,” Tussing said.

After the Fishers graduated from CSC, they remained friends with Agenbroad and occasionally received behind-the-scenes tours of the Mammoth Site from him.

“They got to see almost every facet of what was going on at the time,” Tussing said.

Tussing’s mother, Maria Tibbets, is a CSC alum who works with the University of Nebraska Lincoln translating beef research data into interesting formats for the public.

His father, Chad Tussing, oversaw the construction of the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks’ Outdoor Campus West and was the first manager of the facility.

“I took it all in. I have pictures of me wearing a hard hat, watching the construction,” he said. “I definitely have deep ties to that place.”