Sparkle Schoolhouse
FIFTY Study Page – South Dakota: "Trying to Do Some Good"

FIFTY Study Page – South Dakota: "Trying to Do Some Good"

“Trying to Do Some Good” is a story that takes place in the gold rush era of the Dakota Territory. Most people have heard of the rough-and-tumble Wild West character Calamity Jane and her gun toting, hard talking, men’s clothes wearing reputation. But like many of the larger-than-life heroes and villains of the American West, the truth is much more subtle and complicated. For when an outbreak of smallpox threatens the town of Deadwood, South Dakota, it is not the doctor or the marshall or even the caretaking women of the town that step forward to help, but Calamity Jane herself that sacrifices her own safety to be of service.

Note: Though this is historical fiction and the characters have been developed to accommodate a story, their attributes and development may be useful as reference points and inspirations.


South Dakota History - Tracking the various “Gold Rush” episodes in American history - Compelling biographies of Wild West characters like Wild Bill Hickok, George Custer and Calamity Jane - History of Westward Expansion

South Dakota Geography - Tracing Jane’s path from Missouri around the west and eventually to South Dakota - Map of Dakota Territory - Map of Black Hills and the gold rush towns

“Trying to Do Some Good” Study Topics - The impact of epidemics in America – including smallpox - The impact of westward expansion on the western Native American Tribes


From a Child Development Perspective:

In this story, your child might learn about:

  • The importance of the dedication of service to others. Calamity Jane, expecting nothing in return other than the satisfaction of doing good in the world, dedicated her life in service in consideration of others. Children thrive knowing that there are people in the world committed to the well-being of others, and it is important to give them such a role models who have made a real and lasting positive change in the world.

  • The ability to see other people through kind and grateful eyes, even when they, themselves, don’t see themselves as such. Burgess saw Calamity Jane's heart, not that she was “just a muleskinned vagrant."

  • The perseverance required to endure and overcome illness. When we endure and overcome illness, it can make us stronger, but also it might change us. Smallpox did leave its victims with scars from the pox, but it also left them immune to getting it again!

  • That sometimes real confidence is required to be who you truly are. Calamity Jane was a unique woman and person in her time. She had a strong identity, and confidently broke out of the mold of what was expected of women and even individuals at that time.

  • Sometimes our life tells us that we need to make different decisions than the ones we planned on originally. People come and go in our lives and if we change for the better, then our actions may follow suit. Burgess changed his life plan, once he met Calamity Jane!

  • Even if you can't help everybody, doing good makes a difference! In our story, Calamity Jane was a dedicated healer, even though some still died of smallpox.

  • Sometimes, to make lasting and positive change in the world, and to try to do some good, raising a calamity is what is needed, and not just obedient compliance! Calamity Jane sure raised a ruckus or two!

About the Authors

David Sewell McCann

Story Spinner

David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.

Meredith Markow

Sparkle Schoolhouse Head of School

Meredith has been working with adults and children of all ages for the past 25 years as a Waldorf Teacher and Educational Consultant. She received a B.A. with a focus on child development and child psychology from the University of Michigan, in 1984, an M.A. Ed from Washington University in 1987, and her Waldorf Teaching Certificate from the Lehrerausbildung (Teacher Training) in Nurnberg, Germany in 1989. She was certified as a Living Inquiries Facilitator in 2014, and she completed her formal teaching certification with The Enneagram Institute in 2014. Her work in the classroom and with individuals and groups is designed to help people of all ages to drop self-limiting beliefs to live a more joyful and compassionate life.

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