There are more than 400 National Park areas in the National Park System, set aside by Congress to preserve and protect the best of our natural, recreational, cultural and historical resources for the use and enjoyment of all persons, including future generations.
As diverse as the visitors who come to them, the parks may offer any one or a combination of the following: camping, hiking trails, scenic overlooks, bird watching, educational programs, museums, picnic areas, horseback riding, auto tour routes, nature trails, interpretive trails, bike trails, campfire programs, swimming, whitewater rafting and rock climbing. Some of the more remote parks offer grocery stores, restaurants and sleeping facilities.
A park may have several outstanding natural features for which it was set aside, or it may be preserved for a specific site. Park management is set up much like a school system, with the rangers being the teachers. Each day brings new challenges to a park and its resources.
Upon arriving at some of the National Parks, the visitor pays a small entrance fee and is handed a park map outlining the major resources and sites to visit. Larger parks have a visitor center where rangers dispense information about the park.
One part of a ranger’s job is to interpret the park resources and problems to the visitors so that they understand the concerns of the park. Why? Because parks belong to the people who must be educated about these valuable resources and how to preserve and protect them!
For each pair of students:
One 15-foot piece of string
Six popsicle sticks
Poker chips (or peanuts) - at least one per student
PRE-SITE, ON-SITE OR POST-SITE ACTIVITIES
Students create their own mini-National Park in a specified outdoor area, marking a nature trail and providing visitors with information about their park.
1. Discuss the concept of a National Park with the students. What is the difference between a National Park and a State Park?
2. Ask students what they would like in a "perfect" National Park.
3. Pair off the students. Distribute the materials listed above to each pair.
4. Assign, or let each pair choose, an outdoor spot for their National Park. Using their string, they should rope off their area.
5. Students must move about their National Park on hands and knees. Using the magnifying glass, the students should choose the scenic values of their park. For example, a crack could be a canyon, and a rock could be a mountain.
6. Give the class a few minutes to set up the trails in their park, using the popsicle sticks. After they have marked their parks, they must make a brochure (including a map) advertising their park.
7. Once the parks are ready for business, the "rangers" (the paired students) must sell their park by shouting out its attributes. Ask the pairs to split up. One student in the pair should remain in the park to interpret it, while the second visits other parks. The students may then switch. The poker chips or peanuts are the entrance fee needed to visit another National Park. Every student must visit at least one other National Park.
8. After visiting the other parks, ask the students the following questions:
Did they have problems getting visitors to come to their park?
Were visitors always careful with the parks’ resources?
Did they have too many visitors?
What would they change?
What problems occurred?
How would they raise money to improve the park’s facilities?
1. Discuss why we should have National Parks. What can students do to help protect the resources in a National Park? Who has the responsibility of preserving and protecting the park for future generations? Write a proposal to get funding for a National Park.
2. After completing the curriculum guide, have the students revisit "their" park. With additional information, would they rewrite their proposal for their park? Would they change the facilities they have in their park? Would they select another site for their park? If so, how and why?