|Parks for Learning
National parks enrich the lives of many in this nation. They provide access to the powerful ideas, values, and meanings associated with the remarkable cultural, natural, and recreational heritage of the United States. The National Park Service (NPS) strives to provide opportunities for all Americans to connect to their national heritage through the national parks. However, these opportunities are lacking for some — often due to a variety of social and economic factors.
The Teacher to Ranger to Teacher (TRT) Program offers a solution by linking National Park units with teachers from predominantly Title 1 (at least 30% of students on free or reduced cost meals) school districts.
Under TRT, selected teachers spend the summer working as park rangers, often living in the park. They perform various duties depending on their interests and the needs of the park, including developing and presenting interpretive programs for the general public, staffing the visitor center desk, developing curriculum-based materials for the park, or taking on special projects.
Then, during the school year, these Teacher Rangers bring the parks into the classroom by developing and presenting curriculum-based lesson plans that draw on their summer’s experience. In April, during National Park Week, Teacher Rangers wear their NPS uniforms to school, discuss their summer as a park ranger, and engage students and other teachers in activities that relate to America’s national parks.
This is made possible through an Inter-governmental Personnel Act Agreement (IPA) between the public school district and the National Park Service. The Teacher to Ranger to Teacher Program began in Colorado in 2003 and in 2007 became a nation-wide program. During the summer of 2008, parks had over 90 Teacher Rangers in uniform learning about their national heritage and serving National Park Service visitors.