Back to School in America's National Parks
New NPS Website Helps Teachers Make Learning Relevant and Fun
WASHINGTON – Fifty-five million school kids are about to learn that America’s 401 national parks aren’t just for vacations.
Today, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis – with help from Adrian Burney’s eighth grade social studies class at Hyattsville Middle School in Maryland – launched a new National Park Service online service for educators that uses spectacular natural landscapes to teach science and the authentic places where history happened to infuse an understanding of the challenges we have faced as a nation.
“This site is a significant milestone in realizing the National Park Service’s potential as a premier provider of place-based education,” said Jarvis. “We have been entrusted with the care of the places that define the American experience, and now, through our new Teachers website, we can share these places and the lessons they teach with those who may not be able to visit in person. Students can learn about their country through educational materials that are teacher-tested and methods that are proven to enhance student comprehension.”
“Bringing America’s national parks into classrooms will help students build a lifelong connection with nature, history and the broad and diverse culture of our Nation,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “This new web tool is a perfect example of how technology can be used to bring us closer to our treasured landscapes and the stories and places that define the American people. I hope students and teachers across the country will use these new resources to learn about the parks and to inspire a future visit to our public lands, which belong to all Americans.”
The website at www.nps.gov/teachers is user friendly and easily searchable by location, keyword, and more than 125 subjects, ranging from archeology to biology to Constitutional law. An English class can study literature with a lesson plan from Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, a history teacher can borrow a traveling trunk from Jefferson Expansion National Memorial to make the story of westward expansion come alive, science students can chat live with a ranger from Grand Canyon National Park, and future explorers can climb Mount McKinley in Denali National Park.
The site also features materials produced by National Park Service programs, including nearly 150 lesson plans from the National Register of Historic Places’ award-winning Teaching with Historic Places program.
At today’s event, eighth grade students from Burney’s social studies class “traveled” to Grand Canyon National Park for a live distance learning geology lesson from park rangers Amala Posey and Andy Pearce. The students completed an interactive lesson about universal geologic principles and processes and used the Grand Canyon’s rock layers and formations to demonstrate how landscapes change over time.
“Traditionally, teachers took their classes to national parks on field trips, now, through this website, we can easily bring national parks into our classrooms,” said Burney. “The website provides educators with one-stop shopping for curriculum based lesson plans, distance learning programs, professional development opportunities, activities, and other resources from national parks across the country.”
The website is just one part of the National Park Service’s ongoing commitment to education. Every year, national parks offer more than 57,000 educational programs in parks for nearly three million students, in addition to the 563,000 interpretive programs attended by 12.6 million visitors. At launch, the website offered more than 700 lesson plans, 140 field trips, 50 traveling trunks, 44 distance learning opportunities, 16 teachers’ institutes, 47 online galleries, and 100 teacher workshops, and will add new content as it is developed. The site offers teachers the opportunity to rate the materials provided.
The National Park Service is also working with partners and educational institutions to expand programs and encourage the use of parks as places of learning. The agency has partnered with the Department of Education to integrate national park resources into core curriculums and, each summer, dozens of teachers participate in professional development opportunities in parks, creating education materials based on park resources through the Teacher Ranger Teacher program.
To learn more about the National Park Service’s education programs, visit www.nps.gov/teachers.
About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 401 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit us at www.nps.gov, on Facebook www.facebook.com/nationalparkservice, Twitter www.twitter.com/natlparkservice, and YouTube www.youtube.com/nationalparkservice.