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Fulfilling the NPS Mission 101
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Interpretive Talk 103
Conducted Activity 210
Interpretive Demonstration 220
Interpretive Writing 230
Curriculum-based Program 270
Planning Park Interpretation 310
Interpretive Media Development 311
Leaning Interpreters 330
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Planning Park Interpretation Curriculum-based Program Interpretive Writing Interp. Demonstration Conducted Activity Interpretive Talk Informal Visitor Contacts Fulfilling NPS Mission IDP Homepage Interp. Media Development Leading Interpreters Interp. Research Interpretive Writing Curriculum-based Program Planning Park Interpretation Interp. Media Development Leading Interpreters Interpretive Research Interp. Demonstration Conducted Activity Interpretive Talk Informal Visitor Contacts Fulfilling NPS Mission IDP Homepage





About the Module The Curriculum Certification Standard About Submission More Resources Anchor Products
Component for Module 270

Elements of Curriculum-based Programs

Content Outline l Resources l Developmental Activities | Next

Many organized groups visit national parks to complement their studies. The park experience becomes an integral part of their curriculum. Curriculum-based programs connect the learning objectives of organized groups through a sequence of learning opportunities with the meanings and significance(s) inherent in park resources. This component will describe what is meant by "curriculum" and outline the elements of effective curriculum-based programs.

Upon completion of this component the learner will be able to:

  • Define curriculum;

  • Describe the purpose and use of curricula;

  • List at least three types of curricula;

  • Identify the elements of an effective curriculum-based program.

What is curriculum? Most organizations have guidelines that focus and shape their daily operations. For units in the National Park Service, it is the Mission Statement, the Strategic Plan, the General Management Plan, and the Comprehensive Interpretive Plan, among others. For schools, it is their curriculum. Curriculum comes from different sources depending on the state and community. There are national curriculum frameworks or standards for many subject or discipline areas, many states have their own curriculum guidelines or framework, and many towns, cities, or school districts also have curriculum guidelines to provide guidance for education. Teachers, at all grade levels, follow this given curriculum that basically outlines for them what to teach and when to teach it, and in some cases even how to teach it. Other educational groups such as scouts working on a badge also follow a curriculum or a "structured plan for learning." This is important because learning is a building process. Ultimately, it is the teacher who applies the curriculum.

A park curriculum-based program identifies common points of interest by matching park resources, mission and goals, and interpretive themes with the learning plan or curriculum objectives of an organized educational group. These connections can be made easily and naturally. For example, if a site tells a Civil War story, a first step might be to identify what grade levels focus on this period of American history. Likewise, if the park story emphasizes natural history, a first step might be to identify the specific subject areas, earth science, or geology for example, and match them with the same subjects or skills covered in various curricula.

Regardless of group type, identifying the intended learning outcome of their visit is a key element in a successful presentation. Specifically what do they want to learn during their site visit (or offsite presentation)? These objectives will vary in complexity and format, and can be long and detailed, or brief and general in nature. Nevertheless, they are identified and addressed if the experience is to be considered curriculum-based.

Planning this match between park goals/themes and the educational group's objectives may have already been accomplished at your site by your supervisor, education coordinator or specialist, or chief of interpretation. State or local curriculum guides, or group syllabi may already be on file in your park. The program you present will often fit within a larger context in your park. Consult the Comprehensive Interpretive Plan or Education Plan for your site if they exist, or talk with your chief of interpretation or education coordinator, to start from the foundation they may have already established. It is critical for every presenter to understand the connections between the park resource and the educational curricula that may have already been developed. Curriculum guidelines also provide valuable information about the context within which a group may be studying your park story and about the foundation of knowledge they may bring with them.

Curriculum-based programs for organized groups incorporate all the elements of good interpretive programs. They are fundamentally different, however, from general-public interpretive programs in two ways:

1) They address a group's specific educational goals and/or objectives.
2) They include planned preparation, ranger-led event (or docent-, VIP-, cooperator-led, etc.), and follow- up experiences to provide the participants with a sequence of learning opportunities.

Using this information, interpreters present programs using techniques and activities specifically designed to meet the participant's needs and curricular objectives to further the park's mission. Effective curriculum-based programs help learners make connections with park resources on cognitive, affective, and physical levels. This component identifies the elements of an effective curriculum-based program and the elements of a lesson plan.

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Content Outline
I. What is curriculum? ("The what, when, and how a subject is taught." Or, the NPS training definition: A series of thematic courses of study in which participants learn desired knowledge, skills and/or abilities)

II. Importance of curriculum

A. Learning - a building process
B. Context, sequence, timing
C. Maximizes learning
D. Sustainability
E. Fulfills community requirements and expectations

III. Kinds of curriculum

A. National standards
B. State frameworks
C. Local, county, district, city, school, home-schooled
D. Organizational
E. Teacher-determined

IV. Elements of effective curriculum-based programs

A. Relevance to park resources and interpretive themes

1. Critical resource issues
2. Interpretive themes
3. Education plan or Comprehensive Interpretive Plan
4. Tangible resource/intangible meanings/universal concepts

B. Linking group's educational/learning objectives with park objectives/goals

1. Identify the educational group's learning objectives
2. Identify which park resources and interpretive themes can be used to teach the educational group's learning objectives
3. Identify link to state and local standards and assess those connections through intangible and universal concepts about the resource.

C. Contact with group leader--check with your supervisor first! Determine the purpose and goal of the contact before you contact the group leader.

1. Informal contacts between individual rangers and teachers/group leaders either prior to or at the beginning of the program to identify logistics, group dynamics, special needs, prior knowledge, learning expectations, and role of chaperones
2. Greet as one professional to another

D. Preparation (pre-visit) activities

1. Purpose

a. Background information
b. Orientation/NPS and site information/logistics
c. Introduce concepts/skills/meanings needed for program
d. Set up the resource-based experience
e. Motivate students
f. Can be repeated for groups that come later

2. Characteristics of effective pre-visit activities

a. Developmentally appropriate
b. Relevant to group's objectives
c. Engage learners
d. Offer a variety of learning opportunities

E. The ranger-led portion of the program, both on-site or off-site.

Note: see component--Meeting the Needs of Organized Groups
1. Actively immerses learners in resource
2. Addresses a variety of learning styles
3. Activities are developmentally appropriate
4. Content is appropriate for learners.
5. Relate to pre-visit element
6. Evaluation--monitor and adjust

F. Follow-up (post-visit) activities

1. Purpose

a. Provide a way to check level of learner understanding of goals and objectives
b. Reinforce concepts/skills
c. Apply learned concept to local resources
d. Encourage resource stewardship action skills
e. Encourage higher-level critical thinking
f. Continue involvement with park

2. Characteristics of effective follow-up activities

a. Developmentally appropriate
b. Relevant to groups objectives
c. Engage learners
d. Offers a variety of learning opportunities

G. Purpose of evaluation

1. Monitor and adjust throughout program cycle
2. Validate learning objectives
3. Choose appropriate type(s)

a. Group leader feedback
b. Student performance
c. Student feedback
d. Self-evaluation
e. Supervisor/mentor feedback
f. Peer audits

V. Elements of a lesson plan

A. States objectives
B. Lists related park interpretive theme(s)
C. Lists group's educational objectives and states where the presentation fits into the sequence of learning
D. Identifies participants' age/developmental level
E. Lists equipment/materials needed
F. Determines safety issues and states logistics
G. States length and sequence timing
H. Plans for behavior management
I. Identify preparation activities
J. Outlines resource based activities
K. Selects follow-up activities
L. Determines evaluation methods
M. Cites sources

1. Content
2. Methodology

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Building a History Curriculum: Guidelines for Teaching History in Schools, Bradley Commission, Educational Excellence Network, 1989.

California Social Studies Frameworks Curriculum: Perspective, Paradigm, and Possibility. Schubert, William H., Macmillan Publishers, 1986. Chapter 2 of this book outlines the historical context for curriculum and organizes curriculum into different schools of thought.

Developing NPS Education Programs, National Park Service, 1995.

Earth Education: A New Beginning, Van Matre, Steve, The Institute for Earth Education, 1990, Chapter 6.

Education 2000, Community Update, US Department of Education, Washington, DC 20202-0498,1997?.

Educational Leadership, journal of the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1250 N. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-1453.

Environmental Education at Early Childhood Level, Wilson, Ruth, ed., North American Association for Environmental Education, 1994.

Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. National Council for the Social Studies, 1994. This book outlines the ten thematic strands of social studies and identifies competencies for elementary, middle, and high school students. These standards have been incorporated into several state curriculum frameworks.

Geography for Life: National Geography Standards. National Geographic Research and Exploration, 1994. This book outlines the six essential elements of geography education and identifies measurable standards for elementary, middle, and high school students. These standards have influenced and been incorporated in some state curriculum frameworks.

Historical Literacy: The Case for History in American Education, Paul Gagnon and the Bradley Commission on History in the Schools, eds., Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1989.

National Geography Society

National Council for the Social Studies

National Science Education Standards, National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 1996 (1-800-624-6242).

Programming for School Groups: An Interpreter's Guide, National Park Service, 1991.

Science Education Guide Book, Michigan Center for Career and Technical Education, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1034.

Teach the Mind, Touch the Spirit, A Guide to Focused Field Trips, Voris, Helen H., Maija Sedzielarz, and Carolyn P. Blackmon, Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, 1986.

Teaching with Historic Places Curriculum Framework.

Textbooks: Houghton Mifflin Social Studies Series Teacher Editions, The World I See, I Know a Place, Some People I Know, From Sea to Shining Sea, This is My Country, A More Perfect Union, American will Be, 1996.

CRM Bulletin, Volume 23, No. 8, 2000, "Creative Teaching with Historic Places, NPS.

Social Education and Social Studies and the Young Learner, journals of the National Council for the Social Studies, 3501 Newark Street, NW, Washington, DC 20016-3167.

Educational Leadership, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Social Studies and the Young Learner

Park Documents
Statement for Interpretation; Comprehensive Interpretive Plan; Education Plan, etc.

Curriculum Guides

Local school curricula

State Education Department/Offices

Places To Visit
Other NPS sites, museums, or cultural sites with established curriculum-based programs.

Local museum collaborative (Museum Educator's Roundtable--American Association of Museums)

Websites offering insight on trends in education and learning:
GLOBE Project
JASON Project
Eisenhower Clearinghouse for Math and Science Teaching
Discovery Online
The Gateway
Sciencewise Alert
US Dept. of Education
Understanding Kids

"The Exchange," Conference of National Park Service Cooperating Associations. Fall, 1992.

"Interpretation," National Park Service, Interpretive Design Center, Summer 1990, 1995.

Parks As Classrooms, National Park Service, 1992.

The Outdoor Classroom, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Course Design: A Guide to Curriculum Development for Teachers. 3rd edition. Posner, George J., and Alan N. Rudnitsky, Longman, 1986. This curriculum model offers step-by-step instruction to developing a curriculum from idea to evaluation. These steps can be used to develop a single lesson plan.

IAA Instructional Model (Information, Assimilation, Application). May be found in the book Sunship Earth by Steve Van Meter and workshops available through The Institute For Earth Education, Greenville, WV, (304) 832-6404.

"Flow Learning" Instructional Model. May be found in the book Sharing the Joy of Nature by Joseph Cornell and workshops available through the Education for Life Foundation, 14618 Tyler Foote Road, Nevada City, CA 95959, (916) 292-3775.

Spiral Curriculum Model. May be found in "Science Teaching and the Development of Thinking," by Anton Lawson.

Programming for School Groups: An Interpreter's Guide, Tevyaw, Kathleen, National Park Service, 1995.

Teach the Mind, Touch the Spirit: A Guide to Focused Field Trips, Voris, Helen H., Maija Sedzielarz, and Carolyn P. Blackmon, Chicago Field Museum of History, 1986.

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Suggested Developmental Activities
1. Think about the education program(s) you present. Identify the aspect of a group's curriculum that your presentation supports/addresses. Where does your presentation fit into the group's sequence of learning?

2. Read the organization/school curriculum guides in the subject area most related to your park themes. Think about the age groups most often coming to your site. In general, how much do they seem to know about your subject? Use this to develop your presentation and to structure introductory questions to help you assess what the group knows. Use this information to help you choose vocabulary, examples, activities, and references. that will relate to what your group already knows and what is relevant to them. Review a copy of a local school curriculum (social studies or science) at a given grade level. Identify areas/objectives that correlate to your park's themes.

3. Select a curriculum-based program at your site or from a neighboring park. Look for connections/links between park resources universal concepts, and the group's learning objectives. Share this information with your supervisor and/or coworkers.

4. Select a curriculum-based program at your site or from a neighboring park. Examine the connections between the presentation element, and the preparation and follow-up materials. Compare these three items by answering: What are the elements of effective programming as evidenced in this program? What is the purpose of the preparation materials? How do the preparation materials support the presentation? What is the purpose of the follow-up materials? How do the follow-up materials support this presentation? Share this information with the other interpreters at your site.

Next Component

Meeting the Needs of Organized Groups

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Editor: STMA Training Manager Interpretation

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