NHD Article: Teaching Leadership with the National Park Service Teachers’ Portal (2015)

This article first appeared in the National History Day 2015 Themebook. See their website for more information or visit this page to find more NHD articles about National Park Service resources.
NCNW meeting in Mary McLeod Bethune Council House conference room of the Council House, ca. 1950.
National Council of Negro Women meeting in Mary McLeod Bethune Council House conference room of the Council House, ca. 1950.
By Beth Boland, Carol Shull, Katherine Orr, and Linda Rosenblum (National Park Service)

Exploring examples of Leadership and Legacy in History can take a student or teacher on a wild ride through place and time. The explorers can learn about individuals and communities who took innovative action or blazed trails for those who followed behind them.

The National Park Service will soon celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Organic Act of 1916, signed into existence by President Woodrow Wilson, which signaled the creation of the agency. President Wilson, however, followed the leadership of many earlier politicians, naturalists, conservationists, and ordinary citizens who envisioned setting aside our country’s special places to preserve their natural and historical significance for future generations.

In addition to the centennial of the creation National Park Service, 2016 also marks the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act, which enabled the National Park Service to recognize and assist in protecting historic and archaeological sites nationwide through partnership programs like the National Register of Historic Places and grants and tax incentives for historic preservation.

That spirit of leadership continues today in the National Park Service in over 400 National Park Service sites. It also endures in collaborations between the National Park Service and local communities or with other educational organizations.

Recently the National Park Service launched a new educational web portal where teachers can search for lesson plans, field trips, distance learning programs, traveling trunks, or professional development opportunities. The portal, found at www.nps.gov/teachers/, provides educators a single search site to access all educational resources from the many varied programs comprising the National Park Service.

Educational materials are provided by parks or subject matter experts working in diverse areas like historic preservation and heritage education or climate change and paleontology. Currently there are more than 1,100 lesson plans accessible through the curriculum materials section of the teachers’ portal, with more being uploaded continually.

Educators can browse National Park Service curriculum materials available on the teachers’ portal by searching for keywords, academic subject headings, park locations, or by indicating student grade levels.
Hoover Lesson Plan: Cartoon 1a: As the twig is bent — the tree is inclined.
Cartoon for students to analyze in the Herbert Hoover lesson plan

Courtesy of J.N. "Ding" Darling Foudation

A few examples of lesson plans accessible through the portal that address the theme of Leadership and Legacy in History include:

Going-to-the-Sun Road: A Model of Landscape Engineering
This lesson explores the practical problems of constructing roads in difficult terrain and the leadership of NPS Director Stephen Mather and engineer Frank Kittredge in designing and building a road in such a way as to enhance, rather than damage, the fragile and beautiful landscape of Glacier National Park. (National Park/National Historic Landmark/Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.)

“Journey from Slavery to Statesman”: The Homes of Frederick Douglass
Learn about Frederick Douglass’ journey from life as a slave to that of a respected statesman and leader. (Cedar Hill and the Nathan and Polly Johnson House are both resources of a National Historic Site. Wye House, the Nathan and Polly Johnson House, and Cedar Hill are National Historic Landmarks.)

Herbert Hoover: Iowa Farm Boy and World Humanitarian
This lesson plan looks at how President Hoover’s boyhood helped shape his international leadership role as administrator of the Belgian Relief Commission during World War I. (National Historic Site/National Historic Landmark.)

Molding of a Leader
The Molding of a Leader is a character education program focusing on Dwight D. Eisenhower’s leadership ability and the trust others placed in him as both supreme commander and 34th president of the United States. Five lesson plans challenge students to learn about the character traits that helped mold Eisenhower into such an effective leader and challenge them to develop and demonstrate those same admirable traits in their own lives. (National Historic Site.)

Clara Barton’s House: Home of the American Red Cross
This lesson plan follows Barton’s remarkable career as a leader of charitable causes, from caring for the wounded on Civil War battlefields to founding the American Red Cross. (National Historic Site/National Historic Landmark.)

A Woman’s Place Is In the Sewall-Belmont House: Alice Paul and Women’s Rights Learn about activist Alice Paul and her leadership of the National Woman’s Party, and how American women organized to increase their political rights in the twentieth century. (National Historic Landmark.)

The Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March: Shaking the Conscience of the Nation
Find out how people in Selma and national civil rights organizations worked together to end the unconstitutional denial of voting rights to African Americans in the South. Reading 2 consists of selections from oral histories taken in 1990 and 1991 from participants in the marches of March 7, March 9, and March 21-25, 1965; these interviews demonstrate the leadership of local residents in planning the marches. (National Historic Trail/Brown Chapel AME Church and the First Confederate Capitol are National Historic Landmarks.)

Dinner Discussions at Maggie Walker’s House
This lesson focuses on Maggie L. Walker (1864-1934), civil rights activist and trailblazing entrepreneur during the early years of the movement towards civil rights. This beloved African-American community leader devoted her life to defeating racism, sexism, and economic oppression. She chartered a bank, a newspaper, and a store 17 years before American women had the right to vote, and fostered black entrepreneurialism at a time when Jim Crow laws threatened African-American progress. (National Historic Site.)

While visiting www.nps.gov/teachers, scroll down to the bottom of the front page and explore the highlighted “teacher features.” These link educators to other NPS resources, provide information about upcoming special educational events, or provide links to educational materials found on sites hosted by National Park Service partners. The features are updated regularly to keep teachers informed of new opportunities.
Boland, Beth, Carol Shull, Katherine Orr, and Linda Rosenblum. "Teaching Leadership with the National Park Service Teachers’ Portal." In National History Day 2015: Leadership & Legacy in History, edited by Lynne O'Hara, 73-74. 2015.

Last updated: October 3, 2017

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