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Gem of the Blue Ridge Field Trip and In-Class Ranger Program

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Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
State Standards:
Virginia Standards of Learning: Science 5.7, Virginia Studies VS.2, US History: USI.2


Shenandoah National Park is an important natural and cultural resource in Virginia’s Blue Ridge geographic region. Students in the 9 Virginia counties that border this long and narrow national park will discover those resources and the National Park Service mission with ranger-led in-class activities such as modeling park careers, analyzing artifacts, investigating geologic samples, and writing creative responses while gaining classroom knowledge about Virginia’s history, geology and geography. 


Following the ranger presentation and classroom activities, the students will be able to

1. Name the five geographical regions of Virginia and locate Shenandoah National Park within the Blue Ridge geographic region;

2. Identify the three rock types that can be found in Shenandoah National Park and explain the rock cycle using those rock types;

3. Define the mission of the National Park Service and describe how national park employees meet that mission through their work;

4. Describe three actions people can take to help care for Shenandoah National Park and the environment.


Shenandoah National Park provides outstanding educational and recreational opportunities in the Blue Ridge geographic region of Virginia. Shenandoah National Park stretches along the crest of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains from Front Royal to Waynesboro, Virginia, and is bordered by nine counties: Albermarle, Augusta, Greene, Madison, Nelson, Page, Rappahannock, Rockingham, and Warren.

Skyline Drive is the 105 mile-long highway that provides easy access to the park's nearly 200,000 acres of protected lands that includes mountain summits, expansive views of the Piedmont and Shenandoah Valley, deep forests, open meadows, meandering streams with cascading waterfalls, abundant wildlife, and remnants of past human residents.

The planning and establishment of Shenandoah National Park is a fascinating story. Over centuries, people have valued the Blue Ridge Mountains in a variety of ways. Hunting grounds, farm fields and pastures, home sites, vacation destinations, copper mines, highways, trails, overlooks, and wilderness areas have all been uses of the land which is now Shenandoah National Park.

Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872 as the first national park in the world. In the early days of the national park idea, most national parks were in the western states where there already was plenty of federal land with unique natural or historic features. These areas could be more easily designated as national parks.

In 1916, the National Park Service was a new federal agency created to manage and care for the growing number of national parks. Because most of the United States population lived in the east, the desire for a large national park in the eastern United States, within a day's drive of millions of people, grew steadily in the early 20th century. However, most of the land in the east was privately owned. After two decades of planning, the creation of Shenandoah National Park was authorized by Congress in 1926. It took nearly another ten years before the park was officially established on December 26, 1935. President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated Shenandoah National Park "for recreation and re-creation" on July 3, 1936, in a ceremony held at Big Meadows.

Today, Shenandoah National Park is a collage of mountain forests, historic resorts and camps, 500 miles of trails, the headwaters of three Virginia watersheds: Potomac-Shenandoah, Rappahannock, and James, and almost 80,000 acres of federally designated wilderness. More than a million people each year visit this gem of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains to enjoy the natural and cultural resources preserved in this national park.

This program was funded by a generous donation from the Shenandoah National Park Trust.


1. Take a field trip to Shenandoah National Park to experience the geology and landforms on a ranger-led program in the park.

2. Conduct research on a particular species of animal or plant found in Shenandoah National Park and create a presentation (powerpoint, science board, speech, poster) for classmates.

3. Have students write a poem, song, rap, e-mail, blog, short story, or play regarding their experience with the ranger visit or to express their feelings about the park and the importance of preserving and protecting it for future generations.

4. Use technology like Glogster, iMovie, or Kidspiration to create programs or presentations on what the students learned.

5. Explore the social aspects of the creation of Shenandoah National Park through reading.
   a. Grandpa's Mountain by Carolyn Reeder
   b. When the Whippoorwill Calls by Candice F. Ransom




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Last updated: June 22, 2018