With field trip budgets becoming a thing of the past, teachers are looking for creative ways to share the outside world with their students now more than ever. One of the most overlooked, but educationally rich resources is the National Park Service. Established in 1916, the National Park Service tends to the 398 national parks, 49 national heritage areas, 2,461 national historic landmarks, 582 national natural landmarks, 27,000 historic structures, 43,162 miles of shoreline, and so much more. Not only is their focus on conservation and preservation, but they also realize the importance of educating future generations. Their variety of education and teacher resources attests to that.
The National Park Service Resources
Take your students on a trip to the Rocky Mountains with the NPS’s webcams. Some cameras are seasonal, but others are up year round. Use them while talking about Westward Expansion, geography, or changing seasons.
Students from Estes Park and student interns for the NPS created kid-friendly videos and podcasts. Check them out with your class in a lesson about career choices, internship experiences, and empowering youth. Once on the site, search “podcasts.”
Learn about everything from the Bighorn Sheep to Air Quality in this science series. They have different versions based on your Internet connection and even have a version for the iPod.
In their mission to help teachers bring national parks into the classroom learning environment, the NPS has created special Teacher Resources. Everything from lesson plans and curriculum to interesting tales to information about the national parks is available. They even have courses that are available to educators and those interested in learning more about archeological sites and historic places.
The GoZone is the NPS’ collection of fun, online games for students. Children can explore parks in the Northeast and then travel to the Pacific Northwest in online adventures that are designed with young learners in mind.
Be sure to visit the National Park Service’s website for more information, maps, program details, and information about scheduling field trips for your students. It is also a great resource to share with families, as most of the programs are free or low-cost, but are filled with learning and fun for everyone.