Educational Travel Opportunities at our National Parks
The induction of our 401 national parks is considered to be America’s Best Idea. Although the summer and prime vacation season is coming to a close, our national parks offer a plethora of educational travel opportunities throughout the year.
Revitalize your mind and body. The Healthy Parks Healthy People (HPHP) program suggests that “a visit to a park can provide opportunities for physical activity through hiking, promote nutrition through purchase of healthy foods, encourage mental health and wellness through contact with nature, and further social well-being by providing educational opportunities and social interactions.”
Use your Parks as Classrooms. The Parks as Classrooms campaign promotes interactive experiences tailored to the individual park and student. From computer printable worksheets and activities to materials that can be borrowed on site, such as films, flashlights, and even snowshoes, the National Park Service provides everything necessary to make your park visit a memorable educational adventure.
Become a Junior Ranger. Almost all of the national parks offer a Junior Ranger program. While enjoying your family vacation, learn how fossils are formed, examine the night sky, or find out how to earn your Junior Ranger badge. Participants take an oath to protect their parks and educate themselves as to why the conservation of wild lands and life is important.
Participate in an Interpretive program or guided tour. The diversity of the parks allows for a range of different ranger lead activities. If you are planning a visit to Yosemite National Park in California, consider experiencing Ranger Ned’s Big Adventure, an interactive and educational children’s play; if Arizona is your next stop, free, ranger led day walks are a great way to learn about the history and geology of the Grand Canyon.
Having worked in Yosemite National Park for the better part of four years, I can attest to its vast scholarly benefits. Distancing oneself from the crowds and chaos of everyday life is a hefty perk when pursuing the brain power that can be gained by conversing with a ranger, learning about the flora and fauna of a specific park, or exploring the history associated with a trail or landmark. I have had the unique opportunity of having Half Dome in my backyard and Yosemite Falls as the view from my “office” and hope that park visitors take full advantage of the many educational opportunities available.
If you can’t make it to a national park this year, how about going on an Electronic Field Trip? View televised broadcasts, featuring National Park Service Rangers, play online interactive games, and download lesson plans to feel more like John Muir, one of our countries most influential naturalists.
Please feel free to comment below to share an experience you’ve had at one of our many national parks or monuments.
Sarah Mills is a contributing writer for Learning Liftoff. She mentored and instructed kindergarten through high school-aged students throughout her college years and eventually went on to live and work in Yosemite National Park for a stint. Reading, writing, adventuring, and anything Harry Potter are some of Sarah’s favorite go-to activities.
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