Connecting Kids With Parks Takes Different Directions At Virgin Islands National Park, Tuzigoot National Monument

Students from Massachusetts to Arizona got to better know national parks thanks to programs that helped them build skills. NPS photos.

Electricity might not immediately come to mind in terms of connecting today's younger generations with the national parks, but that was the key in at least one instance involving a Massachusetts teen and Virgin Islands National Park.

Recently Cody Thurlow, a teen at the Greater Lowell (Massachusetts) Technical High School, spent 10 days at Virgin Islands National Park working on various electrical projects under the guidance of park maintenance technicians.

The work was lined up by Charlie Raye, the utility supervisor at Lowell National Historical Park, who asked Cody to be his assistant while updating electrical systems in park housing. Projects included running wiremold, installing a new electrical panel, outlets and ceiling fans, cutting out old wiring and installing a new water pump that broke while he was there.

The experience, said the teen, was "awesome, and a lot of hard work."

"It takes an entire day to get your supplies. You have to travel by boat to another island," said Cody. "It was difficult. And it takes a while to get used to the heat and humidity."

Along with getting the hands-on electrical work, Cody says he enjoyed getting out and exploring the national park. He says that he had "never seen the water that blue."

The teen is working towards his Journeyman Electrician license, and is a member of the Trades Skills Program, a cooperative education partnership between Lowell National Historical Park, the high school, and Community Teamwork, Inc. As part of his education, Cody alternates his time between school and the park. He spends a week in the classroom and alternately is employed 40 hours a week at the historical park gaining trades experience while working alongside the park's skilled maintenance staff.

Through the Trades Skills Program students also receive additional training and development opportunities through exposure to Park Service historic preservation and cultural resource management practices.

Meanwhile, across the country in Arizona at the Tuzigoot National Monument, the children of military personnel spent a day creating podcasts to tell their own stories by tying together resiliency and other life skills with people who once lived in the prehistoric pueblo at the monument.

Stories with a View was created in partnership between Arizona Operation: Military Kids, a University of Arizona Cooperative Extension 4-H and Department of Defense program, and the national monument.

Operation: Military Kids connects the children of National Guard and Reserves service members in the deployment cycle, "with local resources in order to achieve a sense of community support and enhance their well-being." In this specific partnership their Mobile Technology Lab was used to help kids gain leadership, organizational and technical skills.

For the Stories with a View program, military kids became Junior Archeologists for the day. NPS rangers from both the interpretive and resource management divisions started out the day with a tour of the site, including the pueblo and newly renovated museum. Military kids discovered the history and explored the perspectives of the prehistoric peoples who lived in the community 800 years ago.

Then they learned both photography and audio recording skills with rangers and OMK staff. The afternoon was dedicated to their own efforts of creating digital stories, which connect the lessons of the past to the resilience skills they use every day.

Their stories are being uploaded as podcasts to the Tuzigoot National Monument website. You can view some of the podcasts on the park's website.