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National Park Service Offers Teachers A Web Portal Into Educational Materials On Parks


Teachers looking to bolster their science, history, and culture curriculums can now turn to the National Park Service, which has created a website especially for them.

The new online service launched Thursday for educators uses spectacular natural landscapes to teach science and the authentic places where history happened to infuse an understanding of the challenges the country has faced as a nation.

“This site is a significant milestone in realizing the National Park Service’s potential as a premier provider of place-based education,” said Park Service Director Jon Jarvis. “We have been entrusted with the care of the places that define the American experience, and now, through our new Teachers website, we can share these places and the lessons they teach with those who may not be able to visit in person. Students can learn about their country through educational materials that are teacher-tested and methods that are proven to enhance student comprehension.”

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the site should help inspire students, through their teachers, to seek out national parks

"Bringing America’s national parks into classrooms will help students build a lifelong connection with nature, history and the broad and diverse culture of our Nation,” said the Interior secretary. “This new web tool is a perfect example of how technology can be used to bring us closer to our treasured landscapes and the stories and places that define the American people. I hope students and teachers across the country will use these new resources to learn about the parks and to inspire a future visit to our public lands, which belong to all Americans.”

The website is user friendly and easily searchable by location, keyword, and more than 125 subjects, ranging from archeology to biology to Constitutional law. An English class can study literature with a lesson plan from Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, a history teacher can borrow a traveling trunk from Jefferson Expansion National Memorial to make the story of westward expansion come alive, science students can chat live with a ranger from Grand Canyon National Park, and future explorers can climb Mount McKinley in Denali National Park.

The site also features materials produced by National Park Service programs, including nearly 150 lesson plans from the National Register of Historic Places’ award-winning Teaching with Historic Places program.

The website is just one part of the Park Service’s ongoing commitment to education. Every year, national parks offer more than 57,000 educational programs in parks for nearly three million students, in addition to the 563,000 interpretive programs attended by 12.6 million visitors.

At launch, the website offered more than 700 lesson plans, 140 field trips, 50 traveling trunks, 44 distance learning opportunities, 16 teachers’ institutes, 47 online galleries, and 100 teacher workshops, and will add new content as it is developed. The site also offers teachers the opportunity to rate the materials provided.

The National Park Service is also working with partners and educational institutions to expand programs and encourage the use of parks as places of learning. The agency has partnered with the Department of Education to integrate national park resources into core curriculums and, each summer, dozens of teachers participate in professional development opportunities in parks, creating education materials based on park resources through the Teacher Ranger Teacher program.


Thank you, RD, for doing this checking. When the government re-opens, I will be happy to speak with Dr. Sutton and others involved with the e-Library conversion to see if I can assist in figuring out what is causing all of the broken links. This valuable resource cannot be allowed to go dark, and with as much expertise as is floating around out there in how best to create functional, attractive digital historical libraries and repositories, I am certain that this situation can be corrected -- IF the will and funding can be found. (A big if, I realize.)

Dr. Whisnant/Dr. Sutton: Regarding your comments on broken
links on the NPS History e-Library Website. If I run a link
checker (using the free W3C Link Checker) on the Park
Histories Web page:

I get no fewer than 58 broken links and another 59 that
are suspect (FAR too numerous to list); and a link check
on the History of the NPS page:

shows 21 broken links (not all of which are to documents, as
many are to missing images) and 13 more that are suspect
(for example, ALL references to CRM articles simply timeout).
In fact, the History of the NPS Web page itself has missing
menu images on the left-hand side of the page. Some of
the broken links include:

Antiquities Act of 1906 by Ronald Lee
National Park Service Act of 1916: A Contradictory Mandate
Highways in Harmony
National Park System Timeline (Annotated)

A link check of the Administrative Histories Website:

has 9 broken links, some of which include:

Green Shrouded Miracle: The Administrative History of Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area
Museum Curatorship in the National Park Service, 1904-1982
A History of the Washington Monument, 1844-1968

The National Park Service Geology Web page:

has 25 broken/suspect links, and I could keep going for each and every
other Web page.

Below is just a sampling of the "plethora" of broken links (and
these are just from the three e-Library Highlights on the main

Glimpses of Park Brochures feature:
missing brochure cover for Thomas Jefferson Memorial
missing brochure cover for Organ Pipe Cactus
and for Petersburg
and Golden Gate
and Little River Canyon
and Shenandoah
and World War II Valor in the Pacific
and Air Quality (North Cascades)

In the Historical Handbooks series:
the handbook for Ocmulgee is missing:

I don't recall what document I was accessing recently (I'll have
to look closer into my browser history) but the cover page was
not what I was expecting but was instead Al Runte's Yosemite:
The Embattled Wilderness, but if I clicked on the Table of
Contents, the rest of the document was the correct document
that I had followed the link to.

As important of a resource as this is for educators, NPS
staff, and the general public, I wholeheartedly concur with
edbuck's one word comment: Priorities. If NPS Management
views this Website has value, then some how, some way,
funding can be reallocated to ensure that it is kept fully
functional. While it may be a noble goal to enter this
information into the IRMA system, if a) people are not
aware to look for content in IRMA and b) an easy-to-use
Web interface is not provided to access that information
in IRMA, then the value of that conversion effort is
limited, at best. In the meantime we have a Feature Document
that has stayed the same for months on end; ditto for the
"New" Features, not to mention the lack of actual new features.

As to where to highlight this electronic library on if
Working with Communities was shortened to something like: Partners,
that would free up some space on the main menu bar to include
a Publications link. This should include not simply a link to
the NPS History e-Library, but to ALL electronic document
resources for the National Park Service (Cultural and
Natural Resources) and may include a search link into IRMA
and/or NPS Focus or any other repository that contains
electronic publications.

I agree, the ability for a student who might be writing a
report on glaciers, to do a keyword search on glaciers or
glaciation, and get a listing of dozens of source documents
specific to that topic, that would make this electronic
resource much more powerful; that is, provided those links
actually point to content that still exists online.


...our wonderful historian ... retired a year ago last summer, and we have not been able to fill his position, and since the Website required almost daily care and feeding, we have not been able to take care of all of the broken links, etc., required.

A real-world reminder of the impacts of shrinking NPS budgets. Creating and maintaining any kind of meaningful on-line presence requires both funding and qualified staffing.

Dear Al, RD and Anne, Thanks for your notes above. We are well aware of some of the problems with the NPS e-history program. As you note, our wonderful historian, Harry Butowsky, retired a year ago last sommer, and we have not been able to fill his position, and since the Website required almost daily care and feeding, we have not been able to take care of all of the broken links, etc., required.

We are, however, not ignoring the problem. Two years ago, we started working with our natural resources office to enter all of Harry's 4500 entries into its system, called IRMA. This is a slow and expensive process, because each file needed to be reformated and reconfigured, but once the e-history library is entered into this system, it will be much more user-friendly. Someone will be able to search by author, title, subject, key words, etc., which will benefit NPS staff, historians outside NPS, and the general public. Another feature, is that it will be much easier to add to the database. We are commited to keeping the project going, and hope it will be complete in a year.

We also have updated our program Website, our Oral History Website, and have started a Facebook Page, after numerous requests from within and outside NPS. As Anne noted, she led a team of historians who conducted a survey of 1500 historians in NPS, and provided us with a wonderful report--"Imperiled Promise"--which provided us with recommendations that will strengthen our program both in the short- and long-term. Improving the e-history database is just one of the recommendations we are following.

Finally, as Anne noted in her final note, if you could point to specific problems--broken links, etc.--that you find, we will do our best to fix them, while we are in transition to the IRMA database.

Bob Sutton, Chief Historian, NPS

RD, I am wondering if you can point us in the direction of some of that "plethora of broken/corrupted links" that you found on the e-Library? I have alerted the Chief Historian's office to this discussion, but I myself have not run across the broken links in searches that I've conducted. So it would be helpful if you could point out the things you've looked for and been unable to find. Having worked in digital collections, I can only imagine that this migration has been very challenging technically, and things are bound to break on the way. As for new content, I don't believe the Chief Historian's office any longer has staff who can regularly do that.

Also, can you provide the link to the top-level NPS page that you would find most logical for a link to the e-Library?

Thanks, RD, for your comments. I will pass them along to colleagues in the Chief Historian's office, which does still retain responsibility for this (however, no longer with the intense focus and loving care given by Dr. Butowsky, I don't believe). I am not sure exactly how the migration is being handled--in specific technical terms--and I sure am frustrated that the resource does not appear at the level. We'd sure love to see that happen, but honestly don't know how to press for it! And if lots of internal links are broken, we certainly would want that fixed before it would be promoted more visibly.

While the NPS History e-Library hasn't vanished, it IS vanishing. As mentioned, there are a plethora of broken/corrupted links; sadly, following Dr. Butowsky's retirement it appears that no one is managing the library. A library (electronic or otherwise) isn't of much value if books are missing from the "shelves". No new content has been added to the e-Library in at least six months. While there is an effort to migrate content into the IRMA (Integrated Resource Management Applications) Portal (, this superb resource (for teachers or otherwise) won't be of much value without a renewed commitment to preserve a 15+ year effort. This should include coordination with other NPS departments, along with [as Imperiled Promise suggested] elevation of this resource to a level (as the USGS' Maps, Imagery, and Publications and the Forest Service's Pubs, Regs & Manuals Websites are linked at the top-most level).

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