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.