Botany, English, Government, Social Studies
Terms associated with the National Park Service, its defined organization and responsibilities, are found in In the Know. Teachers should review the terms in order to become familiar with the expectations, complexity of distinctions of protected areas, and varied activities of the National Park Service. Help students to use them correctly during the suggested activities in this guide.
Wish the NPS Happy Birthday
Career Education, Government, Social Studies, U.S. History
Do students know where parks are located in their community? What do they do when they visit one? Who is responsible for keeping them clean and safe? Teachers should explain the difference between a community, state and national park.
Teachers might introduce this discussion with a map. Together list the names of national parks in your state or region. Ask students to locate them on the map.
• Have your students visited any of these parks?
• What are their memories of the visit?
• What was the favorite part of the visit: areas for a picnic, an interpretive center, new animals or flowers, local history and cultural experiences?
Give KidsPost article “National Park Service marks 100 years of preserving natural treasures.” Discussion could include:
• On what day was the National Park Service established?
• What is the purpose and responsibilities of the NPS?
• What jobs are needed to make a visit to a national park special and safe — especially if there are 307 million visitors?
Become a Park Ranger
Career Education, Social Studies
In Oh, Ranger! the first NPS director, Stephen T. Mather, is quoted, describing the work of rangers:
They are a fine, earnest, intelligent, and public-spirited body of men, these rangers. Though small in number, their influence is large. Many and long are the duties heaped upon their shoulders. If a trail is to be blazed, it is “send a ranger.” If an animal is floundering in the snow, a ranger is sent to pull him out; if a bear is in the hotel, if a fire threatens a forest, if someone is to be saved, it is “send a ranger.” If a Dude wants to know the why, if a Sagebrusher is puzzled about a road, it is “ask the ranger.” Everything the ranger knows, he will tell you, except about himself.
Discuss the different roles of park rangers envisioned from the beginning of the NPS.
The National Park Service provides opportunities for high school and college students to volunteer or hold internships. There are full- and part-time jobs as well as seasonal positions. Visit the Work With Us section on the NPS website to learn details.
Give students the KidsPost article “What it’s like to be a national park ranger” to read and discuss.
• Discuss the interpretation and protection roles that rangers perform.
• Why does a park ranger need to be physically fit?
• In what ways has the job of park ranger remained the same? Expanded?
• Why does Ann Posegate encourage students to attend college? Volunteer at parks?
• Think about being the superintendent of a national park. What job opportunities will you have posted to run your park well?
Consider America’s Heritage
Geography, Government, Social Studies, U.S. History
The NPS Heritage Initiatives includes organizing its resources by ethnic groups and related topics. Through visits to the parks and heritage areas, reading the essays, and meeting the authors “the history of underrepresented groups can be recognized, preserved and interpreted for current and future generations.”
Telling All Americans’ Stories may be used for student activities that include:
• Plan field and family trips that focus on diverse peoples, their arts and cultural contribution to the American society.
• Study the racial composition and contributions of different races and ethnic groups to America.
• America is founded on a democratic ideal. What contradictions to this ideal can be found by visiting national parks and historic places? In what ways does America continue to struggle with actualizing this idea?
Keep in mind that the resources listed online will vary as the activities change during a year. With that in mind, the student handout, Telling All Americans’ Stories, has been worded generally to allow teachers to make an assignment to meet their goals.
Teachers should consider a visit to one or more of these national parks for students to experience the historic site and the stories preserved through it, take advantage of its interpretive services and understand the impact upon and influence of diverse peoples that compose the American people. Fourth graders, in particular, are given free admission in order to encourage their experiencing a NPS site.
Help a Park
Art, Botany, Environmental Science, Government, Social Studies
Green spaces are important to a community. They offer a refuge for humans and animals, a natural ecosystem and biodiversity, a place for recreation and public meetings. Ask students to consider each of these:
• How many parks and public spaces are in your community? What kinds of activities take place in them?
• Is there an abandoned lot in your town that might be turned into green space?
• Is there a community, state or national park at which they may volunteer?
• Students can inform their school community of parks available to them, events to be held there, and needs for repair and new equipment with articles in student media.
• Literary-art magazine staffs could organize an art exhibit in your school’s garden or a community park.