National Parks Week ran from April 18 through the 26th. Free admission was granted to everyone who attended one of the more than 400 national parks on opening weekend. If you weren’t able to get out and enjoy, there are still plenty of ways to appreciate and study the amazing parks and historic sites located throughout the United States.
- Explore the habitats of plants, animals, and insects in the park. Look for tracks, nests, burrows, and clues about feeding habits. Take the time to observe a pond, field, or even a single tree to see how many animals and insects visit and depend on that habitat.
- Encourage students to learn about the four seasons using all of their senses. Give students a bag to collect natural items (found on the ground) that represent the season – flowers, leaves, twigs. Students can also draw or write about what they see, smell, and hear in a nature journal.
- Observe land formations firsthand. The national parks preserve the most beautiful canyons, dunes, volcanic landforms, and shorelines in the country. After demonstrating some of the effects of erosion or “volcanic” activity in the classroom, what a thrill to be able to observe how actual rivers, wind, and other natural forces have shaped the land.
- Explore an historic site that is part of the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. History comes to life when students visit historic homes, battlefields, and monuments. Check out the lesson plans on the National Park Service’s website which include maps, photographs, readings, and questions for students to explore. Many popular historic sites are included, such as Bunker Hill, Clara Barton’s home, or the schools represented in Brown v. Board of Education. http://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/descrip.htm
- Learn about why national parks exist, how they are created, and why they are important to our country. Talk about the importance of conservation, preservation, and why some areas of the country are just too precious to destroy for development. This article provides a quick overview of the national parks system. http://news.discovery.com/adventure/everything-you-need-to-know-about-national-parks.htm
Browse http://www.nps.gov/index.htm for even more engaging ideas.