Website brings parks into classroom

Staff reportSeptember 22, 2013 

A new National Park Service website for educators will help them use national parks as a virtual destination as they teach science and history.

“This site is a significant milestone in realizing the National Park Service’s potential as a premier provider of place-based education,” Director Jonathan Jarvis said in a news release. “We have been entrusted with the care of the places that define the American experience, and now 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.”

The website — — is easily searchable by location, keyword and more than 125 subjects, including archeology, biology and constitutional law. An English class might 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 detail the story of westward expansion, science students could 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.

Among the online resources on the site is “Freeing the Elwha,” a 23 lesson curriculum series from Olympic National Park that explores the restoration of the Elwha River through science, social studies, language arts and mathematics.

In “Fire, Flood and Fury,” students can use American Indian oral traditions to chronicle geologic events in the recent history of Mount Rainier. These stories are read, interpreted and illustrated by students with the use of storyboards. It is part of the “Living with a Volcano in Your Backyard” curriculum, created through a partnership between the park and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Cascades Volcano Observatory.

“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,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in the news release.


This is the last week to do some camping at Mount Rainier because all three frontcountry campgrounds there will close for the season Sept. 29.

Cougar Rock and Ohanpecosh are closing two weeks earlier this year because of budgetary constraints. The park had to cut its operating budget by 5 percent – $603,000 – because of sequestration, leading to the decision to delay the opening and advance the closing of the campgrounds.

White River typically closes this time of year.

No charge to enter some parks Saturday

To celebrate National Public Lands Day, several park agencies will not charge admission on Saturday.

Among them are Washington State Parks, the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service.

That means visitors to places such as Twanoh, Flaming Geyser and Millersylvania state parks will not need a Discover Pass that day. National parks such as Mount Rainier and Olympic will not require the $15 entrance fee. The Forest Service will waive fees for day-use areas such as picnic grounds, developed trailheads and destination visitor centers.

Visitors should be aware that fees will not be waived for concessionaire-operated facilities or for overnight use such as camping or recreation rentals.

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