Let Your Classroom Glow with 100 Candles for our National Parks

priscilla-wells-robinsonby Priscilla Robinson

Who doesn’t like to celebrate a big birthday?  As we mark the centennial year of the National Park Service (NPS) on August 25, we as teachers can hook our students’ curiosity with the extensive network of America’s scenic spaces, indigenous wildlife, and natural resources.  If ever there was a year for a solid and diverse learning theme, this is it!  Keep the parties going as teachable moments—this is the best time for teachers to nurture lifelong learners and wards of the Earth.

Clearly you can see I love national parks.  These wild places have been a lifelong passion of discovery as well an endless tool belt for my classrooms, K-12!

Our National Parks - Educational Innovations Blog

John Muir, Arizona’s Petrified Forest, 1905

I’m happy to say I stand with good company.  John Muir made conservation a national priority.  He sowed the seeds for his mission and became allies with Theodore Roosevelt, giving Muir critical political support for parks in Washington.  Photographer Ansel Adams and filmmaker Ken Burns have captured the hearts of people worldwide with photographs and volumes of NPS stories told without a word spoken.  Lessons on Earth science, biology, chemistry, and physics are richly supported with the interesting resources embedded in our untamed spaces.  Thanks to those who came before us, visiting America’s national parks is one of our nation’s greatest privileges and pleasures.

Our National Parks - Educational Innovations BlogThe founding director of the NPS was Stephen Mather, whose long efforts to create a Federal agency to preserve America’s awesome beauty and irreplaceable natural and historic treasures were crowned with success on August 25, 1916.  On that day, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the historic act that created the National Park Service as a branch of U.S. Department of the Interior.  However, the establishment of the NPS did not actually create the first official national park.  Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872 and several other national parks, including Yosemite, Mount Rainier, Crater Lake, Glacier and others were founded before 1916.

Today the National Park Service protects 59 national parks that range from American Samoa in the South Pacific to Denali in the soaring mountain in central Alaska, to the Dry Tortugas Island of the Florida Keys—as well as hundreds of monuments, memorials, national historical parks and other spaces of unparalleled value to Americans.  These are epic testaments to our country.

Our National Parks - Educational Innovations BlogOn my trips to these parks, I find that a stop at the visitor center, conversations with park rangers, and a thorough scouring of the park’s “Visitor Guide” help me navigate and use my time wisely.  My travels across this nation and to the many landmarks protected under the NPS have been well documented with my National Park Passport.  At each national attraction, there is a cancellation stamp—similar to that on a postal letter—which commemorates the date and place of your visit.  So far, I have hundreds of stamps, including 24 from national parks.  Each visit, whether a brief afternoon check-in or a week-long camping trip, embeds a collage of images, information, and intents that I bring back to my students.  This hodgepodge of experiences enhances and deepens my standards-based science instruction and supports NGSS.

Technology is changing the way we experience parks.  Websites such as www.NPS.gov and www.nationalparks.org offer a wealth of information for planning and researching parks.  There is even a website dedicated to teachers and lesson plans based on the national parks, aptly billed as “America’s largest classrooms.”  Check it out here:  www.nps.gov/teachers/index.htm.

Alright!  I’m a genuine NPS geek.  Did I mention that my favorite app for my phone is “Oh, Ranger?”  During this celebratory year, I encourage you to take time for yourself and your classroom to survey a park.  Let’s get this party started!

Our National Parks - Educational Innovations Blog


Density in the News

Educational Innovations Newsletter - In the News

Density has been in the news since… well, since Archimedes shouted Eureka.  We have collected a sampling of news stories about density that you may want to use in your classroom as you open a discussion about this fascinating subject.

If you find a news article about density that you’d like to share, please let us know in the comments section.  Happy reading!

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EI TV – Density Videos!

Educational Innovations Newsletter - EI TVIt can be difficult for students to understand density.  It’s not as simple as saying that something is heavy or light…  Able to float or sink…  So how can we explain this to young minds?

No worries—we’ve collected some videos that will help you clarify some of the basics about density with your class.  If you know of a video we should include here, please let us know in the comments!

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Density Humor

Educational Innovations Newsletter - HumorWhen it comes to density humor—and laughter in general—the more, the merrier!  That’s why we decided to pack a whole bunch of laughs into our Density Humor corner.  If you have a favorite riddle, joke or cartoon related to density, let us know in the comments section below.

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You Said It! Density Product Reviews

Educational Innovations Newsletter - You Said ItWhenever we attend a science convention, we bring plenty of density demos.  They are invariably among our best showstoppers!  There is something wonderfully confounding—and compelling—about watching a (seemingly) heavy object float against our expectations, or seeing (seemingly) identical beads travel in separate directions.  This curiosity is the heart of why discrepant events are so valuable to educators.

Is it magic?  No, it’s density!

Is your favorite Educational Innovations‘ density product on this list?  If not, write to us in the comments below and let us know what we forgot!

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