Tomorrow is the start of National Parks week here in the United States. So I’ve put together the following list of resources to help students learn about individual National Parks as well as the park system on the whole.
A Great Book About the Origins of National Parks
Years ago I was camped on the side of a mountain overlooking a beautiful valley in Grand Teton National Park when the history teacher in me came out and I said, “Thank you, Teddy Roosevelt.” Roosevelt, more than any other politician, deserves credit for the creation of the U.S. National Parks system. Those who want to read more about Roosevelt’s conservation efforts would do well to pick up a copy of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America. It is by no means a quick read, but it is a great read!
TED-ED Lesson on National Parks
Last fall TED-Ed published a good lesson about national parks. The lesson explains the origins of the U.S. National Parks system and concludes with explanations of the challenges facing national parks managers around the world. The lesson also explains how parks managers try to balance access and conservation while also respecting the rights of indigenous people whose land is often included with national parks. Overall, it’s a very interesting lesson that could lead to a lot of good conversations with students.
National Parks Image Archive
The National Parks Service’s Digital Image Archive is an excellent place to find images of U.S. National Parks. You can search the archive by park and or subject. All of the images are free to download as they are in the public domain. The National Parks Service also offers a b-roll video gallery. The videos in the galleries are in the public domain. The b-roll video gallery can be searched by park, monument, building, or person. All of the videos can be downloaded. Some files are quite large so keep that in mind if your school has bandwidth limits and you have all of your students searching for videos at the same time.
Google Earth Nation Parks Tours and Voyages
Google Earth offers a great way for students to view national parks in the United States and beyond. Your students can explore imagery in Google Earth to learn about the topography of a national park. In a lot of cases there is Street View imagery available within national parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Your students might also benefit from viewing tours within Google Earth. To locate a tour you can refine a Google search by file type to .KMZ and then launch the tours that appear in your search results.
Google Expeditions…While They Last
If you have VR headsets available to you, take a look at Google Expeditions virtual tours of the “hidden treasures” of National Parks. Unfortunately, Google Expeditions is shutting down at the end of June.
Google Arts & Culture
Over the years PBS has produced many videos about the National Parks. You can view some of those videos in their entirety on the PBS video website. Search on the site for “national parks” and you’ll have a big list of videos to view. Here’s a list to get you started.
The Travel Film Archive
The Travel Film Archive is a collection of hundreds of travel films recorded between 1900 and 1970. The films were originally recorded to promote various places around the world as tourist destinations. In the archives you will find films about US National Parks, cities across the globe, and cultural events from around the world. The videos are available on The Travel Film Archive website and on YouTube.
National Parks Bingo and More Games!
Virtual National Park Bingo is a game that asks players to explore a variety of NPS webpages and external resources to complete the bingo board. One of the bingo squares requires taking a national parks virtual tour. You could do that on the NPS website or head to this Google Earth collection to tour the U.S. National Parks.
The NPS Games and Challenges collection includes games about animals and landmarks within parks, drawing and coloring pages, hands-on projects like making costumes, and virtual scavenger hunts.
The NPS games about animals are fun little guessing games in which students see a baby animal and then have to guess what it will look like when it is grown up. For example, can you tell if this is a baby mountain lion or a baby bobcat?