Turning National Parks into Classrooms

By Beacon Staff

Learning about Glacier National Park from a book just doesn’t do it justice. To really understand the majesty of the Crown of the Continent, it takes firsthand experience.

The U.S. Department of the Interior and Department of Education agree. Today they announced a new partnership to build, develop and formalize programs that use national parks, national wildlife refuges and other public lands as classrooms and catalysts for 21st century education.

The agreement is designed to create more effective ways to connect young Americans to the outdoors, improve environmental literacy, support experiential learning outside the classroom, and form partnerships at the local level to learn from and conserve public lands.

America’s outdoor economy – including recreation, conservation and heritage initiatives – powers 8.4 million jobs and generates more than $1 trillion in economic activity annually, according to recent non-governmental estimates. Independent estimates also show that the leisure and hospitality sector could add between 2.1 and 3.3 million jobs this decade – the third highest job growth potential by sector.

Teachers and other educators could benefit by new opportunities for outdoor workshops, in-depth subject-matter seminars, and summer employment openings, according to a press release. The goals include improving teaching skills and developing deeper levels of subject-matter expertise, with a special emphasis on those who work in, or will work in, Title I, rural, and other high-need schools.

The National Park Service presents more than 95,000 education programs annually and reaches more than 2 million students enrolled in K-12 schools, the press release said. It also provides extensive online resources for students and teachers. More than 40 parks have educational institutes and field schools.

For more information, visit the Department of Interior’s website.