Happy 100th Birthday National Park Service!
Way back in August of 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the National Park Service Organic Act, establishing the creation of the National Park Service “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife” found inside the United States and make them available for public enjoyment.
According to National Geographic and the NPS, there are more than 84 million acres across the U.S., at sites as diverse as national monuments, Civil War battlefields, and historic sites. There’s a big range in size among NPS sites, too: The biggest is Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska, at 13.2 million acres, while the smallest is Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Pennsylvania, at 0.02 acre. These sites attract more than 300 million visitors every year.
Shelton Johnson, a park ranger at Yosemite National Park and published author, shared his thoughts on this important milestone.
“No longer were rivers a force to be dammed, virgin forests a source for board-feet, or mountainsides blasted for gemstones or coal. The idea of parks has the power to transcend culture, a currency whose value speaks of something profoundly human.”
To celebrate, the National Park Service is inviting visitors of all ages to join in the celebration throughout the month. With special events across the country, and free admission to all 412 national parks from August 25 through August 28, the National Park Service is encouraging everyone to #FindYourPark.
Get started by heading to an amazing photo tour of some of the NPS sites around the country. To get the full 360 degree effect, you’ll probably want to use your phone or tablet for the absolutely incredible video tour of the “Hidden Worlds of the National Parks.” Created by the folks at Google Arts & Culture, the tour allows you experience lava tubes, bats, shipwrecks, and a glacier crevasse.
And now that you’re super NPS smart, try this National Geographic “Can You Identify the Park from the Picture?” activity. Better yet, try this with your students.
Finally, spend some time at the Find Your Park site to see what might be close by and explore the tons of activities for you and your kids.
The NPS is also a great place to spend some time once the celebrating is over. They have some great teacher resources that are searchable by subject, grade level, and standard that are incredibly useful throughout the year. And their Teaching with Historic Places is a perfect for helping you and your students to understand the connections between place, people, and events.
Need a few more teaching ideas? Try this PBS site for some sweet lesson plan goodies.
So get out this weekend – enjoy “the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife.” And next week? Come back and grab some of their awesome teaching tools.