As a scientist and person who greatly appreciates the natural world, I love visiting national parks. They are spectacular places! You can weave them into science units such as:
- Population dynamics (How are population sizes naturally regulated in areas with no hunting? Yellowstone wolves are a great example!)
- Landforms and plate tectonics (Hot springs! Volcanoes! Island chains! Lava tubes!)
- Weathering and erosion (Caves! Canyons! Natural arches!)
- Geologic time (fossil records!)
- Climate change (How do giant redwoods and sequoias keep a record of climate change?)
- Human impact and conservation
Here are some activities you can use to show students the wonder of national parks:
1. National Parks Service: The NPS has a ton of free lesson plans you can explore. As you search, you can filter based on lesson type, grade, or park.
You can also show this video clip on how the national park service got started.
2. Virtual Field Trip: Have students take a virtual field trip to a park of their choice using Google Earth. All they have to do is type in the name of the park and begin exploring! You can have them look for natural landforms, watersheds, or evidence of human impacts on the environment.
3. National Park Bulletin Board: Have students choose a national park, complete some background research, and add it to an interactive bulletin board. (This is a great activity for a few extra credit points or an early finisher activity).
4. Travel Brochure: Have students create a travel brochure for a park of their choice. What should visitors pack? What cool landforms will they see? Any rare plants or animals?
5. PBS National Park video series: Check out this 6 part video series from PBS on National Parks .
6. National Parks Adventure: The Smithsonian Institute has an educator guide called “national parks adventure” that includes a series of lesson plans and activities on national parks.
This one isn’t lesson plan related, but I got one of these National Park scratch posters as a gift and it is so fun! If you would like to visit them all some day, it’s a must have (affiliate link).