Celebrating Our National Parks

Celebrating Our National Parks (Clockwise from left top): Denali National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Acadia National Park, Arches National Park.
Photo Credit: U.S. National Park Service.
In 1872, Congress passed legislation to create the Yellowstone National Park, intending the land to be preserved as "a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people." That was the first of many steps at the federal level to create and preserve national land, forests, coastal regions, wildlife refuges, and historic sites for future generations. In 1916, the National Park Service was created to oversee and protect the growing number of parks.

Today, there are close to 400 areas, including 58 fully designated national parks, across the nation under the domain of the National Park Service. They range from the tiny Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Pennsylvania, which comprises only .02 acres, to Alaska's massive Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, spanning a vast 13.2 million acres.

Celebrate them all during National Park Week, April 20–28. The 2013 theme is “Did You Know...?” which invites people to learn more about the parks. The National Park Service is celebrating by waiving entrance fees to all parks April 22-26 and by sponsoring a variety of events around the country (including Volunteer Day on April 27 and Junior Ranger Day on April 20).

These Science NetLinks resources provide a variety of rich media learning experiences to help students find out more about our national parks and conservation.
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  • Investigating Local Ecosystems

    Investigating Local Ecosystems

    K-2  |  Hands-On
    In this lesson students explore the habitats of local plants and animals to learn about how living things depend on one another.
  • Introducing Biodiversity

    Introducing Biodiversity

    3-5  |  Hands-On
    This lesson introduces students to the amazing variety of life around them.
  • Marine Sanctuaries

    Marine Sanctuaries

    In this lesson, students will learn about the national marine sanctuaries found in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and off the coast of American Samoa.
  • Yellowstone Wolves

    Yellowstone Wolves

    This lesson uses the conflict between ranchers and wolves to explore the relationships between living things and their environments, and the effects of physical and human forces on the natural world.
  • Managing the Everglades Ecosystem

    Managing the Everglades Ecosystem

    Students learn about conservation, explore relationships between species and habitats, and find out how humans have altered the equilibrium in the Everglades.
  • The Wild Trees

    The Wild Trees

    9-12  |  Audio
    This lesson addresses the diversity of scientific research in the context of the story of how researchers learned about the giant redwoods in Northwestern California.
  • Tigerland and Other Unintended Destinations

    Tigerland and Other Unintended Destinations

    9-12  |  Audio
    This lesson provides an introduction to conservation biology via the memoirs of a scientist who has traveled throughout the world to study and defend endangered species.


  • Biomes of the World

    Biomes of the World

    K-8  |  Website
    The Biomes of the World resource provides information on rainforest, tundra, taiga, desert, temperate, and grassland biomes.
  • Exploring Caves

    Exploring Caves

    K-5  |  Teaching Aid
    Exploring Caves is an interdisciplinary set of materials on caves.
  • Biodiversity: Life in the City

    Biodiversity: Life in the City

    K-5  |  Interactive
    In this simple resource, students scroll over a drawing of an urban, park-like setting and find ten examples of hidden "critters." Each critter is then magnified and described.
  • My Life as an Elk

    My Life as an Elk

    K-5  |  Interactive
    This interactive story lets you take on the identity of a newborn elk calf and make choices as it grows up in Yellowstone National Park.
  • Coral Reef Adventure Fun Zone

    Coral Reef Adventure Fun Zone

    3-8  |  Interactive
    This resource is part of a larger site on The Coral Reef Adventure, a film that follows the real-life adventures of ocean explorers and underwater filmmakers, Howard and Michele Hall. It has several different activities that you can do.
  • Shape It Up!

    Shape It Up!

    3-8  |  Interactive
    This interactive from Kinetic City provides students with the opportunity to experience how mountains, rivers, and canyons were formed.
  • The Amateur Naturalist

    The Amateur Naturalist

    3-12  |  Website
    This resource discusses The Amateur Naturalist, by Nick Baker, which is full of information to enhance any outdoor learning experience.
  • Center for Desert Archaeology Exhibits

    Center for Desert Archaeology Exhibits

    6-12  |  Website
    This resource, developed by The Center for Desert Archaeology, consists of online exhibits that illustrate key concepts in preservation archaeology and the prehistory of the American Southwest and Mexican Northwest.
  • Estuaries: Finding the Balance

    Estuaries: Finding the Balance

    9-12  |  Teaching Aid
    Students can use this resource from the National Geographic to examine the conflict between development and the environment by focusing on estuaries across the United States.
  • Wildfire Simulator

    Wildfire Simulator

    6-12  |  Website
    This fire-growth computer model that lets users see how certain conditions, such as wind speed and direction, affect the spread of a wildland fire.

Science Updates

  • Birdsong and Climate

    Birdsong and Climate

    6-12  |  Audio
    In this Science Update, you can learn how birds that live in more variable climates sing more sophisticated songs.
  • Changing Oceans

    Changing Oceans

    6-12  |  Audio
    According to a landmark study in the journal Science, climate change is transforming the world's oceans, at a potentially huge cost. You'll hear more about it in this Science Update.
  • Florida Freezes

    Florida Freezes

    6-12  |  Audio
    Draining a wetland can change local weather.
  • Marine Reserves

    Marine Reserves

    6-12  |  Audio
    This Science Update looks at the unexpected impact marine reserves have on their surroundings.
  • Mountain Rain

    Mountain Rain

    6-12  |  Audio
    This Science Update explores why pollution from cities could dry out nearby mountains.
  • Everglades Pythons

    Everglades Pythons

    6-12  |  Audio
    A study of the stomach contents of non native Burmese pythons living in the Everglades shows how many different species the pythons have been poaching.

Other Resources

Grade Band: K-12
Description: The National Park Service engages students with games, questions, and webcams.

Windows into Wonderland
Grade Band: K-12
Description: The Windows into Wonderland project of the Yellowstone National Park offers student eTrips into various aspects of the parks. Earlier eTrips feature photos and text, but more recent shows offer animation and additional interaction for students. Additionally, each eTrip homepage offers a link for a teacher page, which offer lesson plans and additional resources.

Conflict Yellowstone Wolves
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: Students analyze the Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf problem and decide if the wolves in Yellowstone National Park should be removed in this lesson from the Poway (CA) Unified School District.

The National Parks: America's Best Idea
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: This PBS-run website accompanies the Ken Burns documentary mini-series of the same name. The site provides more in-depth information about the history of national parks, the key players in the conservation movement, and opportunities for further exploration.

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