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Carolyn F. Stephenson
A few students are fortunate to be able to belong to organizations such as the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts which give children their first taste of the outdoors. There is something special about being away from home for the first time and yet it is a little scary. The scratching of branches or the screech of an owl sends the imagination soaring in the dark of night. Most scouts learn that nature is a friend that once introduced becomes a life-long teacher. Many an adult leader is a former scout, who wants to instill a love and respect for the great outdoors to the next generation.
Love of the wilderness is not a new concept. The student may recognize the name of Daniel Boone, a frontiersman and learn that he expressed feelings of delight in the beauty of nature while exploring the wilds of a young America.
Where do students go to sleep out in tents, identify trees, observe wildlife, enjoy the scenery, smell the fresh air? To the woods or a park !! Yes, but what kind of park? That depends on where they live. All states have state or city parks within walking or driving distance. However, not all states are fortunate to have one of our national parks included within their boundaries. Yet, each geographic region of the United States can boast of several national parks within its borders.
What is a national park? What makes a national park so special? Where are they located? Who operates these parks? When did they begin? These are questions a typical fifth grade student asks. The answers to these questions are but one part of this unit which will integrate the National Park System with the study of the of the geographic regions in my 5th grade social studies curriculum. I wish to instill in the students the knowledge that the National Park Systems are learning centers for them to protect and enjoy.
The National Park System of the United States is in its second century, and covers over 80 million acres in 47 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These areas are of such national significance as to justify special recognition and protection in accordance with various acts of Congress. According to The National Parks: Index 1989, which states “By Act of March 1, 1872, Congress established Yellowstone National Park in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming “as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people” and placed it under “under exclusive control of the of the Secretary of the Interior.” The founding of Yellowstone National Park began the worldwide national park movement. Today more than 100 nations contain some 1,200 national parks or equivalent preserves.
Our National Park System has grown such that Congress declared in the General Authorities Act of 1970 “that the National Park System, which began with the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872, has since grown to include superlative natural, historic, and recreation areas in every region . . . and that it is the purpose of this Act to include all such areas in the system . . . ”
The parks are so diversified that a variety of titles are given to them. These titles include national park, national preserve, national monument, national memorial, national historic site, national seashore, and national battlefield park. The following explanations which are paraphrased from The National Parks: Index 1989 will help to avoid confusion when specific sites are mentioned.
National parks contain a variety of resources and encompasses large land or water areas to help provide adequate protection of the resources. They are noted for their great scenic and scientific quality.
A national monument is intended to preserve at least one nationally significant resource. It is usually smaller than a national park and lacks its diversity of attractions.
National Preserves is a category that is established to protect certain resources. Activities such as hunting, fishing or the extraction of minerals or fuels may be permitted if they do not jeopardize the natural values.
National lakeshores and national seashores preserve shoreline areas and off-shore islands. They focus on the preservation of natural values while providing water-oriented recreation.
National rivers and wild and scenic riverways preserve ribbons of land bordering on free-flowing streams which have not been dammed, channelized, or otherwise altered by man. These areas also provide opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, canoeing, and hunting.
National scenic trails are generally long distance footpaths winding through areas of natural beauty.
National historic site preserves places and commemorates persons, events and activities important in the Nation’s history. Historical areas are customarily preserved or restored to reflect their appearance during the period of their greatest historical significance.
National military park, national battlefield park, national battlefield site and national battlefield are titles that are associated with American military history. National monuments and national historical parks may include features associated with military history, while the national historic park may be greater in physical extent and complexity.
National memorial is most often used for areas that are primarily commemorative. They need not be sites or structures historically associated with their subjects.
National recreation areas are units that may surround reservoirs impounded by dams built by other federal agencies and has grown to to include land and water used for recreation near major urban centers.
National parkways encompass ribbons of land flanking roadways and offer an opportunity for leisurely driving through areas of scenic interest.
Performing arts centers have been set aside to be national park sites in order to preserve facilities dedicated to the performing arts.
Wilderness areas are protected so that they will not be improved upon or changed by human habitation. There shall be no roads or commercial enterprise and no motorized equipment in any form. These areas are for hiking, camping, horseback riding.
Three types of related areas exist. Affiliated Areas, the Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and the National Trails System. They are not units of the National Park System, yet they preserve important segments of the Nation’s heritage.
Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital, has a unique park system. Most of the public parks are administered by the Federal Government through the National Capital Region of the National Park Service, The District of Columbia also operates parks, playgrounds, and recreational units.
Using the National Park System as a tool to educate children in the diversity of our country’s regions is one of interest and importance. The park can present a real sense of preservation and history once visited than that of words on the printed page. The student takes an active role in his education and becomes a preserver of his environment by seeing history and using it to support basic knowledge in the areas of geography, history, culture, recreation, and natural resources.
The 5th grade student studies the regions of the United States as part of the social studies curriculum. These regions as defined in the present text, Living In Our Country, are the Northeast, Southeast, North Central, Southwest, Rocky Mountain, and the West. These regions are rich in history that are preserved by the National Park System units. I will have the students incorporate the regional study of specific park units along with the geographic regions to enrich their background as to what areas are preserved and why such units are unique. I have chosen 2 regions to write about for this paper in a detailed fashion. The other regions will follow the same format but will use park units that are located within that specific region of the country.
Several weeks before the unit begins (usually late in September) I will show a video, Touring America’s National Parks, to my students. This video highlights 20 National Parks and gives the students a visual sample of these outstanding natural areas. Next, the students will write to the National Park Service Regional Offices and obtain maps, guides, and pamphlets on the units within that region. I will also obtain a National Park System Map and Guide for each student. As the materials arrive the students will file them within a geographical region. Later these materials will be arranged under topics such as natural areas, historic areas, recreational areas, and cultural areas. A separate file for state parks will also be kept.
The class will be introduced to each region by locating it on a map and determining its boundaries and location in relation to where our class is and in relation to the United States as a whole. We will start our study of the regions by looking at the Northeast and work our way south and west. Landforms, climate and natural resources are investigated in order to determine which national park unit would best exemplify this field. Making a living in each region is determined. Park units that are identified with this theme will be mentioned. Lastly, the way of life in each region would include history, culture, and recreation inherent to that area, National Park System areas that show greatness along these themes will be investigated. State parks that exhibit special qualities or that are of notable interest will be mentioned at the end of each regional study.
The rationale behind including state parks in this unit is as follows: all states have state parks, outdoor recreation and leisure activities are becoming more popular, and states are becoming more aware of preserving examples of their scenic, natural, and cultural heritage and are doing an excellent job managing these areas. Visiting these areas are educational and close to home for students and their families and all ow for class fieldtrips to further investigate our great parks.
This region is rich in history and culture due to the early settlements, factories, and shipping industry. Land forms in the region helped dictate the way of life. The New England states are not known for their great farmland as the Middle Atlantic states are. Yet, the landforms and natural resources of this region have been the backbone of our country’s development.
These landforms such as mountains, hills, valleys, and plateaus contribute to the richness of the wilderness areas. Coastal and interior plains are low level lands along and away from the coasts respectively which lend themselves to the development of shipping and industry.
The glaciers shaped the New England land. They pushed the top layer south leaving deposits of earth and stone. New England lost most of its top soil as the glaciers shaped the coastline.
The natural resources of this region are and were important to growth and development of the region. The most widely known are forests, fish, shellfish, stone, oil, coal, and natural gas. The early settlers found the region thickly forested. They cleared the land for planting and used the lumber for building homes and ships. Fishing became more important once the basic family needs were met. The large amount of fish found off the New England coast lead to the exportation of the excess to other countries.
At that time no thought was given to the preservation of these resources. It served the needs of the people for food, shelter and business endeavors. Luckily the attraction of the west and the promise of better land allowed new forests to grow. National and state governments began to realize the value of setting aside lands for parks and forest areas.
The Middle Atlantic states have a variety of areas. Agricultural sections in Pennsylvania and New Jersey produce large crops. Sand dunes and marshes are found in southern New Jersey. The Appalachian Mountains are rounded due to years of water erosion and wind. Coal and oil deposits are found in the region of the Appalachians. Many people earn a living from mining and drilling these resources. Pennsylvania has enough tons of coal to supply our nation for several hundred years.
Movement of goods and people has been important to the Middle Atlantic states, since the early days of the Erie Canal to the major highways and railroads of today. Airports and seaports are important links in connecting our nation.
The large area that the Northeast covers, from Maine to Delaware, has grown such that there is not much open space between the cities and their suburbs. Wilderness and wild life areas were depleted. This was cause for concern by many people. However, some animals are learning to live among man and areas are being set aside as refuges for all living things.
The National Park System helps protect the best examples of nature, history, and culture in the Northeast region. The following are examples of park units I will use with my students.
The shipping trade provided workers with a variety of jobs and trades. Fishermen, sailors, ship builders, merchants, and custom officers to name a few. All prospered during the time after the Revolutionary War when trade with the East became popular.
A visit to Salem would allow one to sense the important role this town played in the lives of all who lived, worked, and died during this booming age of trade. The National Park System has an excellent guide to the Salem Maritime National Historic site. It gives the history of Salem along with photographs, maps, drawings, nautical, and cultural history of the merchants and sailors of that contributed to the town financially and culturally.
In 1859, Lecthworth built his home called “Glen Iris” overlooking one of the falls. He eventually gathered about 1000 acres. Later he gave them to the state for “enjoyment and posterity”. More than 12,000 acres have been added to the park.
This park is a available for recreation and has a note of history included. Swimming, hiking, relaxing are on the agenda if you visit this state park.
The Southeast has a variety of landforms which include: coastal plains, swamps, Appalachian Highlands, interior highlands, the Piedmont, interior highlands, and interior plains. These landforms make this region interesting to visit and enjoy different climates. The flat land along the coast receives little rain and has warm temperatures. The coastal plains are higher, yet still quite flat. It is good for farming. As you travel farther inland the land rises and the temperature gets cooler as you reach the Piedmont, a wide area of low rolling hills at the edge of the Appalachian Highlands. The very low-lying areas are wet and swampy and may be covered with water.
The resources of the Southeast are important to the way of life of the people that live there. The rich soils grow a variety of crops to feed the nation. The rivers help transport goods. The bluegrass of Kentucky and Tennessee create great pasturelands. The forests provide many kinds of trees that are used for furniture making. Large deposits of oil, natural gas, and coal are found here. Other minerals are found in the Southeast such as iron ore, salt, and bauxite—which is used in the making of aluminum.
Soybeans are the major money making crop in this region. Tobacco and cotton are second and third respectively. Sugar, rice, and peanuts are supplied for processing into numerous food products. Citrus fruit is grown to be shipped to the north or squeezed into juice. Florida also raises vegetables that can not be grown during the winter months in the northern states.
The Southeast has attracted businesses to the area because of the mild climate, raw materials, and large work force. Highways and railroads form a valuable network for shipping the manufactured goods made in the chemical, textile, wood, food, and paper plants.
The environment of the Southeast affects the way the people live. They wear light weight clothing because the winters are not harsh. Heating their homes is less expensive. Some people who live in rural areas grow their own food and are self-sufficient. The cities are growing as more people are moving to the region.
People of many cultural backgrounds live in the Southeast. The first settlers came from England, Scotland, and Ireland. The French and Spanish inhabited the southern parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Large portions of the Southeast are home to African Americans. Native Americans live in portions of North Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Retired people and families from Cuba and Puerto Rico contribute to the diverse culture of this region.
The National Park units I will use for the study in the Southeast Region are just a small sample of what the region offers to visitors of all ages.
The saw grass dominates the Everglades. Every where you look the grass forms a waving sea which covers miles of flat, wet land. It grows during the wet season then drys out during the winter. The blades look like a saw with its jagged edges. The edges are sharp yet the tender base is food for white-tailed deer.
Wild life abounds in the Everglades. Birds such as the Osprey, Great White Heron, Brown Pelican, Wood Stork, Anhinga, Roseate Spoonbill, and Southern Bald Eagle live in this protected area. Alligators, Green Sea Turtles, Manatees, Crocodiles, and the Florida Panther continue to survive with the help of man in this unusual park.
The Everglades Wildguide, a National Park Handbook, is an excellent source of information relating to the plants and animals of the Everglades. It has wonderful illustrations that help one to understand the history, wildlife, and plants of the park. Checklists of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, trees, and tree-like plants are located in the handbook for reference. A glossary is included to define terms relating to the Everglades. This handbook would be helpful to all who are interested in learning about the natural history of this subtropical park unit.
Visitors to the Everglades have lots to see and do. Upon receiving a park map, you may go along on your own to birdwatch, hike, fish, or camp. If one chooses, the Ranger-guided activities include talks, hikes, canoe trips, and campfire programs. Depending on time and interest, visitors can find something that will make them stop, look, listen, and learn about the Everglades National Park.
Walking tours through Sweet Auburn allows visitors to view the community in which many buildings dated late 1800s to early 1900s have been restored to their former beauty. A map obtained from the park visitors center will guide viewers through this historic site where Martin Luther King was born and the gravesite to where he rests.
Tuskegee developed and grew under Washington’s leadershlp. There was widespread support of the school. Supporters from the North and South made generous contributions to increase the size and popularity of the institution. George Washington Carver, a graduate from Iowa Agricultural College, was invited by Washington to be the department head of Agriculture. Carver worked on developing uses for Southern agricultural products. Carver’s research brought recognition to Tuskegee and himself as an outstanding scientist.
Visitors are invited to tour the Historic Campus District, stopping first at the orientation center. Interpretive programs are available as are maps of the site. Walking tours provide close up views of the buildings constructed while Washington was still alive. Bricks for many of these buildings were made by students on campus. R.R. Taylor, the first black graduate of MIT, designed and supervised construction of these buildings. Tours of Washington’s home, The Oaks are offered as are visitations to working classrooms. This would be an inspirational and educational stop for all students and their families.
This park is maintained in its historic condition except for removal of brush and overgrown trees. Thus it can be studied in its almost original state. There is no battlefield park of this size and quality in the world. There are monuments and markers placed throughout the park.
An important stop of this unit would be the visitor center in order to get a history of the area and the battles. Audio-visual programs and exhibits help guide the visitor to a better understanding of this historic area. A park map will help to guide one to the points of interest while touring this military park.
The Blackwater River flows swiftly then drops through the gorge 136 feet to the mile. Two miles of the canyon lie within the park. The park is divided into the north section, which has a lake area, picnic, and playgrounds and the southern area which contains a lodge and furnished cabin section.
This park area was once a great wilderness until about 1865, when Solomon Cosner found a place to clear and build a small farm, The railroad came in 1885 and the forests were cut and finally depleted in the l930’s and 1940’s. Forestfires took over where the railroads, lumbering, and strip mining left off. Luckily the CCC replanted the spruce and the Monongahela National Forest bordered the area to act as a buffer and supporter. The trees one sees now are a combination of replantings, virgin growth that was too hard for lumbermen to get to, and some 1925 growth.
Blackwater Falls, an area of beauty that was almost laid bare, has been saved and restored to an enjoyable recreation area of beauty with its dark “tea” colored waters tumbling through the gorge that man has not and will not destroy.
1. To introduce students to the National Park System by viewing a video.
Video tape-Touring Our National Parks
- 1. Tell students they are going to see a video of some of our country’s national parks and as each one is introduced they are to write down its name and location.
- 2. As the video plays each student is to star* the areas they find unique and interesting
- 3. After the video is over each student will share at least one of his/her starred* parks and tell why it was of interest, what they liked best about it and why.
- 4. After each student has had a chance to share, I will replay sections of the video to reinforce their observations.
- 1. The students will write letters requesting materials from each National Park System Regional Office.
- 2. Students will choose a specific park unit that is of interest to them, and write directly to that park requesting additional information.
- 3. Students will be responsible for sharing 1 park unit with the rest of the class.
addresses of regional offices-see appendix
addresses of individual park units-see appendix
- 1. Ten students will be assigned to write to the 10 regional offices of the National Park System.
- 2. Ten file folders will be made to receive pamphlets as they arrive.
- 3. Each student will choose 1 park unit from the regional materials and write to that park requesting additional materials.
- 4. When all materials have arrived, students will draw a travel poster to attract other students to visit their park unit. These posters will then be posted around the classroom.
- 1. To increase vocabulary development through word searches that use words that are unique to each park unit.
1. teacher generated word searches
- 2. student generated word searches
- 3. large square graph paper 1/2” squares
- 4. pencils
- 5. park folders and booklets
1. Choose 25 vocabulary words that are characteristic of a park site.
- 2. Enter words into computer program that generates wordsearch puzzles and print out puzzle and answer key.
- 3. Copy puzzle and distribute to students.
- 4. Students may work in groups or individually to find the hidden words.
- 5. Students may make their own puzzles to exchange by printing one letter of each word they want to hide in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal pattern on the graph paper. Then fill in the rest of the squares with random letters. Then exchange papers with classmates and have fun finding the hidden vocabulary words.
- *NOTE* I have found that 5th graders love word puzzles. I have used vocabulary puzzles as unit end activities and just for fun. For more advanced students a more challenging puzzle would hide words, but give definitions as clues. ex. Reptile with long snout and rows of teeth that likes warm, swampy water. Type of grass found in the Everglades
- 1. To recycle old calendar pictures of National Park Sites, animals, birds, etc. relating to specific park units into puzzle games that can be played individually, in teams, or as a whole class activity.
- 1. Old calendars with large pictures of wildlife, scenic views, etc. that may be easily identified with a specific park unit.
- 2. Construction paper for backing of pictures
- 3. Glue, pencils, ruler, scissors, and envelope
*NOTE* This activity may be played as a class game. The teacher makes the puzzle pieces and gives one piece to each student. The class must work together in an orderly fashion to complete the puzzle then identify the park, state and region in order to receive credit.
- 1. Distribute materials and have students glue picture to backing.
- 2. Have students draw large, jigsaw like pieces lightly on the backing and cut out and place in the envelope.
- 3. Pass out envelopes to teams or individuals.
- 4. Set a time limit to complete puzzle. The first to complete and identify the puzzle is the winner.
Irving Melbo, Our Country’s National Parks. Vol. 1” Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1973 p.121.
Superintendent of Documents
Government Printing Office
Washington, DC 20402-9325
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE REGIONAL OFFICES
National Park Service
2525 Gambell Street
PACIFIC NORTHWEST REGION
National Park Service
83 South King Street
Seattle, WA 98104
National Park Service
450 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102
ROCKY MOUNTAIN REGION
National Park Service
12795 W. Alameda Pkwy.
P.O. Box 25287
Denver, CO 80225
National Park Service
P.O. Box 728
Santa Fe, NM 87504
National Park Service
1709 Jackson Street
Omaha, NE 68102
National Park Service
Richard B. Russell Federal Building
75 Spring Street, SW
Atlanta, GA 30303
National Park Service
143 South Third Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION
National Park Service
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
WAshington, D.C. 20242
NORTH ATLANTIC REGION
National Park System
15 State Street
Boston, MA 02109
WORD SEARCH(Super Wordfind)
Hartley Courseware, Inc.
P.O. Box 419
Dimondale, MI 48821
Knowlton, Jack, Geography From A To Z: A Picture Glossary, New York: Thomas Y. Crowell. 1988.
Melbo, Irving, Our Country’s National Parks, Vol. 1 and 2, Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1973.
Leopold, Aldo, A Sand County Almanac. New York: Ballantine Books. 1989.
Nash, Roderick, Wilderness And The American Mind. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1982.
National Park Service, The National Parks: Index 1989, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, 1989.
National Park Service, The National Parks: Shaping the System. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior. 1985.
National Park Service, Salem: Maritime Salem in the Age of Sail, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior. 1987.
Reader’s Digest, Our National Parks: America’a Spectacular Wilderness Heritage, Pleasantville: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.. 1989 Updated Edition.
Tilden, Freeman, Interpreting Our Heritage, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. 1957.
Tilden, Freeman, The State Parks: Their Meaning in American Life, New York: Albert A. Knopf, Inc. 1962.
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