Photograph by Anna Nahabed,
Photograph by Anna Nahabed,

Into the Wild

Bug spotting, rock peeking, and ecological adventuring: A new initiative aims to turn young explorers into national park stewards.

A little dirt never hurt. But a lot of dirt? That’s an educational opportunity, according to the partners behind an innovative teaching tool to encourage third-to-fifth graders to dig into America’s national parks. From animal tracking and geocaching expeditions on nature walks to mapping challenges and more fun facts than you can shake a stick at, the immersive program frames national parks as fertile ground for lifelong learning.

Designed to inspire a new generation of explorers—and timed to coincide with the National Park Service centennial in 2016— Find Your Park, Love Your Park is a new initiative by National Geographic with support from Suburu. The program features five free downloadable activity modules for educators, each developed by National Geographic’s education specialists to empower students to claim their parks as places for recreation, conservation, and discovery.

The materials help kids get the most out of mini-field trips. Students are challenged to observe parks in their own communities and record their discoveries in exploration journals. Young conservationists learn to analyze ecological challenges such as littering to perceive how people’s actions can negatively affect natural places. Classmates collaborate to create an atlas listing the environmental and cultural characteristics of a wilderness area nearby. And future park planners learn to design accessible parks around the attributes (monuments or mountains, for instance) and activities (such as fishing or hiking) that make each space unique.

View Images

Education for Everyone

An ultimate goal of the program is to inspire people of all ages to become stewards of national parks. As a supplement to the educational materials, an interactive map enables users to search for national, state, and local parks based on their zip codes. The map encourages people to adopt a local park, brainstorm ways to preserve parks near and far, and take a pledge to protect, visit, and love parks everywhere. This mobile-ready tool is designed to help educators and parents turn online explorations into teachable moments.

Explore America's national, state, and local parks from Yellowstone and Denali, to others that might be closer to home.  Use our map to find a park you can visit and make a pledge to protect it while you're there. From safely watching wildlife, to recycling and reusing containers when you go, each action adds up to make the difference that will keep our parks protected and pristine for a second century of exploration. 

Pull Quote
The Find Your Park, Love Your Park initiative allows us to provide educators around the country with rich and interactive activities they can use in and out of the classroom to engage students about national parks and why they matter.
Melina Bellows, Chief Education Officer, National Geographic
View Images

The Perks of Parks

America’s national parks are sites of natural beauty and cultural heritage. From Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace (in central Kentucky) to Zion National Park (in Utah), the National Park Service safeguards 408 spectacular places in the U.S., attracting nearly 300 million visitors a year. But not every park is a stone’s throw from classrooms. That’s where the Find Your Park, Love Your Park initiative comes in.

With the launch of the initiative, a generation of intrepid young adventurers may soon be methodically mapping parkland sights from coast to coast. We may see them stargazing at Joshua Tree National Park in California, drinking rainwater at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, or cracking jokes at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Some of them may even become park rangers.

When students discover that the world is their classroom the wild spaces around them become places of exploration and empowerment. For educators and caretakers, the Find Your Park, Love Your Park program is a field guide for nurturing cultural curiosity and ecological engagement. And for the National Park Service, the initiative promises to encourage a new generation of kids to act as stewards of the planet, keeping a protective eye on the parks for decades to come.

The program with National Geographic is just one of several parks efforts that Subaru has planned. Subaru, recognized for having the first automotive assembly plant in America designated as zero landfill, announced in June that it will share its knowledge of zero landfill practices with the National Park Service and the National Parks Conservation Association to reduce landfill waste from the parks. This sustainability initiative builds upon Subaru of America’s multi-year partnership with the National Park Foundation (NPF) celebrating the centennial of the National Park Service and the Find Your Park movement. 

This content was written by and is brought to you by our sponsor. It does not necessarily reflect the views of National Geographic or its editorial staff.