We have found some wonderful resources that we use regularly to enhance our homeschool, but my very favorite resource is our National and State Parks. What better learning experience can you imagine than seeing, feeling, and experiencing the National Parks first-hand?
When we first left on our travel adventure I was slightly skeptical. Although I knew our National and State Parks were places of beauty, I wondered if my children would gain much from these beautiful “scenic” places? That was very naive on my part.
The National Parks usually have an extensive Visitor Center, or multiple Visitor Centers, that are jam packed with resources, maps, and information. They usually house a museum, a movie, and most importantly, knowledgeable Park Rangers who embrace teaching others about their beloved National Parks. They have free Ranger tours and programs, covering nature walks, animal talks, and sometimes even astronomy programs.
In addition to these resources, the best part for families and homeschoolers is, that they’ve already designed curriculum based on each Park, and they will give you a Junior Ranger Booklet for free (with a very few exceptions). The booklets are for young children all the way up to adults, and specific activities are assigned, dependent on your age.
The activities range from writing activities, local history, animal and plant information, to map skills and art. (Some of the books are uploaded on their websites, so you can download it before even visiting). Once the books are completed, the Rangers sign the book, and have the Junior Ranger complete an oath, and then present them with a badge. (A little secret that I just learned, is that if you don’t have time to complete the booklet while visiting the park, you can mail them in and the Rangers will mail them back their badge.) Most are plastic badges with the Park’s emblem, but some even give patches.
Looking back at our year and a half on the road, I realize that most of the fabulous and favorite places we have visited have been National or State Parks. The learning that took place was tremendous, for ALL of us. Here are just some of the experiences that my homeschoolers have had:
Viewing constellations through massive telescopes
Gazing up at cliff side dwellings
Climbing into Native American tepees
Wading in the Great Salt Lake
Watching bison, elk, deer, bears, and prairie dogs cross the road
Counting the rings of great Sequoia Trees
Riding a tram above the Redwoods
Marveling at geysers erupting next to them
Sailing passed a gigantic glacier
Playing on the beach next to a shipwreck
Hiking among mountains, deserts, forests, red desert sand, waterfalls, giant trees, hoodoos, petroglyphs, and ancient ruins
To date, we have visited and collected badges at about 25 National Parks, Monuments, and State Parks, including Glacier Bay, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Montezuma Castle, and the Valley of Fire, just to name a few.
A National Park Pass will run you $80 for the entire year, and certain states, not all, also honor those passes at their State Parks as well.
Fourth graders across the country can get a Free National Park Pass this year, which entitles them to bring their family along too.
Current Military are eligible for a free pass.
Seniors qualify for the Lifetime Pass for only $10!