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Connecting with Classrooms - 4 Ideas for Collaborating with Schools

“We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”

If you work in parks, these words probably resonate with you as they remind us about the important role of education in supporting the conservation mission of parks. essential today and will continue to be in our future. Spoken by Baba Dioum, a Senegalese forest ranger at a 1968 meeting of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, this international organization was formed just after the United Nations was chartered. Consisting of scientists, naturalists, and educators, the UCN advises and assists governments around the world on how to use natural resources equitably and sustainably, with education playing a key role.

Most parks and public land agencies have an educational mission that works closely to support their conservation one. One of the best ways to ensure that your park is consistently making connections to future conservations is through classroom teachers. But this can sometimes be difficult since teachers are often unaware of the benefits that can come from closer collaboration with parks.

How can you remedy this problem? What ways of connecting to classrooms are the most beneficial? Here are four ideas that have been implemented successfully in parks across the country!

Provide Outside Expertise - Teachers rely on outside experts to support in class learning and projects in a number of ways. They need them to answer tough questions beyond the teacher's knowledge. They need them to help give students feedback. They also need them to help expand and assess student learning. A distance learning program is one way this can be successful. In person classroom visits are also a method. Some parks even produce a “student report packet” which contains all the information typical of requests by students for help.

Hold a Teacher Workshop - The most effective teacher workshops I have seen are 50% park programming and 50% collaborative resource building. First, take local teachers to a special tour of your area while asking them to record places where you can see park resources that provide connections to their curriculum or learning goals. With the connections uncovered by the teacher themselves, you can then help them design and build their projects, units, and lessons during the second half of the workshop. Teachers can then share their lessons with each other, resulting in them leaving with over a dozen teacher-created materials for use. In advertising these opportunities, you can also promise service hours towards recredentialing or priority registration for their students in programs provided during the year.

Start a Teacher Ambassador Program - Find teachers who you worked with on field trips or have been longtime supporters of your program or space and ask them if they would like to become teacher ambassadors for the park. They can support the design of curriculum for your park allowing you to say that all of your curriculum or your educational programs are classroom-teacher designed. You can also have programs you develop tested by your ambassadors, providing crucial feedback that can improve the quality of your programs.

Create Content - Sometimes teachers don’t want a full curriculum or don’t have time to read a 90-page document chalk full of premade lessons. Many teachers are already familiar with curriculum building and prefer to create their own so that it is responsive to their students. They know what their kids need, but what they can’t provide are the place-based experiences a park can provide. Familiarize yourself with the science, social studies, or literacy standards, whatever area you’re hoping to build content in. Make content that can be downloaded or watched on demand and is available remotely, so even teachers outside of your travel area can benefit from it. Videos shot in the park, historic demonstrations, or short walkthroughs of your museum spaces are perfect, and will be very popular with teachers.

All of the above ideas came from services we have provided to parks at the county, state, and national level. If you would like help bringing them fruition, reach out to us via email -->


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