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Flat Ranger

I’ve never written a blog before and I’m not exactly sure how to start, but I am passionate about National Parks and teaching, so I thought this would be a great place to share a project idea that combines the two!

About 5 years ago, my kids and I started on a road trip out west (from South Carolina) with my dad and his wife. My husband also joined us for part of the trip. My dad and his wife have traveled extensively around the US and he passed his “wanderlust” on to me and apparently, my two sons as well. Off we went…my parents in their camper and us following behind with an SUV and a tent. That summer we went to Badlands National Park, Minuteman National Monument, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Mount Rushmore National Monument, as well as some other great places. I fell in love with moose, the Rockies, and the West! I came back and started the new school year determined to share my experiences, but also aware of the time crunch teachers face each year. I searched for ways to tie National Parks with our standards.

Below is a brief list of standards (in SC) that could provide curricular links to National Parks.

  • 2nd grade South Carolina Science Standards: Ecosystems, Biological Evolution (Plants and Animals), Earth Systems (Land and Water), Earth and Human Activity

  • 2nd Grade South Carolina Social Studies Standards: History, Geography, Economics

  • 2nd Grade South Carolina ELA Standards: reading non fiction texts, researching, writing letters, sharing and presenting information through multimedia formats, etc.

After considering my standards, I decided to do the “Flat Ranger” project (following our studies of landforms). Each of my students made a “Flat Ranger” (link below), named it, chose a National Park and wrote a letter requesting information. More than half of my class of 23 had their Flat Ranger’s returned! It was AMAZING! With each Flat Ranger’s return we located the park on the map of the US and read the information shared by the park rangers. We were able to make connections with what we knew regarding geography and history, in some cases. The students anxiously awaited the return of their Rangers.

Specific standards tied to the Flat Ranger project:

Social Studies:

  • 2.G.1 Identify the geographic location of the U. S. in relation to the rest of the world,

  • 2.G.2 Describe and compare various landforms over time within the U.S. through the use of primary and secondary sources,

  • 2.G.3 Explain how the distribution of human features, physical features, and natural resources within the U. S changes over time and impacts economic activity (I tied this in with tourism, visitors to the National Parks)


  • 2-LS4-1. Make observations of plants and animals to compare patterns of diversity within different habitats.

  • 2-ESS1-1. Use information from several sources to provide evidence that Earth events can occur rapidly or slowly (we talked about earthquakes, erosion, eruptions, etc). 2-

  • ESS2-3. Obtain information to identify where water is found on Earth and that it can be solid or liquid.


  • Standard 3: Construct knowledge, applying disciplinary concepts and tools, to build deeper understanding of the world through exploration, collaboration, and analysis.

  • Standard 4: Synthesize integrated information to share learning and/or take action.

  • Standard 5: Reflect throughout the inquiry process to assess metacognition, broaden understanding, and guide actions, both individually and collaboratively.

ELA: Reading : Informational Text

  • Standard 1: Demonstrate understanding of the organization and basic features of print.

  • Standard 2: Demonstrate understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds.

  • Standard 3: Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.

  • Standard 4: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

  • Standard 5: Determine meaning and develop logical interpretations by making predictions, inferring, drawing conclusions, analyzing, synthesizing, providing evidence and investigating multiple interpretations.

  • Standard 6: Summarize key details and ideas to support analysis of central ideas.

  • Standard 7: Research events, topics, ideas, or concepts through multiple media, formats, and in visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modalities.

  • Standard 9: Apply a range of strategies to determine the meaning of known, unknown, and multiple meaning words, phrases, and jargon; acquire and use general academic and domain-specific vocabulary.

  • Standard 10: Analyze and provide evidence of how the author’s choice of purpose and perspective shapes content, meaning, and style.

ELA: Writing

  • Standard 1: Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

  • Standard 2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

  • Standard 4: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

  • Standard 5: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

  • Standard 6: Write independently, legibly, and routinely for a variety of tasks, purposes, and audiences over short and extended 5 time frames.

ELA: Communication

  • Standard 1: Interact with others to explore ideas and concepts, communicate meaning, and develop logical interpretations through collaborative conversations; build upon the ideas of others to clearly express one’s own views while respecting diverse perspectives.

  • Standard 2: Articulate ideas, claims, and perspectives in a logical sequence using information, findings, and credible evidence from sources.

  • Standard 3: Communicate information through strategic use of multiple modalities and multimedia to enrich understanding when presenting ideas and information.

  • Standard 4: Critique how a speaker addresses content and uses craft techniques that stylistically and structurally inform, engage, and impact audience and convey messages.

Prior to mailing our Flat Rangers, I explained to my students that MAYBE the National Park Rangers would reply and send us information, but maybe not. We talked about how the Park Rangers have very busy jobs and probably receive lots of mail from all over the world.

They may have the opportunity to respond, but they might not. If they do respond, we should be very thankful. My students understood this and celebrated the Flat Rangers that did return.

Upon reflecting on the Flat Ranger project, there are some things I would do differently. I would like to begin the project earlier in the year which would (hopefully) allow for a greater return on the Rangers. I might even get it started by talking about future careers. I tell my students that “when I grow up, I want to be a National Park Volunteer”. This could begin the conversation of what a national park is and get the project started earlier. There truly are SO many ways to integrate the Flat Ranger projects and I can’t wait to try it again!

One of the reasons this was such a success is that the Flat Rangers returned throughout the year…it was something unexpected to look forward to.

Patricia Taylor is a 2nd grade teacher at Rock Hills Schools in South Carolina and is one of the earliest members of the National Park Classroom!



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