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Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Road Trip to the U.S. National Parks

It's peak vacation time, so what are your plans? Maybe a trip to  a U.S. national park is on your itinerary? If so, be sure to pack along the below national park road trip guide to help elementary students prepare for their visits to national parks.

One of the top national parks to visit is Yellowstone. My first visit to the park was when I was an infant, and it's not one that I remember. But, I do love looking at the old 1963 photos of the trip! I've visited Yellowstone many times throughout my years. Some of my best memories are of visiting the national park during summer vacations. When I was about ten-years-old, my grandparents, mom, and brother, Mike, packed the overhead camper that sat atop a Chevrolet single-cab pickup and off we went to Yellowstone. We stood in awe as Ol' Faithful shot high into the air then we walked amongst the many hot, boiling geysers. The park ranger informed us to be very careful since the board walkways had no handrails. I'll never forget being in front of my brother and thinking how easy it would be for him to reach over and push me into the geyser, which the park ranger said could boil the skin off a person's bones in about one minute. All of the pranks and tricks I played on my brother throughout the years ran through my mind. Would I survive our Yellowstone vacation? I learned a great deal about geysers, nature, and humans on our visit to Yellowstone.

Every summer, my parents took us on vacation. We went to the Grand Canyon, Grand Tetons, Painted Desert, Rocky Mountains, and many more places. These vacations created wonderful memories that shaped my appreciation and pride for the great, historical country of America. Then, when my brother, Mike, moved near Yellowstone for work related reasons, he brought my husband and I for a visit a couple of times. We walked the land that Indians owned, that settlers fought and died over, and where recorded wars took place. We watched buffalo graze while bears, deer, and elk waded in fish-filled streams that ran as clear as tap water. We saw Custer's last stand and touched the rock where Lewis and Clark carved their names. We played in snow that was pure and untouched on peaks that seemed to touch the heavens. We stepped back in time to experience life as it once was. 

Every national park offers big discounts and has free days, so check the National Park Service government website to learn more about affordable options. Kids can sign up to become Junior Rangers and can play online park games, as well as learn fun facts about parks. Take time to experience life as it once was in the United States, and help kids learn about funding and preservation of our national parks. 

Share stories and pictures of national parks with your class . Ask students to contribute by bringing in vacation pictures and invite parents to tell about their trips. Encourage a park ranger or local park manager to speak to students about funding and preservation of national parks. 

Enjoy your trip to the national park!
Beth, Educator Helper

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To begin your national parks unit, have students start with the My Road Trip to the Top 10 National U.S. Parks handouts (sample pages below). Start with the Road Trip Map that lets students plot their trip and uses math skills to configure mileage. Then, learn facts about each of the parks, fill in your own information, and color a scene from the park. Be sure to incorporate students' poems and oral and written stories about national parks to complete your unit. 

National Parks Included: 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Grand Canyon National Park
Yosemite National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
Olympic National Park 
Zion Canyon National Park
Grand Tetons National Park
Acadia National Park
Glacier National Park

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