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The National Park Classroom

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The National Park Classroom

A Guide to Designing Project-Based Learning Adventures

By James Fester

ISBN: 9798888370384

Release Date: October 2024

Length: 220 pages

Bring proven teaching methods from the national parks into your classroom to address common instructional challenges and improve student outcomes.

The U.S. National Park Service describes its parks as “America’s largest classrooms,” and for years, its rangers have been developing educational approaches that invite visitors to engage with their surroundings in active, participatory ways. This book shows classroom teachers how they can use these same methods, as well as a vast array of national park resources, to address common instructional challenges and boost student engagement and retention, integrate equity, improve college and career readiness, and more.

This book introduces the National Park Classroom (NPC) Framework, which enables teachers of all subject areas and grade levels to take advantage of national park resources and educational practices. Park rangers draw on pedagogies such as project-based learning, inquiry-based learning and culturally responsive teaching in their lessons, and the book shows how the NPC Framework can help classroom educators use those same approaches to design engaging units and projects for subjects like math, science and language arts. These lessons are anchored in the ISTE Standards and incorporate content standards such as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core State Standards (CCSS). 

The book: 

  • Highlights resources available to teachers and their students through the U.S. National Park System and other public land agencies across the globe.
  • Provides insights and tools for leading high-quality project-based learning.
  • Offers guidance for transitioning from a teacher-centered classroom to a learner-centered classroom.
  • Shows how to apply successful equity and inclusion practices from the national parks in classrooms and schools.
  • Provides examples of “place-conscious learning,” with strategies for connecting students to distant parks and other places.

With strategies backed by research and reflecting best practices from proven learning models, this book shows educators how to integrate the great outdoors and park-inspired learning into their classrooms to drive student engagement and agency, and better prepare students for college and beyond.

Audience: Elementary and secondary teachers and administrators

About the Author

James Fester has worked in public, private and online schools as a teacher, instructional coach, technologist and curriculum specialist. In addition to serving as a member of PBLWorks’ national faculty, Fester served as a facilitator for the National Park Service Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program. He’s also a facilitator for the United Nations through UNESCO-MGIEP, a National Geographic Certified Teacher and grantee, and a public lands volunteer and advocate who has collaborated with state and national parks across the country to strengthen their educational offerings. Also a Google Certified Innovator, he’s the author or co-author of multiple books, including co-author of Environmental Science for Grades 6-12 (ISTE, 2021).