Foundation helps Sleeping Bear Dunes meet education needs during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond
An intern at the National Lakeshore presents the “Bear Essentials” distance learning program using the studio green screen setup. Photo credit: NPS
June 9, 2021 - Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore) is one of 32 parks and park partners to receive an Open OutDoors for Kids Hybrid Learning grant from the National Park Foundation (NPF). The NPF works in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) and the park partner community to ensure that national parks reach their fullest potential and connect with as many people as possible. This grant will enable the National Lakeshore to revamp its formal education program. The full list of grantees can be found at www.nationalparks.org/our-work/campaigns-initiatives/open-outdoors-kids.
With more than 400 parks across all 50 states and the U.S. territories, the NPS traditionally hosts more than 60,000 in-park and distance learning education programs annually, serving over 1.8 million students.
Recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted how and where students are learning, NPF collaborated with the NPS to facilitate a program design workshop in September 2020 with leading experts in evaluation, digital programming, community engagement, and national park leadership. The goal being to advise on how NPF and NPS can meet the needs of students, teachers, schools, and communities during these uncertain times and how lessons learned can be applied in the long term. The workshop led to the Open OutDoors for Kids Hybrid Learning program, an extension of NPF’s Open OutDoors for Kids Field Trip program.
"National parks are America’s largest classrooms, and the National Park Foundation is committed to helping students, teachers, and families navigate learning during the pandemic and beyond,” said NPF President and CEO Will Shafroth. “From green time to screen time to family time, the NPF is helping the NPS and parks community engage students with educational opportunities across the country.”
The grant will help Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore develop a menu for a 5th-8th grade curriculum and engagement activities that include distance learning programs, self-guided content, and classroom activities covering two themes: Anishinaabek culture and Great Lakes ecosystem health. Program evaluation from students and teachers is a major project component.
Programs will continue to be available for schools, camps, and other youth organizations throughout the summer and fall. Interested parties can visit the National Lakeshore’s distance learning website at www.nps.gov/slbe/learn/education/distance-learning.htm for more information.
Since 2011, NPF has engaged more than one million students in educational programs connecting them with national parks across the country. Earlier this year, NPF announced its goal to connect another one million students to parks over the next four years.
Thanks to private philanthropy, including support for Open OutDoors for Kids from Union Pacific Railroad, a premier partner of NPF’s Youth Education and Engagement initiative; Winnebago Industries Foundation; Niantic; Sierra; Columbia Sportswear; Parks Project; The Batchelor Foundation, Inc.; Humana; and many individual donors, NPF is investing nearly $1 million in the Open OutDoors for Kids Hybrid Learning program supporting communities across the country during the 2020-2021 school year. Learn more about NPF’s efforts to engage students with national parks as classrooms at www.nationalparks.org/our-work/campaigns-initiatives/open-outdoors-kids/about-open-outdoors-kids.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION
The National Park Foundation works to protect wildlife and park lands, preserve history and culture, educate, and engage youth, and connect people everywhere to the wonder of parks. We do it in collaboration with the National Park Service, the park partner community, and with the generous support of donors, without whom our work would not be possible. Learn more at http://www.nationalparks.org.