22 Ways to Discover and Indulge Your Inner Scientist

August 2, 2017NPF Blog
Theodore Roosevelt National Park – NPS

Are you looking for a more meaningful way to experience your national parks? Exploring them through a scientific lens will open up a new world to eager and curious minds.

We're not talking about covering the subject the way those stale, thick books from school did. You remember them: the ones that made your eyes gloss over. We're talking about experiencing how scientific marvels occur and impact our surroundings in the best possible setting you could imagine – your national parks.

From astronomy and geology to botany and biology, there are unmatched ways to immerse yourself in the natural wonders of national parks. Whether you choose to join a ranger-led program, volunteer during a citizen science event, participate in a tour through a living laboratory, or join special activities during this year's total solar eclipse, these events will encourage your inner-scientist to come out and play. 

Alaska

Denali National Park

  • Daily, June 8 to August 31
  • A Side of Science: Join live presentations highlighting how science helps us understand the park's evolving landscape, bears, raptors, and dinosaurs, and more!

Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park

  • Thursdays, August 15 to September 10
  • Park Ranger Geology Program: Perfect for Junior Rangers of all ages, this program will give you a crash course on the geology of the Grand Canyon.

California

A Dark Sky Festival ranger holding a baby in an astronaut suit at Lassen National Park

Dark Sky Festival at Lassen Volcanic National Park

National Park Service

Lassen Volcanic National Park

  • Daily, August 11 to August 13
  • Dark Sky Festival: Highlights of this three-day festival will include nightly constellation tours and stargazing, in addition to solar scope viewing and hands-on activities.

Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

  • Wed & Fri, July 26 to August 19
  • Astronomy Evening Programs: Gather at the South Rim Campground Amphitheater for ranger-led programs and night sky viewing.

Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Fridays, August 4 to August 11
  • Stories Behind the Moon and Stars: Storytelling and fun activities are provided. All you need are a sweater, binoculars, and a flashlight!

Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Fridays, August 18 to August 25
  • Astronomy in the Park: Park rangers and expert volunteer astronomers provide a 30-minute presentation before you delve further into stargazing for yourself.

Florida

The dark blue and purple night sky filled with stars over Gulf Islands National Seashore

The night sky over Gulf Islands National Seashore

Bacon/NPS

Gulf Islands National Seashore

  • August 18
  • Stargazing at Fort Pickens Area: As the sun sets, the program begins. Join the Escambia Amateur Astronomer’s Association and take advantage of the telescopes available for use.

Idaho

Craters of the Moon National Monument

  • Daily, August 18 to August 21
  • 2017 Eclipse Across America: Each day offers a packed schedule. Kids can earn a Lunar Ranger Patch, while adults learn about NASA research.

Massachusetts

Cape Cod National Seashore

  • August 12
  • Star Party: Perseid Meteor Shower: Join a ranger on the beach to experience the Perseid meteor shower at its peak. Stroll the beach with a ranger or bring a chair to rest!

Minnesota

the green lights of the aurora borealis over the water at Voyageurs National Park

The Aurora Borealis at Voyageurs National Park

National Park Service

Voyageurs National Park

  • Daily, June 25 to August 26
  • Ethno-botanical Garden Tour: The Voyageurs' ecosystem is yours to explore on this walk, culminating at an Ojibwe Indian camp.

Nebraska

Homestead National Monument

Nevada

Great Basin National Park

  • Saturdays, May 27 to September 2
  • Astronomy Program: Ranger talks each week last up to an hour. Then use one of the park's large telescopes for a whole new view of the planets.

North Carolina

Sea turtle nest excavation on Ocracoke Island at Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Sea turtle nest excavation on Ocracoke Island at Cape Hatteras National Seashore

National Park Service

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Pennsylvania

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

  • August 5
  • Nature at Night: Owls hooting and stars shining, the park comes alive in a whole new way at night as you walk through the woods.

Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  • Mon & Wed, June 19 to August 9
  • Hike With a Naturalist: A simple schedule of getting outdoors and exploring the Smokies before noon will leave your legs stretched and your heart happy.

Stones River National Battlefield

  • Daily, August 19 to August 20
  • Solar Science at Stones River: Go for a walk, learn about the solar eclipse, and find a connection between the Civil War and astronomy.

Texas

close-up image of the face of a white-throated woodrat at Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument

A white-throated woodrat at Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument

National Park Service

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument

  • Sun & Thurs & Fri, June 11 to September 3
  • Mammals of the Texas Panhandle: Examine skeletons and skulls before you learn about adaptations and the food chain!

Utah

Cedar Breaks National Monument

  • Daily, May 27 to October 9
  • Geology Talk: A short ranger talk will teach you about the park's geologic formations, allowing you to appreciate their majesty in a whole new way.

Virginia

Shenandoah National Park

  • Daily, August 18 to August 21
  • Night Sky Festival: A weekend filled with hands-on activities, presentations, and constellation tours will prepare you for the solar eclipse.

Washington

Tunnel of green, mossy trees surrounded by ferns at Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

  • Thurs-Mon, June 24 to September 4
  • Hoh Rain Forest Walk: A leisurely stroll with a ranger will leave you more informed on the park's temperate rain forest.

Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park

  • Tues & Sat, June 13 to August 29
  • To the Tetons and Beyond: The Tetons offer an incredible display of nature, but these ranger talks will have you looking up to the sky to learn more about another aspect of the natural world.

Yellowstone National Park

  • Daily, May 27 to August 20
  • Old Faithful: Geyser Hill Walk: Meet outside of the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center to go on a short walk to the heart of the world's greatest concentration of geysers.

People standing in a line looking at Old Faithful geyser shooting into the sky at Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park

Iris P, Share the Experience

Nothing brings science to life like seeing it in action. It's the perfect formula; get a better understanding scientific marvels as brilliant rangers and volunteers explain them, all in conjunction with hands-on experiences. These combined elements are sure to produce an unforgettable adventure in national parks.

Planning on attending one or more of these exciting events? Be sure to share your best moments and memories online by using #FindYourPark and #EncuentraTuParque!

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