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New Science Education Program Brings National Parks to Classrooms Thanks to $1 Million Veverka Family Foundation Gift


WASHINGTON – Teachers and students across the country will have the opportunity to participate in a new science education program, Citizen Science 2.0 in National Parks, thanks to a $1 million Veverka Family Foundation donation to the National Park Foundation’s Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks. To date, this comprehensive fundraising campaign to strengthen and enhance the future of America’s treasured places for the next hundred years has raised more than $420 million.

Citizen Science 2.0 in National Parks supports collaborations among select national parks, local environmental science education providers, and local middle and high schools over a three-year period.

“Private support from generous partners like the Veverka Family Foundation is making it possible for national parks - some of our richest learning environments - to offer new and innovative education programs like Citizen Science 2.0,” said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation. “Thanks to this $1 million donation to our Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks, teachers and students across the country will experience science outside the textbook and inside national parks.”

The program is kicking off this 2017-2018 school year with four national parks: Cabrillo National Monument, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Rock Creek Park.

The goal of the program this year is to:

  • establish a place-based, science-focused community of practice among national parks, schools, and education partners;
  • equip classroom teachers with the tools, training, and opportunity to conduct high quality, experiential science education aligned with Next Generation Science Standards; and
  • create student-centered curriculum that connects students to their local national park through hands-on scientific study of water quality and watersheds.

“This represents a great opportunity to augment classroom experience with real world scientific exploration of the watersheds connecting the school yard with their nearby national parks,” said Mary Jo Veverka, president of the Veverka Family Foundation. “Students will be tasked with developing actionable programs to improve their local watersheds.”

The National Park Service and the National Park Foundation will continue to identify additional park locations, schools, and education partners across the country to participate in this initiative.

“The National Park Service greatly values citizen science. We are excited to work with the National Park Foundation and the Veverka Family Foundation to implement this citizen-science based education project,” said Ray Sauvajot, Associate Director, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science at the National Park Service. “It will help us understand our protected resources, foster new connections between the public and their parks, and support students' understanding of and passion for science.”

Each park will be working with partner organizations to bring this program to life.

This year’s projects are:

  • Cabrillo National Monument (California): The partnership with Ocean Discovery Institute will engage students in scientific inquiry in their local watershed and central San Diego neighborhood through the state-of-the-art facilities at the Living Lab. By collecting environmental data from the park alongside natural resource rangers and biologists, students will examine the impact of urbanization, resource management techniques, and the importance of maintaining biodiversity.
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio): The partnership with the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park will create a sustainable citizen science program that strengthens educators’ ability to teach scientific methods and protocols in conjunction with stewardship of the Cuyahoga River Watershed. The program will provide schools with workshops to develop the skills needed to incorporate citizen science into course curricula. More details can be found at
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee and North Carolina): The partnership with the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont and local schools will provide citizen science engagement for students and professional development for teachers. Through a series of residential workshops at Tremont Institute and training events in their schools, teachers will gain skills and develop content for standards-based science teaching in an outdoor setting. Teachers will co-design lessons with their students and develop a citizen science research program that addresses a water quality need in their community. Tremont will provide toolkits for training and establish a local network of support for teachers to use the park. More details and application information for teachers can be found at
  • Rock Creek Park (Maryland and Washington, DC): The partnership with the Audubon Naturalist Society and Montgomery County Public Schools will engage students in investigating watershed health in their own schoolyards and nearby Rock Creek Park. Through a new, hands-on, field-based module, high school chemistry students will explore real-world environmental problems and participate in citizen science water quality monitoring while learning about careers in the National Park Service.

The National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks and nonprofit partner to the National Park Service. Chartered by Congress in 1967, the National Park Foundation raises private funds to help PROTECT more than 84 million acres of national parks through critical conservation and preservation efforts, CONNECT all Americans with their incomparable natural landscapes, vibrant culture and rich history, and INSPIRE the next generation of park stewards. In 2016, commemorating the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, the Foundation launched The Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks, a comprehensive fundraising campaign to strengthen and enhance the future of these national treasures for the next hundred years. Find out more and become a part of the national park community at