Science is so much more than white coats and beakers. National parks are magnificent living laboratories that show us the vast and dynamic natural world and serve as great classrooms for those seeking to learn about the world around us. The National Park Foundation (NPF)’s Field Science program provides students and teachers alike the opportunity to enter into these living classrooms, encouraging collaboration between schools, local and national parks, and park partner organizations across the country. With hands-on learning opportunities for students and professional development experiences for teachers, Field Science brings science to life by providing real examples of scientific principles in action through lessons that tie into curriculum standards. 

Field Science, formerly Citizen Science 2.0, began in 2017 with a three-year pilot program, thanks to generous support from the Veverka Family Foundation. By 2020, 36 schools from across the country had the opportunity to bring students and teachers to local national park sites to explore science lessons, including watershed health, wildlife monitoring, and more. NPF’s Field Science program helps teachers gain a greater confidence in using parks as science classrooms and enhances students’ understanding of scientific concepts and introduces them to future career opportunities in our national parks. 

Highlights

A small, long waterfall in Rock Creek Park

High School Chemistry in Rock Creek Park

Working with the Audubon Naturalist Society and Rock Creek Park, Montgomery Country Public Schools (MCPS) Maryland created a curriculum module on the chemistry of Nitrogen cycling as part of the high school chemistry program. Students tested water nitrogen levels and monitored stream quality at locations throughout Rock Creek Park. 

Saguaro cactus

Examining Cacti in Saguaro

Through a collaboration between Sunnyside School District, Ironwood Tree Experience, and Saguaro National Park, teachers and students from the greater Tucson area collected and analyzed data from saguaro cacti alongside experts in the field. A keystone species for this area, thorough collection and analysis of data is essential in improving protection strategies. 

Trail in Anacostia Park

Monitoring Mussels in Anacostia Park

During the 2019-2020 school year, over 400 second grade students went to Anacostia Park to collect data on the freshwater mussel as part of the park’s ongoing restoration project that seeks to reintroduce 35,000 native mussels to the watershed. The students are helping to raise the mussels and monitor their growth. 

A student examines a bug in a container

Exploring Ecosystems in the Badlands

In 2018, students from local elementary and middle schools took field trips to Badlands National Park. Students kept nature journals, explored the Cliff Shelf trail, and used field guides to observe animal tracks and scat, studied insects and arachnids, and even enjoyed an overnight camping trip to learn about bat ecology and echolocation.  

An otter peeps over the edge of the water

Observing Wildlife on the Mississippi River

In the fall of 2018, high school students in the Twin Cities used iNaturalist, a data collection tool, to define the variety of plants and animals that exists in and along the 72-mile Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. At least 823 species were spotted using the iNaturalist app, including include the North American river otter and bald eagles.