Our national parks are home to diverse species of wildlife and plant life, and scientific research endeavors – such as the projects supported by the National Park Foundation (NPF)'s work in critical ecosystem research – take place in parks across the country. These living laboratories help us all learn more about the world around us and provide the perfect classroom for students of math and science to explore concepts in real-world applications.
NPF's Park Lab work connects students to scientific and mathematical park projects and research. From monitoring wildlife populations to learning the basics of conservation science, students are given hands-on experience with the work happening in parks and are invited to participate. By inspiring a love of both science and math applications and our national parks, these projects are helping create the next generation of park stewards.
Highlights & Projects
Restoring River Raisin
NPF supported a partnership between River Raisin National Battlefield Park and Ecorse Community High School for a unique curriculum project. Students learned about how the battlefield, once riddle with abandoned industrial debris and waste, was restored and became America’s 393rd national park. Students also developed and implemented a new long-term monitoring program to conduct air, water, and soil quality analysis, which will be compiled in a database used for comparison well into the future.
The Art & Science of Soil
NPF supported a collaboration between Old-Growth Bottomland Forest Research and Education Center and the Columbia Museum of Art at Congaree National Park. The project provided five integrated, standards-based experiences that engaged more than 1,100 students in the art and science of soil.
In 2007, NPF launched a First Bloom project, a nationwide garden design contest for youth, grades 4-6. Throughout the year, rangers from Bryce Canyon National Park and education specialists engaged participants through lessons on conservation, plant species, and the history of national parks. Students submitted “bloom designs,” or ideas for native plant gardens and select winners received a free trip to a national park!
Habitat Restoration at Montezuma Castle
An NPF grant connected more than 1,000 students to a habitat restoration project at Montezuma Castle National Monument. Students experienced the challenges of habitat restoration first-hand and became a part of the restoration process – growing and planting more than 800 plants and gaining an understanding of stewardship in our public lands.
Biology in Saint-Gaudens
NPF connected students to their local park, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, for a unique biology project. High school students from Stevens High School participated in resource management and monitoring activities over the course of a year, monitoring mercury levels in the local stream ecosystem and studying the fluctuation of nitrogen in the local watershed.
Supported by NPF, Salem Maritime National Historic Site and Essex National Heritage Area partnered with Lowell’s Boat Shop and Amesbury High School for this unique mathematics program. Students applied math concepts in real-world maritime environments while simultaneously developing a connection to their local park and community. Students also created interpretive products and interactive activities for the park, helping park staff engage visitors with their math-based concepts.
Spotting Sea Turtles
Local high school students applied classroom science techniques to contribute to Gulf Islands National Seashore’s turtle project. The park’s project supports the conservation of endangered sea turtles nesting on its beaches. Students monitored nesting environments alongside park rangers and applied scientific concepts learned in their classrooms to this real-life science project, discovering the effects of environmental changes on wildlife and seashore ecosystems.
With the support of NPF, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve held Wetlands Immersive Learning Days (WILD!), providing fun, culturally relevant weekend gathering opportunities to enable young science enthusiasts to share their experiences, learn about career opportunities, and build a strong base for sustained stewardship. The project partnered with local education organizations and universities, and impacted thousands of local visitors.
In 2011, students from AmeriSchools College Preparatory Academy (ACPA) in Tucson visited Saguaro National Park to conduct 24-hour species surveys on the park’s signature species, the Saguaro cactus. Students from the school's Park Stewards program the year prior served as guides and mentors, as well as created a promotional video for the event.