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Using the National Parks as a Way to Engage Students in Urban Schools

Description

Teachers at urban high schools in Grand Rapids, Michigan experience first hand the archaic ways of teaching science concepts in public schools that ultimately fall short of producing desirable outcomes. Presenting facts and concepts within the confines of the classroom in a traditional fashion is continually failing our students and reinforcing our students notion that science is just a field of memorizing facts and calculating meaningless answers. It is vital that educators explore new ways to engage students and help inspire them to make connections and understand the world around them. Tapping into students emotions will encourage them to be more vested in their education and thus have a desire to learn. One of the ways that educators can achieve this end is by using our beautiful national parks as a way to teach and discuss scientific concepts.

Through a NSF funded Math Science Partnership, MiTEP (Michigan Teacher Excellence Program) a group of teachers from the Grand Rapids area have been working at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore this summer to help form a partnership between the Midwest parks and schools. Our main focus is to make the park more accessible for students and teachers that wish to attend the park itself, but also for the less fortunate that do not have the ability to visit the park.

Lack of monetary funds often makes it impossible for students to visit the park; we wish to bring the park to the students. We have created virtual tours of areas of geologic significance coupled with rich, thought provoking guided worksheets that will allow students a chance to engage in similar activities that students visiting the park have. It is our hope that by using different media such as Google Earth and using interesting and real places that are close to home, students will feel a sense of connection and will thus have a desire to learn more about the natural processes that have shaped this beautiful place. This paper presents our experiences and deliverables produced through our internships at Sleeping Bear Dunes.