By Molly Underwood / September 12, 2020

STEM in the outdoors: National Public Lands Day

Let’s be real here, we have some pretty neat nature in this world – some might call it “neature.”

What’s so cool about nature in the United States is that you get a different taste of it in every state. 

The Colorado Rocky Mountains.
The California ocean views. 
The Kansas rolling prairies.
The Alaskan arctic tundra. 
The Arizona deserts. 

And so much more because it really is “America the Beautiful.”

September 26 is the National Environmental Education Foundation’s (NEEF) National Public Lands Day, the nation’s largest single-day volunteer event for public lands. NEEF states that each year this holiday brings out thousands of volunteers to help restore and improve public lands around the country. 

Whether you define yourself as an adventurous soul or classify “indoorsy” as one of your personality traits – this day is one we can all celebrate and use to enjoy our public lands.  

More Ways to Connect to Nature

There are so many ways in which you can participate in National Public Lands Day – road trip to a national park, take part in volunteer work, or just get outside! Luckily, you have some time to prepare before it’s here! 

To me, taking a long road trip to public land and camping in the middle of nowhere is the perfect getaway. And, in America, we have more than 400 parks that everyone can visit, each day – even better, on National Public Lands Day, all have free admission! Maybe there’s a place near you that you’ve never been before. Before you take your trip, make sure you check for campground openings, closed trails, and other park guidelines. Practice preparing for a vacation with a national parks road trip activity! 

Now, pack your bags and get out into Mother Nature! Be sure to check out how you can volunteer while you’re there, or join a volunteer event near you.  

Camping for the first time?It’s Great Outdoors Month®! Let’s go camping!

Maybe sleeping on dirt ground doesn’t sound so appealing after all. That’s why national parks are so great – there are plenty of ways to enjoy them from the great indoors.

Take a virtual trip to a national park from wherever you are. The National Park Foundation offers digital tours and experiences for you to explore anywhere at anytime. Dive into the marine life of the Channel Islands, watch the Old Faithful geyser erupt, or check in with Lady Liberty on a live webcam!

You can also bring the wonder of national parks into your own home with educational activities for everyone!

Still want to help make a difference from your home? You can virtually volunteer as well! See how you can lend a hand at “NPLD: 2020 Virtual Volunteer Engagement.

The Scenic STEM of Our Public Lands

So, now that you have been able to experience the wonderful wonders of our world, let’s dig into the STEM of it all. Our public lands offer all sorts of ways to explore and discover the varied landscapes, history, wide array of wildlife, and science in action.

These public lands are celebrated for their natural beauty and breathtaking views, but we forget to recognize that they also serve as a living laboratory for critical scientific research. Biologists and scientists are found throughout all our national parks where they collect and study data on everything from wildfires to wildlife. It’s important that we have scientists in these lands so they can preserve and protect our parks while also researching issues such as climate change and ecological restoration to keep these parks going for generations to come. 

Start learning and practicing how you can become a scientist for national parks with these activities: 

Seeing wildlife in the wild is, well . . . wild! Animals, fish, and plants all call these parks home, and the National Park Service works diligently to protect them. All wildlife in these parks contribute to their ecosystem – they each have an important role. Some, such as plants, collect energy from the Sun. Others are consumers and decomposers, using that energy and dead organic material to return nutrients to the environment and contribute to the flow of energy. Queue the song, “Circle of Life.”

See what other kind of creatures you might find in our public lands with “Learn the ABCs of National Park Wildlife”!

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History is also a big proponent of our public lands. Without it, the national parks wouldn’t even exist! You can find all sorts of artifacts preserved in the national park system from the gun that shot Abraham Lincoln to fossils and bones. Sometimes, reading about American history in a textbook will scratch your itch for learning; other times, fully immersing yourself in it is the only way! National parks aren’t just canyons and mountains. In them, you can learn how to decode coded letters, build your own carronade, and create your own fort like European settlers.  

Get out of the classroom and into the park! We can’t wait to see, learn, and hear what you discover about America’s natural beauty! Take the Find Your Park quiz to see which one you should visit next!  

Be sure to tag us in your photos and posts on social media on how you are celebrating National Public Lands Day! 

Resources:
Science in the Wild: The Legacy Of the U.S. National Park System

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TOPICS: BEYOND THE CLASSROOM, IDEAS & INSPIRATION, Homeschool, Teacher Resources, Culture, Science, STEM, Trends, Resources, Activities, Hands-on Learning, STEAM, innovate

Molly Underwood

Written by Molly Underwood

Hey all! I’m new to the Pitsco family. After interning a while, I started as a full-time Marketing Specialist. Days are busy assisting with digital marketing projects and anything else needed around the department. I knew marketing would be a great fit for me, as I love to share my passions with anyone who will listen. I recently graduated from Kansas State University (GO CATS!) and moved to a farm that has given me a lot of new experiences. Now my downtime is spent renovating me and and my husband’s new home, road-tripping, and being a foodie.