photo courtesy National Park Service

Parks as Classrooms

27,000 young minds touched by the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Every year since 1998, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation has provided operating support to the Blue Ridge Parkway's Parks as Classrooms program. Officially launched in 1992 by the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation, its objective is to introduce national park resources to students and teachers nationwide.

The major goals of the program are:

  • To promote the parks as learning laboratories to develop greater awareness, understanding, appreciation, and commitment to the preservation and/or restoration of the National Park System and larger environment on which it depends;
  • To promote an improved education system in this country by assisting teachers in the development of more interactive lessons that incorporate park resources; and
  • To integrate research and interpretive programs of the park service into the broader educational goals of communities and schools as partnerships.

This curriculum based program which is designed to instill values of Parkway protection and preservation satisfies the national standards of learning in all 29 Virginia and North Carolina Parkway counties where the program is presented. Parks As Classrooms is not just another environmental education program. There is always the contained message of major Parkway issues: threatened views, air pollution, and exotic plant proliferation.

Charles Wray, a National Park Service ranger presenting programs in the Roanoke Valley, says “that this program opens a new world to them (children); they don’t even know what a national park is.” Phil Francis, superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, sees the program as one of the best investments that can be made in the future of the Blue Ridge Parkway. “The children of our visitor and community families are the future stewards of this great national treasure.”

Each year, rangers make over 40,000 contacts with over 27,000 students. Listen to what the children have learned in this short video from WLOS-TV.

Status: Ongoing