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Online Edge

Discovering Your National Parks

Use Web resources to plan real and virtual trips.

I always valued taking part in outdoor education, conservation and camping programs with school groups. But no outdoor experiences compared to those special educational opportunities in summers and school vacations that involved traveling to national parks, including Acadia National Park in Maine, Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, and the Sequoia National Forest in California. Each one truly defined grandeur in unique ways, offering unparalleled aesthetic natural environments. I continue to be amazed by the foresight of legislators who long ago set aside those tracts for future generations. And from an educational perspective, most of the parks have museums and learning centers, distribute materials such as overview brochures and study guides, and offer on-site K-12 programs. But now, with growing interest in national parks and controversial new proposals to pave roads, build snowmobile trails, harvest timber and drill for oil, issues relating to

protecting their legacy have never been more important.


Fortunately, the Web now makes pertinent resources on national parks easily accessible for everyone, so families or staff members who will make such visits this summer can use the materials to plan their trips. And, since even people who have not seen any or more than a few national parks are still expected to be informed voters, it is worthwhile to recommend Web sites in end-the-year school bulletins or newsletters. They also get students involved in meaningful research on conservation topics such as Save the Owls.

The sites that follow offer directories of detailed multimedia information from a variety of perspectives on each national park, including overviews, historical documents, program descriptions, background articles, maps, photos, film clips, 360-degree panoramic views, virtual reality activities and alerts about proposals, special interest groups and pending legislation. The resources will in turn direct you to Web sites targeted to specific parks, such as The Total Yellowstone Page,

It is time for educators, students and parents to tour their national parks, in person and online.

Odvard Egil Dyrli,, is senior editor and emeritus professor of education at the University of Connecticut.