Author: Dacia Jones
Over the past two years, Crossing America has transported students nationwide on an extraordinary virtual journey to explore the dazzling diversity of National Parks across the United States! 🌳🏞️ We are filled with gratitude for the support from the National Park Foundation to make this unique project possible. 🤝
🌟 A Few Highlights of the Journey 🌟
🌟 Expanding Horizons 🌟 Over the past two years, ‘Crossing America' has reached nearly 500,000 students, educators, and family members, instilling knowledge and cultivating connections. We are tremendously thankful for the hands that have joined us in this journey. 🤲💕
Let’s continue to inspire EVERY student to connect with, learn more about the world around them, and become better humans! 🌿💡🌐 👩🏫 #Education #NationalParks #Innovation #Inspiration #FutureLeaders #Sustainability #Inclusivity #Humanity #Collaboration
Author: Dacia Jones
Nature, with its myriad landscapes and ecosystems, is a timeless and living classroom available to everyone, from curious kindergarteners to diligent high school seniors. The vast wealth of knowledge held within the bounds of national parks and local green spaces offers enriching and enlightening experiences, surpassing the confines of traditional classroom learning. William Wordsworth once said,: "Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher."
In kindergarten, the focus is on a world of discovery where children's developmental stage aligns with curiosity and the drive to explore. Visiting green spaces allows young learners to develop their sensory and observational skills, exploring a treasure trove of shapes, colors, textures, and sounds. They can observe plant and animal life cycles, count and sort natural objects, and draw and color elements found in nature, like those in the Everglades National Park or Great Smoky Mountains.
Elementary students delve deeper into understanding the world, with trips to national parks allowing them to observe ecological interactions and engage in environmental education programs, enhancing their knowledge in science, social studies, and language arts. For instance, learning about geothermal features at Yellowstone National Park or examining historical artifacts at Independence National Historical Park makes the learning process interactive and enjoyable.
As students navigate through middle school, trips to green spaces stimulate scientific inquiry and reasoning skills, enabling them to undertake projects involving data collection and analysis. It allows them to conduct experiments to learn about conservation and the environment, like investigating marine life at Channel Islands National Park or studying ancient civilizations at Mesa Verde National Park, applying concepts from science, mathematics, and history.
High school students, with advanced coursework and extracurricular activities in nature, refine their knowledge and skills. National parks serve as resources for learning adaptation and evolution in diverse ecosystems, researching sustainable practices and ecological balance, and drawing inspiration from nature for creative writing projects. For example, students can research endemic species at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park or analyze geological formations at Grand Canyon National Park.
Beyond textbooks and structured curriculum, exploring nature teaches holistic lessons, fostering love for learning, encouraging curiosity, and promoting respect for all living things. It makes students realize the importance of conservation, sustainability, and the delicate balance of ecosystems, aiding the integration of theoretical knowledge with practical applications, creating a wholesome learning experience.
In these living laboratories, students can directly observe the impacts of human actions on the environment, instilling in them the principles of biodiversity, conservation, and sustainable living. These experiences nurture environmentally responsible citizens who are mindful of their ecological footprint and the interconnectedness of life on our planet.
In conclusion, nature, from the spectacular realms of national parks to the tranquil corners of local green spaces, stands as a dynamic and diverse classroom. Integrating nature-based learning experiences across all grade levels can cultivate a generation of individuals who are curious, knowledgeable, and profoundly connected to the world around them. Whether it’s a kindergartner discovering the world through shapes and colors or a high school senior delving into ecological research, the lessons from nature are boundless, fostering a journey of lifelong learning and discovery.
In the wise words of Henry David Thoreau: "I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees."
The images below show educators from around the country taking part in STEAM in the PARK, a program that focuses on teaching through nature experiences to change the world.
In an age where the education space is rapidly evolving, Expeditions in Education is catalyzing a movement to bring nature journaling into classrooms worldwide. This initiative is inspiring students and educators from North Carolina to Florida to Tennessee to California, and beyond, to venture beyond the conventional classroom setup and embrace the boundless learning opportunities offered by nature. Nature journaling acts as a gateway to authentic learning, enabling students to engage with the environment and expand their horizons across a multitude of disciplines.
A Journey Across States
Students from various states are stepping out of their classrooms to explore and imbibe lessons from nature. Young minds are witnessing the wealth of knowledge that nature has to offer. This involves participating in activities like Solo Sits and utilizing the “I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me Of” approach to reflect upon and internalize their experiences.
Through these excursions, students are not merely observers; they interact, question, wonder, and relate to the natural world around them, offering a richer, more multifaceted learning experience. The unique textures of each state’s landscape provide a diverse palette of learning experiences, allowing students to appreciate and understand the variances and similarities within ecosystems.
The Power of Authentic Learning
Nature journaling is more than a reflective activity; it is a vessel for authentic learning. Authentic learning occurs when students engage in activities that require application of knowledge and skills, are relevant and meaningful, and integrate different domains of learning. Nature journaling encourages students to intertwine observation, emotion, reflection, and intellectual thought, enabling a holistic learning experience that resonates on a profound level.
One might recall Dash Goff, the writer character from a "Designing Women" episode, saying, “We don’t write good because we don’t talk good.” Although originating from a fictional source, the essence of this statement rings true. Expressive writing requires expressive conversation and expressive thinking. Providing students opportunities to write about their experiences, particularly those close to their hearts, is crucial for developing their expressive capacities.
Connecting Hearts and Minds
As the acclaimed naturalist and author John Muir once said, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” Through nature journaling, students are able to connect deeply with their surroundings, find resonance and meaning, and translate these rich experiences into words. By absorbing the myriad lessons that nature imparts, students cultivate a refined sensibility and a heightened awareness of the interconnectedness of all living things.
When students pen down their observations, thoughts, and feelings, they are not merely documenting; they are conversing with nature, fostering a connection that is simultaneously intellectual and emotional. It is through such connections that learning transcends textbooks and classrooms, becoming a lifelong journey of curiosity and discovery.
Inspiration for Educators and Students Alike
The essence of Expeditions in Education is to inspire. It serves as a beacon, illuminating the path for educators worldwide to integrate nature journaling into their teaching methodologies. By doing so, it empowers them to offer their students a more enriching, expansive, and holistic learning experience. It is a testament to the infinite possibilities that arise when we step out, explore, and embrace the boundless classroom that is the natural world.
In conclusion, nature journaling is not merely an educational tool; it is a bridge to the infinite classroom that surrounds us, a portal through which students and educators can traverse to experience expansive, multifaceted learning. The initiatives by Expeditions in Education are exemplary models of how we can harmoniously integrate nature and education, allowing us to foster a generation of learners who are attuned to the rhythms of the natural world and are eager to explore its limitless treasures.
In the vast, boundless expanses of our national parks, there exist guardians and storytellers, the weavers of history, and the keepers of the natural world: the National Park Rangers. We have had the immense privilege and joy of working with them over the past few years, witnessing their unwavering dedication and infectious passion for the stories that the parks hold and for the myriad life forms they protect. We are writing this post to celebrate these wonderful individuals, who have welcomed us into their worlds and worked alongside us to create enriching opportunities for educators and students all around the country.
With over 140 park sites visited and filmed at, we have forged meaningful relationships with over 200 park rangers. They embody the spirit of service and are committed to interpreting the myriad stories that often go unheard. They not only share the tales of the landscapes they guard but are also champions of ecological preservation and environmental education. They represent the epitome of goodness and kindness in humanity, and their eagerness to engage and inspire has made a tremendous impact on students and educators alike.
Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” The Park Rangers we’ve had the pleasure to work with are living embodiments of this quote, showing how deep dedication to one’s work and land can ripple out to effect powerful, positive changes in the world.
Our connection with many of these rangers goes far beyond professional camaraderie. They have become our close friends, sharing with us their family trials and celebrations, brainstorming with us at midnight for new programs, and visiting with us outside the park confines. The relationships we've nurtured are ones of mutual respect, shared goals, and genuine affection.
Seeing these rangers in action, both in their parks and in classrooms around the country, is a sight to behold. Their knowledge is vast, their passion is infectious, and their stories are enlightening. They bring to life the histories, ecologies, and cultures of the parks they serve, sparking curiosity and wonder in the minds of those who are fortunate enough to hear them.
This post is a small tribute to elevate and celebrate the wonderful human beings who are helping us change the world one student, one educator, and one national park at a time. We feel blessed to be a part of this journey with them, working hand in hand to create a more knowledgeable, thoughtful, and compassionate world. We are grateful for their unwavering support and friendship, and we eagerly look forward to continuing our journey together, exploring more stories and uncovering the hidden gems of our beautiful lands.
In a world burgeoning with challenges and strife, the National Park Rangers stand as beacons of hope and knowledge, their stories echoing the whispers of the trees and the songs of the rivers. They show us the resilience of nature and the importance of preserving our shared heritage. We salute their commitment and thank them for being the wonderful, inspiring individuals they are.
Our journey with the National Park Rangers has been transformative, and we are immensely thankful for their dedication to sharing the untold stories of their parks. They are not just the guardians of our natural treasures, but also the architects of a future where every individual is imbued with a love and respect for our planet and its myriad stories. To all the National Park Rangers we have worked with, thank you for being the good in the world and for helping us change it, one story at a time. We can't wait to continue the adventure with you.
Ever felt the need for a vacation but found yourself tethered by responsibilities? Welcome to the life of a teacher. However, just because we can't always whisk our students away on exciting field trips doesn't mean we can't create the adventure of a lifetime right within our classroom walls.
Setting Off on the Classroom Express
When I taught first grade, every month was marked by an exotic trip to a different country. And no, we didn't teleport, nor did we have an ultra-speed jet hidden in the school's basement. Instead, we had our trusty school bus.
Each "journey" began with our students clutching their tiny suitcases or even black garbage bags, eagerly waiting to board our bus. My brilliant assistant, doubling as a bus driver for the day, would take them on a thrilling roundabout of the school parking lot, giving them the sensation of taking off to a distant land. If you've never seen a bunch of first graders truly believe they've traveled halfway across the world by circling a parking lot, you're missing out on some pure magic.
Airplane Mode Activated!
Upon returning, our classroom door acted as the gateway to our chosen country. After getting their passports stamped (because what's travel without bureaucracy), students entered our makeshift airplane, greeted by rows of chairs. Jump ropes served as our seatbelts – safety first, even in imagination land! While strapping them down might raise some eyebrows today, back then, it was all in good fun and added to the authenticity of our flight. Plus, who wouldn't love an in-flight snack?
And as the shower curtains were drawn, separating the plane from the classroom, we touched down in our new destination. This could be the bustling markets of China, the serene landscapes of New Zealand, the bustling streets of New York City, or my favorite national park.
So Where Do You Want to GO?
National parks are treasure troves of adventure and learning. Why not kick off your classroom journeys with these natural wonders? Delve deep into the Grand Canyon, encounter the wildlife of Grand Teton, or explore the mysterious caves of Carlsbad Caverns, all from the comfort of your classroom.
Making the Adventure Unforgettable
It's incredible how the power of imagination, when combined with a touch of humor and creativity, can transform a regular classroom into the world's most exciting destination. Your students will not only gain knowledge but also cherish these memories forever. So, teachers, strap in and take off on your next classroom journey. Remember, no turbulence expected, and every landing is a smooth one!
"The mountains are calling, and I must go," said John Muir, the great naturalist and advocate for the preservation of wilderness. This call isn't only for the seasoned adventurer or the outdoor enthusiast; it's an open invitation to students, young and old, who seek to learn beyond the four walls of a classroom. National parks are not just awe-inspiring landscapes; they are vibrant, multi-disciplinary learning environments that offer rich experiences in culture, science, history, and even potential career paths.
Immersion in Culture and Science
Walking in a national park is like walking through a living museum. Students have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the indigenous cultures that have inhabited these lands for centuries. Whether it's understanding the Native American history in places like Mesa Verde National Park or learning about early American settlers in the Great Smoky Mountains, the parks provide an unfiltered, firsthand experience that no textbook can offer.
Furthermore, what better place to understand biology, ecology, or geology than in settings where you can touch, feel, and observe? The diverse ecosystems and geological formations found in parks serve as open-air laboratories for scientific inquiry and discovery.
Walking in Beauty
The concept of "walking in beauty" is more than an abstract idea; it’s a form of experiential learning. By being in these majestic settings, students can learn the importance of environmental stewardship and the integral relationship between humans and nature. This immersive experience is not only good for the mind but also for the soul, serving as a way to refresh, rejuvenate, and gain a new perspective on life.
A Journey Through History
National parks are time capsules. Whether it's retracing the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, standing where civil rights history was made, or understanding the military strategies of historic battles, these parks offer an interactive way to engage with our country's past. This is where history comes alive, where textbooks are transformed into tangible experiences, providing students with a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the events that shaped our nation.
Inspiration All Around
The breathtaking beauty of natural phenomena, like the geysers of Yellowstone or the towering sequoias of Yosemite, sparks the imagination. Students may find themselves inspired to write, to paint, or to capture the stunning landscapes through photography. This inspiration isn't limited to the arts; it can ignite a passion for conservation, for activism, or for further study in fields like biology, archaeology, or history.
A Gateway to a Career
For some, a visit to a national park is not just a trip; it's a vocational calling. Whether it's becoming a park ranger, a wildlife biologist, or an environmental policy advocate, the experience can provide a stepping stone toward a meaningful career. Programs like internships and volunteer opportunities available through the National Park Service can offer invaluable experience and networking opportunities.
So, why should national parks matter to students? Because they are not just parks; they are sprawling, interactive classrooms, enriching in both academic and life lessons. They remind us, as John Muir so eloquently put it, that when we answer the call of the mountains, the forests, and the rivers, we are embarking on a journey of not just exploration, but also education and self-discovery.
Ever noticed how nature subtly mirrors our actions? The firefly, with its brief yet enchanting glow, reminds us of the transformative power of educators. Like these magical creatures, teachers too possess the unique ability to light up the world, guiding young minds even in their darkest moments of doubt.
🔦 Just as fireflies aren’t always shining, the essence of our teachings may not be instantly grasped. But as they punctuate the night with brilliance, so do our lessons eventually guide students toward enlightenment.
🌟 In some regions, fireflies create a mesmerizing synchronized dance. Similarly, when educators unite in purpose, their collective light pushes away the shadows of ignorance, guiding the next generation.
💡 For a child, spotting their first firefly can be a magical moment of pure wonder. We, as educators, aim to be that catalyst of curiosity, igniting a passion for lifelong learning.
🕯️ And remember, while a firefly's glow might be momentary, the mark it leaves is everlasting. Just as the lessons and values we instill can shape lives forever.
So, to every educator out there, continue to shine, inspire, and light up the world, one student at a time. Every spark of understanding is a promise of a brighter future! ✨📚
Provided by a teacher and nature enthusiast from West Virginia.
In the realm of education, the integration of nature-infused content stands as a catalyst for profound social and emotional learning experiences for both students and teachers. The natural world holds an innate power to inspire, soothe, and awaken a sense of wonder, making it a potent tool to nurture the holistic growth of individuals. This symbiotic relationship between nature and education has been harnessed beautifully by Expeditions in Education, a nonprofit endeavor led by Steve and Dacia, a dynamic duo deeply committed to enriching learning journeys.
Expeditions in Education has embarked on a noble mission to provide free content that bridges the gap between academics and the natural world. The altruistic dedication of Steve and Dacia in crafting and delivering this content underscores their recognition of the transformative potential of nature-based education. Their efforts reflect an unwavering belief that every student and educator, regardless of their geographic location or socio-economic background, deserves access to the enriching experiences that the great outdoors can offer.
Through this initiative, Steve and Dacia have orchestrated a symphony of learning that resonates with the essence of nature. Their meticulously curated content aligns the awe-inspiring landscapes of national parks with diverse educational subjects, from history and science to literacy and math. These remarkable outdoor classrooms serve as living laboratories, where concepts leap off the pages of textbooks and come to life through tangible encounters.
Furthermore, the initiative's commitment to making this content freely available speaks volumes about their passion for education. By removing financial barriers, Steve and Dacia have not only provided equitable access to knowledge but also nurtured inclusivity and diversity in the learning process. The altruism they embody echoes through the virtual classrooms they've created, fostering a sense of unity among students and educators from various corners of the nation.
Nature's healing touch is one that transcends the physical realm and resonates deep within our souls. The famous words of John Muir, "In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks," encapsulate the profound wisdom that nature offers us solace, clarity, and rejuvenation. As students and educators immerse themselves in nature-infused content, they embark on a journey that not only enriches their minds but also soothes their hearts and nurtures their emotional well-being.
In a world that often rushes past the natural beauty surrounding us, Steve and Dacia's dedication to blending nature with education is a beacon of hope and inspiration. Their labor of love through Expeditions in Education showcases the powerful synergy between the classroom and the great outdoors, cultivating a generation of lifelong learners who are not only academically adept but also emotionally attuned and environmentally conscious. Through their efforts, Steve and Dacia are sowing seeds of curiosity, empathy, and reverence for the natural world, ensuring a brighter and more harmonious future for all. Please consider supporting their journey so that more classrooms are connected to national parks in the future.
We have come to the end of our unforgettable #STEAMinthePARK summer journey and it's time to reflect on the incredible 12 national park visits that have left an indelible mark on our hearts. What a remarkable adventure it has been, exploring the diverse landscapes, engaging in STEAM activities, and forging deep connections with nature and each other. Our shared experiences across Mammoth Cave, Great Smoky Mountains, Cumberland Island, New River Gorge, Hawai'i Volcanoes, Big Cypress, Redwood, Jimmy Carter National Historical Park, Acadia, Rocky Mountain, Olympic, and Voyageurs National Park have woven together memories that will be cherished forever.
This summer, we were not just 400 educators and families, but a united community of explorers, seekers of knowledge, and nature enthusiasts. Campfires crackled as we swapped stories and shared laughter under starry skies. New friendships blossomed, and existing bonds were strengthened. We embarked on new adventures, pushing our boundaries and embracing the unfamiliar. Each park presented its own unique challenges, and it was heartwarming to witness the determination and resilience of those who faced their fears and conquered new heights.
The heart and soul of our journey were the passionate park rangers who generously shared their wisdom and expertise. Their insights not only enriched our understanding of the natural world but also deepened our appreciation for the importance of conservation. Equally inspiring were the indigenous peoples who graciously opened their hearts and culture to us, reminding us of the profound connection between land, culture, and identity.
A heartfelt gratitude goes out to the volunteer ambassadors who tirelessly worked behind the scenes, fostering a sense of community and offering unwavering support throughout our adventure. Their dedication and kindness truly made our journey feel like a shared endeavor.
As we move forward, the memories of this summer will forever serve as a reminder of the power of exploration, learning, and unity. In the words of a wise individual, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." Our journey was not only about personal growth but also about giving back to the parks and communities that welcomed us with open arms.
And so, with hearts full of gratitude and excitement, we eagerly anticipate the adventures that await us in the coming year. As we plan for the future, we carry with us the lessons learned, the friendships forged, and the beauty of the natural world that has touched our souls. The pages of our story have been enriched by this chapter, and the possibilities for our next adventure are boundless.
Here's to the joy of discovery, the thrill of exploration, and the magic of nature. Until next time, let's keep the spirit of service, unity, and adventure alive. 🌿🏞️ #STEAMinthePARK
In a world captivated by screens and city lights, there exists a realm of pristine beauty, untouched by the chaos of modern life – our beloved National Parks. At Expeditions in Education, a passionate nonprofit fueled by a fervor for fostering learning amidst nature's wonders, we find ourselves blessed beyond measure. Our mission, anchored in the belief that nature holds the key to nurturing compassionate, curious, and conscientious individuals, has allowed us to impact the lives of over one million students and teachers annually.
A Million Lives Touched, and Still Counting…
It is with deep gratitude that we reflect on our journey thus far, a journey that has seen us walk alongside wide-eyed students and dedicated educators as they venture into the heart of these natural sanctuaries. The joy in their eyes, the laughter that echoes through the canyons, and the questions that spark inquisitive minds – these moments fuel our purpose and affirm the significance of our cause.
#STEAMInthePARK: Fusing Learning and Wilderness
Summer's warmth brings more than just sunshine; it brings educators to our National Parks for our annual #STEAMInthePARK event. Picture this: 400 passionate teachers, armed with insatiable curiosity, gather amidst towering trees and expansive vistas to exchange knowledge, share insights, and coalesce their commitment to nurturing the next generation of scientists, artists, and thinkers. The fusion of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics with the boundless expanse of nature is a sight to behold – a testament to the potential that lies within our minds.
Forging Connections, Crafting Content
Our tireless efforts extend beyond events and workshops. Collaborating with National Parks across the country, we endeavor to craft new educational content that draws inspiration from the very fabric of these natural wonders. These connections bridge geographical distances and bring the essence of each park into classrooms, igniting a passion for preservation and instilling a sense of responsibility for our planet's treasures.
A Heartfelt Plea for Support
Operating as a nonprofit, our journey has been characterized by resilience, creativity, and a relentless dedication to our mission. Despite limited funding, we stand firm in our commitment to shaping future generations, urging them to embrace empathy, kindness, and stewardship for both one another and our environment. We may not be the gorgeous, spotlight influencers that attract brands and sponsors, but our hearts beat in harmony with the rhythm of nature, and our work speaks volumes about our unwavering dedication.
We extend an earnest invitation to companies, foundations, and organizations that share our vision – a vision that transcends monetary returns and envisions a world shaped by compassionate, thoughtful, and caring individuals. Join us in nurturing this noble mission, and together, we shall sow the seeds of change that will yield a harvest of good humans.
"Nature always wears the colors of the spirit." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
In every rustling leaf, every whisper of a breeze, and every sunlit horizon, we find a reflection of our purpose. As we navigate the path ahead, hand in hand with nature's beauty and the indomitable human spirit, we invite you to stand with us and be part of a movement that aspires to change the world, one heart at a time.
For inquiries or to embark on this journey with us, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us pave the way for a future where the legacy we leave behind is not just in structures, but in the hearts and minds of a generation rooted in empathy and love.
Together, let's empower educators and students to be GOOD HUMANS – for a future that thrives on compassion, understanding, and a deep connection to our planet.
Dacia & Steve