Being genuinely kind and authentic can be quite the adventure. It's more than just being nice when it feels easy. It's really about sticking to those values, even when it gets tough. This Christmas, all of us at Expeditions in Education are trying something special with our 25 Days of Christmas challenge. We're picking one little way each day to spread kindness, and I'd love it if you could be a part of it.
Seeing things from someone else’s perspective, especially in tricky situations, has really opened my eyes. It’s a reminder that we’re all fighting our own battles. I’ve been trying to listen more, to really hear what people are saying, and it’s changed how I connect with them. Our 25 Days of Christmas challenge is about bringing that kind of empathy into everyday life. It could be something as small as paying for the next person's coffee or leaving a kind note for someone. It's about those little moments that can really brighten someone’s day.
Kindness means thinking of others before myself. It's not about putting myself down, but about remembering we're all in this together. This holiday season, that might mean donating warm clothes or volunteering somewhere that needs a helping hand. I’m also trying to handle criticism better, to understand that it’s not always about me. Finding the good in others, even when it’s hard, has been a challenging but rewarding journey. This Christmas, I’m keeping that in mind, especially in the busy, stressful moments.
We’re sharing stories of kindness on our Expeditions in Education social pages, celebrating people who are making a difference. Being a good person isn't always easy. It takes self-reflection, a willingness to learn, and being open about who you are. But it’s these challenges that make life so worthwhile. Living by the Golden Rule – treating others how I'd want to be treated – is what I'm aiming for every day. Our 25 Days of Christmas challenge is just one way to live this out. It's about doing something positive, one little step at a time. So, how about joining us at Expeditions in Education as we keep trying to make the world a little kinder this holiday season? Let's make a difference together, one day and one act of kindness at a time.
To get started, here are five simple ways:
As Thanksgiving approaches, we at Expeditions in Education are feeling extra thankful for the incredible journey we've been on since our start in 2020. Sitting down to reflect on the past few years, it's amazing to see how far we've come, and it's all thanks to the incredible support we've received from our community.
Our adventure with the National Parks Expedition Challenge has been nothing short of extraordinary. We've visited over 150 national parks, capturing their beauty and essence to bring into classrooms nationwide. A special shout-out to the park rangers who shared their knowledge and passion with students from all corners of the country.
Then there’s our Crossing America project with the National Park Foundation. It’s been an amazing experience connecting with kids in over 46 states and even some other countries, turning education into an adventure of discovery. We're so grateful for the schools that welcomed us and the national parks that allowed us to share their wonders through live broadcasts.
Our STEAM in the PARK events have also been a highlight. These events, attended by over 600 campers in the past three years, wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing parks that helped us turn these ideas into reality.
We owe a huge thank you to the students, teachers, schools, and communities who've supported us. Your belief in our mission has been the driving force behind our work.
Looking ahead to 2024, we're filled with excitement and anticipation for what's to come. With your continued support, the possibilities are endless.
This Thanksgiving, we're reminded of Helen Keller’s words, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” This sentiment resonates deeply with us at Expeditions in Education. It’s not just about what we’ve achieved, but about the legacy of knowledge and inspiration we’re building together.
So, this Thanksgiving, we want to express our deepest gratitude to you all. Thank you for being part of our journey. Here’s to more adventures and shared learning in the future!
Guest Post: Kristen Albright
I was selected to attend STEAM in the Park in Big Cypress National Preserve this July. It was an incredible experience that exceeded my expectations. I formed strong connections with my fellow ambassadors and campers, which have inspired me to overcome challenges. These “firefly” friendships are lifelong.
My time in Big Cypress National Preserve was truly life-changing for me. I had such a deep connection to the crystal clear water and towering cypress trees. I was able to come up close to alligators, immerse myself in the water of the swamp, hike through the prairie grass, and zoom through the swamp on a swamp buggy tour. I even found myself tracking a python through the swamp. I never thought I would be excited to see a 14 ft python, but after our long chase with the research team that hacked through the sawgrass with machetes, I was absolutely thrilled to finally find the Burmese python! I am much braver than I thought.
When the school year started, I knew I wanted to bring the Big Cypress National Preserve to my students in some way. I have found that when I am passionate about something, my students become excited too. The swamp was fascinating to them, and they made connections to movies like Shrek and the Princess and the Frog. Alligators and snakes always grab their attention!
One of my favorite resources to use in my classroom is the National Park challenges developed by Dacia and Expeditions and Education that can be found on the website. Many of these challenges align perfectly with my K-5 STEM curriculum. By incorporating science, technology, engineering, and math, I can cover the required standards. Students are eager to be good stewards of the environment, and adding real-world challenges in a park environment increases their investment. The clear instructions and videos provided by Dacia make it easy for teachers to develop lesson plans. I wanted to use Dacia’s challenge from Big Cypress about making pathways and trails through the swamp.
To enhance this project by providing additional resources beyond the National Park Challenge video, I attended a live stream with Ranger Lisa and Dacia that took me back to the swamp. My students were excited to see what I had experienced. I used my personal photographs, live stream videos, Clyde Butcher's art gallery photos, and the book Marvin and Huck in the National Parks Book 2 as resources. I also introduced them to the INaturalist app, which allows them to explore the flora and fauna of Big Cypress right from their computers. By having such a strong connection to that National Preserve, I was able to pull in resources that I had created and share anecdotes about what I had seen and heard. The swamp is so different from our rural Pennsylvania environment! There's something about the swamp that is just fascinating to students, and seeing photos of me immersed in the same water as they saw Dacia and Ranger Lisa in, it made Big Cypress all the more real to them.
Designing a swamp project for my students presented a challenge due to limited resources. I decided to use recycled paper bags and encouraged students to use any recyclable materials they could find in the STEM room. Through students' creativity and teamwork, popsicle sticks, foil, pieces of paper bag, and tape became boardwalks through the swamp, alligators, bald cypress trees, and of course, snakes! I added an extra empathy component to the project, asking students to make their swamp trail accessible for people with disabilities. Students had to consider the needs of their users and design pathways with wheelchair ramps, railings, and inclusive signage.
To outsiders walking by my STEM room, it may have looked like chaos with tape, paper bags, scissors, and markers everywhere. But to the students, those paper bags became the Big Cypress swamp. They developed empathy for the animals and plants and learned the importance of working cooperatively with others. This project has set the tone for the rest of the school year, emphasizing empathy, teamwork, and making the world a better place. That's what STEAM in the Park is all about!
We at "Expeditions in Education" are deeply saddened by the passing of Rosalynn Carter. This summer, we had the privilege of visiting Plains, Georgia, with 14 educators, an experience that left us profoundly touched by the town's unique charm and the lasting legacy of the Carters.
Plains is more than just a place; it's a living reminder of the Carters' remarkable lives. As we explored the town, we felt the strong sense of community and commitment that Rosalynn Carter exemplified. Meeting those close to the Carters, including family, friends, and national park rangers, we heard touching stories of her life dedicated to service and kindness.
Our visit to President Jimmy Carter's Boyhood Farm was enlightening, offering insights into the Carters' dedication to mental health, education, and human rights. This wasn't just about their presidential tenure but a lifelong journey of impactful work.
At the tranquil Butterfly Garden, we celebrated Mrs. Carter's achievements, especially her influential Mental Health "No Stigma" programs. Surrounded by beauty, we reflected on her contributions to society and the positive impact she made on many lives.
Exploring Koinonia Farm, known for its commitment to social justice, highlighted the Carters' involvement with Habitat for Humanity, further showcasing their dedication to improving lives.
This trip to Plains was transformative. We felt a unique connection with a President's family, fostered by the genuine warmth and inclusiveness of the Plains community and park staff. They made us feel like a part of their rich history and ongoing story.
As we mourn Rosalynn Carter, we also celebrate her extraordinary life. Her smile, compassion, and love have left a lasting impression on us. A special thanks to Jill Stuckey and Beth Wright at the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park for welcoming us into this enduring legacy.
We are reminded of her lasting influence. Her spirit continues to inspire us, and her legacy remains a guiding light.
With deepest condolences and heartfelt gratitude,
Steve and Dacia Jones
"Expeditions in Education"
As January 1st draws near, the excitement is revving up for the launch of our 2024 STEAM in the Park Summer Camps application process! Tailored specifically for teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, media specialists, social workers, and educators in art, music, drama, technology, and physical education, etc. They are also for college students pursuing education-related fields and current national park rangers.
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve
Immerse yourself in the fascinating world of macroinvertebrates, engage in enlightening moth studies, and contribute to dragonfly larvae mercury research. Learn about Leave No Trace principles, emphasizing eco-friendly practices to preserve nature's sanctuaries. Add a splash of adventure with standup paddle boarding and experience the thrill of the "bridge walk."
Grand Teton National Park
Delve into hydrology studies, take serene nature walks, and keep an eye out for megafauna. The Grow Outside SEL program focuses on social-emotional learning, vital for personal and societal wellness. Join our Community Impact Inquiry Design to explore sustainable community practices, and enjoy a tranquil river float through the park.
Assateague Island National Seashore
Study the plovers' conservation, kayak through marshes, and enhance your photography skills capturing the island's landscapes. Experience Dark Sky Viewing to understand the impact of light pollution. Additional activities include crabbing and educational visits to Wallops NASA Facility.
Explore old-growth forests, engage in practical fieldwork, and understand the impacts of climate change specific to Mount Rainier. A day trip to hike around Mount Rainier offers breathtaking views and insights into the park’s unique ecosystem.
Redwood National Park
Journey through the ancient and second-growth forests, understanding their role in our ecosystem. Participate in a Yurok Tribe session to learn about their connection with nature and compete in the intriguing Banana Slug Challenge.
Acadia National Park (One week of educator camp and one week of family camp)
Discover the vibrant tide pools, study the invasive green crab, and embark on Phenology Hikes. The Dark Sky Event and Family Engineering Design Challenge will foster creativity and appreciation for the cosmos and marine life.
Bryce Canyon Family Camp
Engage with prairie dogs, learn about the park's iconic hoodoos, and gaze at the stars through telescopes. Discover the significance of the NPS Arrowhead emblem and explore the geological transformations of Bryce Canyon.
Voyageurs National Park
Navigate the Ellsworth Rock Gardens, embrace sustainable living through fishing and foraging, and be mesmerized by the Northern Lights and Milky Way. Delve into geology studies and paddle through the park’s serene waterways.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Tackle the challenges of invasive species, engage in Indigenous Conversations, and study the park’s hydrology. Learn about the ecology connected to the Greenback Cutthroat Trout and its conservation efforts.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Explore the park's geology, participate in the Dragonfly Mercury Project, and investigate macroinvertebrates. Tour the historical and Onyx caves, and enhance your typography skills inspired by the natural surroundings.
Tour iconic monuments and memorials, visit Ford's Theater, and engage in the Tidal Basin Engineering Challenge. The Team Building Course emphasizes interpersonal dynamics and social justice, capped off with a sunset cruise.
In addition to the rich array of activities mentioned earlier, our STEAM in the Park Summer Camps are filled with even more special events, creating an unforgettable experience. Let's explore these additional facets that make our camps truly special.
Beyond the Curriculum: A World of Enrichment
Comprehensive Program Costs
Ready for an Unforgettable Summer?
Our STEAM in the Park Summer Camps are more than just educational programs; they are a journey of discovery, friendship, and personal growth. The experiences you gain here will go beyond learning – they will inspire and stay with you for a lifetime. With applications opening on January 1st, we eagerly await your participation. Join us for a summer filled with learning, adventure, and memories that will last a lifetime! Set your alarms for 12:01 am on January 1st!
Environmental awareness should be so important to us right now and it’s crucial to recognize both the beauty and the potential hazards of seemingly harmless objects like balloons. While balloons are often associated with joy and celebration, they can pose serious threats to wildlife and the environment. However, in an inspiring project named "Balloons Over the National Parks," students are proving that creativity and environmental stewardship can go hand-in-hand, challenging the status quo with biodegradable, eco-friendly balloon designs.
The Problem with Traditional Balloons Traditional balloons, often made from latex or mylar, are not easily recyclable and can take years to decompose. When released into the environment, they can travel vast distances, eventually landing in natural habitats, including our precious National Parks. Here, they pose a threat to wildlife, who may mistake them for food, leading to injury or death. Additionally, the strings and ribbons attached to balloons can entangle animals and birds, causing harm.
An Innovative Solution: Balloons Over the National Parks Inspired by the books "Balloons Over Broadway" by Melissa Sweet and "The Camping Trip that Changed America" by Barb Rosenstock, students embarked on a project that blends creativity, nature, and environmental responsibility. This initiative simulates a mini parade where students design and construct balloons and floats representing National Parks. The catch? All materials used are recyclable, highlighting the importance of conservation.
Goals and Activities
The Impact Through this project, students not only unleash their creativity but also gain a deeper appreciation for environmental conservation. The initiative allows them to connect with nature’s wonders, understand the historical significance of National Parks, and realize the impact of sustainable practices. By blending art, education, and environmentalism, "Balloons Over the National Parks" sets a precedent for future projects where innovation meets ecological responsibility.
Conclusion "Balloons Over the National Parks" is more than just a project; it's a movement towards a greener, more conscious future. It demonstrates how we can enjoy the beauty and fun of balloons without compromising the health of our planet and its inhabitants. This initiative stands as a testament to the power of young minds in leading the way towards a more sustainable world.
In a world where the educational landscape is increasingly dominated by for-profit companies, it's more important than ever to talk about the role and the resilience of educational nonprofits. I've walked the halls of both worlds, and my journey has shown me the stark differences and the vital importance of nonprofits in education.
The Corporate World of Education: A Double-Edged Sword
Once, I was part of a large corporation, deeply involved in spreading STEM education globally. The impact was significant, the reach was wide, and the financial rewards were tangible. Big educational companies have revolutionized education through technology and resources, bringing learning to the fingertips of many. But here's the catch: this access often comes with a price tag, a barrier that many cannot afford to cross.
The Reality of Profit-Driven Education
In my corporate tenure, I learned a hard truth: our educational services were reserved for those who could pay. When contracts weren't renewed, relationships were severed. It was business, yes, but it didn't resonate with my understanding of what education should be - a universal right, not a privilege. In 2019, a budget cut and a subsequent layoff from the corporation turned out to be my wake-up call.
A New Chapter: Nonprofit Education
With my husband's support, I decided to pivot. We wanted to continue the mission of spreading educational joy, but equitably. We founded a nonprofit initiative with a focus on STEAM and nature education, particularly through the lens of our national parks.
The Struggle and Satisfaction of Nonprofit Work
Starting with zero budget, we embarked on a mission to make education free and accessible. We now touch the lives of over a million students, educators, and families annually. Yet, funding remains our biggest hurdle. Our only significant financial support comes from the National Park Foundation for our "Crossing America" program and we are so grateful for that. The lack of funds means limitations on how much more we can do.
Collaborative Potential: Sharing Resources
Imagine if for-profit and nonprofit educational sectors could collaborate more effectively. Could the resources and innovations of corporations be shared to amplify the impact of nonprofits? This synergy could create a more inclusive and impactful educational ecosystem.
The Promise of Our Nonprofit
Our work may not offer monetary returns, but it's rich in stories, kindness, and positive outcomes. We've seen firsthand how valued and loved students and educators feel when they're not just another customer.
A Call for Investment in Our Future
We're searching for individuals or entities willing to invest in our present for a brighter future. Your investment won't yield financial dividends, but it will contribute to a world where education is accessible to all, regardless of their ability to pay.
Leveling the Playing Field
For small nonprofits like ours, the playing field is uneven. We dream of a world where educational opportunities are not dictated by financial capability. We're doing our part, but we need help to do more.
In conclusion, educational nonprofits must stay the course because our work is crucial. It's about more than just imparting knowledge; it's about fostering a world where education is a right, not a luxury. We invite you to join us in this mission. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of countless individuals and, in turn, shape the future of our world.
Here's to creating a world where education is boundless and available to all. Let's keep creating opportunities for students to experience awe and wonder.
We've got something really special brewing with our "Experience the PARKS" initiative. This year, we've set our sights on the incredible Pullman National Historical Park right in the heart of Chicago.
Our adventure kicked off back in January 2022. We had this awesome filming session with Ranger Ve'Amber, and it totally opened our eyes to the amazing blend of science and history that Pullman Park embodies. It felt like stepping through a time portal!
Pullman isn't just about its iconic railroad cars or the stunning architecture. It's the heart and soul of the community that really brings this place to life. The stories of innovation and resilience we've uncovered here are truly inspiring.
As a team crazy about STEAM education, we're diving deep into how science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics all play a role in the park's history. Pullman has become our outdoor classroom, blurring the lines between different subjects and turning every corner into a learning opportunity. It's a place where history and modern-day marvels intertwine.
Our big goal? We want to bring the spirit of Pullman to students and educators everywhere. Through school visits, LiveStreams, and some really cool Pullman Educator Experiences, we're hoping to light up the same excitement we feel in others. We believe that Pullman's unique story can inspire a whole new generation.
So, whether you're a student, a teacher, or just someone who loves a good mix of history and science, we'd love for you to join us on this journey. Let's explore Pullman together and keep its legacy alive.
There's so much more to discover at Pullman National Historical Park, and we're just getting started. Stay tuned for more stories and insights as we delve deeper into this urban treasure!
#ExpeditionsInEducation #ExperienceTheParks #PullmanPark #STEAMEducation #HistoricalExploration
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The call of Acadia National Park isn't just in its crashing waves or the silent watch of its ancient mountains; it's in the people who are the heartbeat of this wild, beautiful place. Take Ranger Kate, for instance, someone who's much more than a steward of the land. She's the kind of friend who turns a simple visit into a lifelong memory.
I remember the cold October day in 2020 when we met her and Ranger Lisa. We were there to capture episode #18 of our National Parks Expedition Challenge, but what we got was an unexpected adventure. We stood on a bridge that John D. Rockefeller engineered and soaked up everything Ranger Kate had to share about Acadia. That day, we didn't just learn about the park; we became part of its extended family.
Throughout the pandemic, when the world seemed to hold its breath, Ranger Kate kept the dialogue alive. We were swapping ideas, cooking up plans. When our original event at the National Mall fell through, she was the first to back our 'STEAM in the PARK' for the next summer. Thanks to her, 32 educators got to experience Schoodic Institute in a way they'll never forget.
Looking back over these three years, I see a tapestry of moments, all threaded with laughter, learning, and the kind of friendship that comes from shared passion. Ranger Kate has been with us every step of the way, from campfires to classrooms, bringing the magic of Acadia to over 100 educators fighting against issues like the invasive green crabs. Last summer, we had 21 educators and their families join us, and watching Ranger Kate with them was like watching the park itself open up and embrace each person.
Through our National Parks Expedition Challenge, we've connected over 30,000 students nationwide to Acadia National Park, encouraging them to engage with its wonders and to provide innovative ideas for the rangers.
Today's 'Crossing America' LiveStream, a collaboration with the National Park Foundation, saw over 1600 students marvel at the tide pools of Acadia, guided by Ranger Kate and her dedicated staff. Their awe was a reminder of the park's power to educate and fascinate.
You hear about the national parks often, but it's people like Ranger Kate who are the true story. It's for her and all the rangers out there that our national parks are more than just parcels of land; they're places where memories are made, where learning is alive, and where every visitor leaves with a piece of the park etched in their heart. Here's to the human touch in the vast wilderness. Here's to Ranger Kate!
The National Park Foundation (NPF) stands as an indispensable ally in the pursuit of conserving the United States' natural and historical treasures while ensuring that these wonders can be enjoyed by all. As a charitable partner to the National Park Service, the NPF embodies a commitment to preservation and public enjoyment, two mainstays that are not mutually exclusive but rather interdependent.
At Expeditions in Education, our collaboration with the National Park Foundation (NPF) is a heartfelt journey towards a shared vision. It's about nurturing a relationship with nature and fostering a deep-seated respect for our national parks among the younger generations. With the NPF's support, our "Crossing America" program has been a resounding success, bringing the wonders of America's parks into classrooms across the nation.
"Crossing America" is much more than an educational curriculum; it's a bridge connecting tens of thousands of students with park rangers and the untamed beauty of our national landscapes. This program is vital because it isn't confined to the four walls of a classroom. It's an open window to the vast outdoors, a virtual field trip where every view is a lesson and every story told by the rangers is a seed planted in young, fertile minds.
The value of this cannot be overstated. In an era where digital distractions are rampant, "Crossing America" offers a meaningful and engaging alternative. It's a chance for students to transcend their immediate surroundings and engage with the environment, to see the grandeur of the parks and feel the responsibility of stewardship that comes with this knowledge.
As part of Expeditions in Education, we are profoundly grateful for the trust and resources the NPF has invested in us. This partnership has enabled us to scale new heights in educational outreach, turning virtual experiences into real-world passion and care for our parks. Through "Crossing America," we're not just teaching facts; we're instilling a lifelong appreciation for the natural world, and empowering students to become the future caretakers of our planet's most precious resources.
This endeavor is a testament to the power of collaboration. Together with the National Park Foundation, we are opening doors for countless students, helping them to discover love for the Earth as David Sobel so wisely advised. It's this love that will inspire them to protect and cherish our national parks for generations to come.