National Parks are places set aside for inspiration, preservation, and learning. All along the Blue Ridge Parkway, there are opportunities to bring students to the park, to learn online, or to have a ranger in your classroom. These programs are curriculum-driven and based on the standards of learning for your state.
For more than half a century, the Blue Ridge Parkway has provided programs for the public to teach the natural and cultural history of the Appalachian mountains through its various interpretive programs. Understanding the relationship between humans and the environment is vital for the preservation of both. Two volumes of “An Appalachian Curriculum” are available for teachers. These educational activities are geared to the North Carolina and Virginia Standards of Learning and provide educational activities for visits to various Parkway locations.
Parks as Classrooms
Beginning in 1993 the Parkway began providing special on-site programs designed to match each state’s curriculum objectives. The goal was, and continues to be, to present formal environmental education that will support the classroom studies. Rangers and teachers will work together to provide a hands-on experience with park resources, teaching children how to learn about the environment. All classes are conducted by Blue Ridge Parkway staff.
In addition, during the winter of 1998-1999, rangers began extensive off-site programs, going into hundreds of public schools and presenting curriculum-based educational activities on a variety of subjects. Check for addresses and telephone numbers on the Virginia or North Carolina Parks As Classrooms pages to make arrangements.
For nearly two decades, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation has supported the Parks as Classrooms Program by providing funds to hire seasonal park rangers who offer educational programs along the entire length of the Parkway.
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.
What teachers are saying:
The Parks as Classrooms programs reinforce what we learn in the classroom.
The Parks as Classrooms program was a wonderful experience for our children. The Park Rangers are very informative and great with the students. The students are super excited and learn much more from this experience than just being told something by a teacher.
Listen to what the children have learned in this short video from WLOS-TV:
Primary Interpretive Programs
The following are some of the programs that are available throughout Virginia and North Carolina to support the Parks as Classrooms program.
James River and Montebello
The James River water gap and restored canal locks offer students the opportunity to see low-elevation fauna and flora along the Parkway and to trace some of the early history of transportation routes in the Commonwealth.
The Peaks of Otter
A diverse habitat and the history of early tourism in the mountains are the subjects of programs that can take place at the Peaks of Otter.
The history of the Mabry Mill area and Virginia’s move from an agricultural to an industrial society can be portrayed at this location.
The Roanoke Mountain habitat and the rich railroad history of this Virginia city are common themes here.
Moses H. Cone Memorial Park
Moses H. Cone Memorial Park uses the Cone Manor House and nearby trails to provide cultural and natural programs. A highlight for school groups is the Beaver Walk in Julian Price picnic area. Cone Park is located at milepost 294 on the Parkway, near the towns of Boone and Blowing Rock, N.C.
Gillespie Gap, near Spruce Pine, N.C., has an extensive natural history program. Linville Falls is an excellent location with restrooms and picnic area open from mid-April through November. The Linville River and North Carolina Museum of Minerals provide a natural focus for classes on Aquatic Ecology and Geology.
The Asheville area is a wonderful place for environmental education, within easy access of the Folk Art Center and Craggy Gardens. The Asheville office provides all types of programming, with classes available both inside and outdoors. The education even continues during the summer months with an active Junior Ranger program.