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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.

REAL AND VIRTUAL VISITS 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of detailed multimedia information from a variety of perspectives on each national park, including overviews, historical documents, program descriptions, background articles, maps, photos, film clips, 360-degree panoramic views, virtual reality activities and alerts about proposals,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, www.yellowstone-natl-park.com. It is time for educators, students and parents to tour their national parks, in person and online.

NATIONAL PARK RESOURCES ON THE WEB

* About U.S./Canadian Parks, usparks.about.com An information directory offering guides to national and state parks, with background articles, photo collections, travel resources and featured destinations.

* The American Southwest, www.americansouthwest.net A multimedia site focusing on the parks and natural landscapes of southwestern United States.

* Area Parks Network, www.areaparks.com Selected park overviews, with travel information on transportation, dining, lodging and local activities.

* Excursia National Park Guide, nationalpark.excursia.com/nationalpark Overviews of selected parks with information on travel, local accommodations and related resources, from a publisher of travel magazines.

* Mapping the National Parks, Icweb2.loc.gov/ammem/gmdhtml/nphtm/ A Library of Congress collection of maps documenting the history, cultural aspects and geological formations of areas that became national parks.

* National Parks Conservation Association, www.npca.org A site dedicated to protecting national parks, with chat rooms, action alerts and features on topics such as cultural diversity and endangered species.

* NationalParks.org. nationalparks.org Resources from the National Park Foundation, with travel tips, message boards, opportunities to create online postcards and purchase park passes online.

* ParkNet, www.nps.gov A comprehensive National Park Service guide to parks, trails and historic sites in every state, with teacher materials, information on educational programs, and related resources.

* Parks Canada, parkscanada.pch.gc.ca An official guide to the national parks, historic sites and conservation areas of Canada, that presents information in English and French.

* U.S. National Parks Net, www.us-national-parks, net Independent information on each U.S. National Park, with online assistance for planning trips and vacations.

Odvard Egil Dyrli, dyrli@uconn.edu, is senior editor and emeritus professor of education at the University of Connecticut.
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Author:Dyrli, Odvard Egil
Publication:District Administration
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 1, 2002
Words:618
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