About the Series | Get Involved | TV Schedules | For Educators | Contact Us |

For Educators Overview

The wealth of themes explored in THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA'S BEST IDEA offer an extraordinary educational opportunity for your classroom. The lessons and activities developed around the film look at the rich history of the national parks, the art and photography of the breath-taking geography that inspired so many people and the human story of politics and policy that shaped and continue to shape the parks today.

Ken Burns, Dayton Duncan and students in woods

Filmmakers Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns with students from NatureBridge

Lesson Plans

The lessons on this site were developed to help teachers use THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA'S BEST IDEA in the classroom. Activities are appropriate for grades 7-10 but are easily adapted to different age ranges. Many of the lessons incorporate video clips from the film as well as additional resources found on this site. All the lessons address national teaching standards listed within each plan.

"Day Trip" Activities

Because THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA'S BEST IDEA is so rich in educational themes and we know that teachers have a limited amount of time, we have developed a series of quick, adaptable activities for classroom use. Each "day trip" contains a brief overview along with activity ideas you can use to create lessons tailored to your individual class curriculum and teaching style.

The Untold Stories Discussion Guide

The Untold Stories from America's National Parks initiative was designed to bring to light stories from the national parks focusing on the role of African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans in the creation and protection of individual parks and to engage new and traditionally underserved audiences in the educational richness of the national parks. The Untold Stories discussion guide will help you introduce students to a wide variety of history and stories representative of our diverse society and lead them on an exploration of our national parks as not just places that preserve our nation's natural and cultural heritage but sites that enrich lives, enhance learning and provide inspiration in an increasingly challenging and complex world.

Place-Based Digital Storytelling Modules

Here you will find eleven screencasts and associated quick-start guides offering hands-on training in place-based digital storytelling. Using themes woven into the film and highlighted in the lesson plans, these modules train teachers how to integrate new media, digital storytelling and online mapping projects in their curriculum to engage students in authentic learning.

The training modules are tiered allowing participants to choose their level of engagement: from simple uploading and geo-tagging of photos, to the Share Your Story media uploading tool, to creating, publishing, and geotagging personal digital stories. As the modules can be used separately or together, participants choose the appropriate level of engagement, given available skill level, time, and resources.

THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA'S BEST IDEA and the associated educational materials offer a wonderful opportunity to explore place-based learning. Often explained as using "community-as-text" (as opposed to "textbook-as-text"), students study their connection to the natural world through real-life exploration of place and location and by delving into regional human-environment interaction. Through this authentic learning, students come away with an understanding of the role they can and do play in this complex system.

A proud tourist points at her National Parks windshield stickers, 1922; David Brower in Glen Canyon, 1966; Dayton Duncan's son, Will, standing at edge of canyon. Bryce Canyon National Park, 1998

Share Your Story

Have you visited a national park recently? Did an experience in a national park leave a lasting impression? Share your unique park story with us.

View with fog in valley and peaks lighted by sunset, winter; Yosemite National Park

Download Wallpapers

Download some of the glorious images from the documentary to enjoy on your desktop.

Watch Video Clips

Watch Video

Watch clips and videos from the documentary.

National Park Service rangers

Visit America's Best Idea

You own 391 national parks. Come for a visit and take away the experience of a lifetime. Help the National Park Service make America's Best Idea even better!

Bank of America Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr Fund Corporation for Public Broadcasting The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations Park Foundation

National Park Foundation The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation The Pew Charitable TrustsGM


Florentine Films and WETA


What is this?


Hide this

Show Scrapbook Bar