The Parks Climate Challenge

“One of the most precious values of the national parks is their ability to teach us about ourselves and how we relate to the natural world. This important role may prove invaluable in the near future as we strive to understand and adapt to a changing climate.”

NPS Director Jon Jarvis

The above quote headlines the main page of the National Park Service’s (NPS) website dedicated to NPS’s response to climate change.  A recent collaboration led by the National Park Foundation between five national parks around the country and associated educational institutes, including the Will Steger Foundation, is striving to embody these words.  The collaboration, called the Parks Climate Challenge, invites local teachers to attend professional development opportunities at teacher institutes situated in or close to a national park.  In March 2011 those involved with the Challenge came together at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute to discuss mutual outcomes, how to evaluate our programs, share resources, and lay the groundwork for a shared online resource for teachers.  Although all of the teacher institutes vary in length and specific content due to their local focus, the following outcomes are consistent across.Parks Climate Challenge in the Smoky Mountains

Each teacher institue will:

1) Connect teachers and their students to the national park in their area, and help them understand why parks are important places to learn in and about.

2) Provide teachers with the skills, tools and confidence to implement climate change education in their classrooms and in their local parks.

3) Ask participating teachers to work with their students to develop action plans and projects focused on climate change mitigation that may benefit their national park.

At the Will Steger Foundation, we are working with the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and the Mississippi River Fund to provide a cohort of middle school teachers attending our Summer Institute with additional training and grant opportunities.  For more information visit:  https://www.climategen.orgsummer-institute

For those in other parts of the country please visit:

Headlands Institute (Bay Area, California)

Santa Monica Mountains Institute (Southern California)

North Cascades Institute (Washington State)

Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont


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