Submitted by Washington State Parks.
Washington State Parks offers unique learning opportunities for children and students in person and virtually throughout the year.
The interpretive staff has developed pre-recorded lessons that are accessible through Flipgrid, admin.flipgrid.com/discovery/partners/washington-state-parks. The lessons have been designed to help students learn about Washington state parks virtually at their own pace. The platform encourages students, families and educators to engage in virtual discussions. Current video topics include Geology 101, the Naming of Deception Pass, a Nature Observation Virtual Walk, What is a Marine Mammal and more. Parks currently offers 26 unique videos on Flipgrid, and the agency plans to create additional videos throughout the year.
At select parks, live virtual field trips are offered by interpretive staff. They provide real-time programming produced onsite in the park. The field trips allow students to experience the park in a way that helps simulate an in-person educational adventure. Virtual field trips are currently offered by staff at Cape Disappointment, Deception Pass, Gingko Petrified Forest, Mount St. Helens Visitor Center and Surrounding Area and Central Whidbey Area parks. Virtual field trip lessons can be tailored to meet specific educational goals and requirements. Visit parks.state.wa.us/1197/Virtual-Learning-Opportunities-in-Parks for more information and booking contact information.
Since 1953, Washington State Parks has offered educational programming through the agency’s Interpretive Program. Traditionally, interpretive staff developed learning opportunities that were only offered in person. Attendance was limited to those who were able to visit the parks or attend a classroom visit.
The program delivery model shifted in 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when interpreters began producing virtual lesson plans and field trips. The change offered a different way for children to access important historical, cultural and science-related programs. This development has helped reduce participation barriers.
“We want to create park experiences and educational opportunities that are accessible to everyone,” said Ryan Karlson, Interpretive Program Manager. “Our in-person programming is great and offers hands-on experience through educational programs. However, we know not every student can easily visit our parks. Geographic and socioeconomic barriers have kept youth from participating in the past. The new, virtual offerings help remove those barriers and provide easier access for interested students throughout the state. We’ve even been able to expand our reach and connect with individuals across the country.”
Karlson emphasized that in-person opportunities will continue — and grow stronger — because of the supplemental virtual programming.
“As pandemic restrictions began to relax, we resumed offering modified in-person learning activities,” said Karlson. “We are happy to have visitors back at our parks, and our staff enjoy interacting with students, children and families. However, our virtual programs provide valuable opportunities for broad audiences, and we will continue to offer those experiences, hopefully for years to come.”
In-person learning opportunities range from exhibits and lessons at interpretive centers to tidepool talks, guided hikes, campsite chats and more. Visit individual parks.state.wa.us/281/Find-a-Park to learn more about offerings and upcoming events.
Additional learning opportunities offered by Parks include:
Junior Rangers Program: Youth and families can play, discover and learn about how to protect State Parks through Junior Rangers Program activities. Junior Rangers Program activities and events are hosted at parks throughout the state. Visit parks.state.wa.us/917/Junior-Ranger-Program for more information and easy-to-use printable activity sheets.
Agents of Discovery: Agents of Discovery is a free, educational mobile gaming app that uses augmented reality to motivate kids of all ages to actively explore and learn more about the outdoors. Parks staff designed two missions — one for the Franklin Ghost Town and one for Saint Edward State Park. View the Adventure Awaits blog, adventureawaits.com/370/Agents-of-Discovery-6-14-21, to learn more.
Adventure Lab: Adventure Lab is a free location-based digital treasure hunt designed for all ages. These Adventures guide users through 10 Washington state parks in Island county and help them solve questions by using physical features within the landscape. View the Adventure Awaits blog, adventureawaits.com/365/Adventure-Lab-31521, to learn more.