P.O. BOX 2120
December 11, 2001
TO: Principals
FROM: Patricia I. Wright
Assistant Superintendent for Instruction
SUBJECT: National Park Service Resource

In 1992, responding to new national education goals and increased interest in authentic learning, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation launched Parks as Classrooms®, an agency-wide educational initiative that strives to help teachers make history, science, art, and culture come to life through structured learning experiences that bring students to parks and park resources into classrooms. Last year, over one million students participated in Parks as Classrooms® programs developed through partnerships between teachers and staff at national parks throughout the country.

The National Park Service is pleased to announce the publication of Exploring the Real Thing: A Guide to Educational Programs at National Park Sites in Virginia. This guide is designed to introduce you to the curriculum-based programs, materials, and services available to you through units of the National Park System in Virginia. It will be mailed to schools during the month of December. Please share the limited number of copies with the appropriate teachers and staff and place one copy in your library’s reference section.

The structure of Exploring the Real Thing is straightforward. National parks are listed alphabetically in the Table of Contents. Beneath each park is a listing of the site’s education programs and the pages on which you can find detailed program information. The first page of each park entry includes a description of the site’s principal themes and resources, location, and educational programming season. Subsequent pages include descriptions of each program offered, and follow a similar format intended to help you determine the learning experiences most appropriate for your students. Most importantly, each program has been correlated to the relevant Virginia Standards of Learning content.

Exploring the Real Thing was developed with the belief that national parks offer opportunities for students to learn content and skills through structured learning experiences that explore the extraordinary natural and cultural resources preserved and interpreted by the National Park Service. We hope you will use this guide to make national parks part of your school curriculum. Exploring the Real Thing will be available online at in early 2002.

As you plan for the year ahead, keep in mind that programs must be reserved well in advance and many of the programs may be booked for this school year. This volume should contain all the information you need to select and reserve programs that meet your curricular needs. I encourage you to contact any of the parks directly with whatever questions and suggestions you may have.

National park rangers look forward to seeing your teachers and students in the coming years!