Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, visited Cuyahoga Valley National Park on April 10th, 2014. Among his many scheduled appearances and tasks – speaking at the City Club of Cleveland, addressing Cuyahoga Valley staff at a park-wide assembly, and meeting with superintendents from several surrounding national park sites – Jarvis also scheduled time to meet with Clark Middle School students at the CVEEC.
Bringing parks to the people by connecting with urban populations is an important part of Jarvis’s current agenda as director. As the centennial of the National Park Service approaches in 2016, portraying the relevancy of our parks, especially to the millennial generation, is essential. In order to preserve the sense of stewardship responsibility, there needs to be an effort to educate and connect with young audiences.
Five students from Clark, along with their principal and eighth grade science teacher, had the opportunity to meet with Jarvis in an informal question and answer session. To start, the students shared their favorite memories from their week in the resident program. Hearing spring peepers chirp as they completed the solo-walk on the night hike and seeing the star-filled sky were among the highlighted experiences. Seeing stars and learning about constellations is not easily done in the city. Jarvis spoke to the importance of these new, positive experiences with the environment, encouraging students to continue making these connections.
The students also testified how valuable the hands-on, real-life experiences were in helping them solidify their prior, classroom-taught knowledge. Learning about runoff, erosion, and deposition in a textbook is one thing, but seeing it take place on the side of a stream is another; being in the park and seeing these concepts in action really helps the information stick. Amanda Rodriguez, principal of Clark Middle School, elaborated saying that since Clark has a large bilingual population, letting these kids do experiential learning is wonderful. When you are out hiking, or are in the stream collecting macroinvertebrates, the language barriers fade away.
Rodriguez has scheduled her students’ CVEEC residential field trip week right before the Ohio Achievement Assessment (OAA) testing each year. She and Sheila Chamberlin, the eighth grade science teacher, both commented on how the CVEEC Level II curriculum aligns well with the eighth grade state science standards. After attending the CVEEC program last year, Chamberlin tweaked her classroom curriculum to reinforce certain elements of the CVEEC program. Learning concepts in the classroom and revisiting those same concepts at camp really helps the information come to life for the students.
Afterwards, the discussion was driven by questions the students had prepared. They learned about Jarvis’s fly-fishing hobby and about his 38 year journey in the National Park Service. Overall, it was just a great experience getting to meet and chat with Mr. Jarvis. It is encouraging to know that the director supports the education efforts we carry out daily at the CVEEC. Hopefully he will be back to visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park again soon. Until then, we will put forth our best effort to continue connecting students with nature and increasing the awareness and relevancy of our national park.