Even though Shenandoah National Park has been forced to close its gates, kids can still take advantage of the park’s online resources during school closures. The National Park Services offers a variety of distance learning options based on grade level to keep kids learning about their local history and the environment.

The “Spirit of the Mountain” program is aimed at middle school students and connects the social, economic, geographic and political history of the 1920s and 1930s with the establishment of Shenandoah National Park and the people whose lives were impacted. Including five lessons with videos, activities and resources for further reading, the program is available at https://www.nps.gov/teachers/classrooms/spirit-of-the-mountain.htm.

Topics covered include the history of Shenandoah National Park, the constitutional power of eminent domain, the social and political history of the 1920s and 1930s, Virginia history and geography, and the history of the national park system. The program is designed to align with Common Core standards and the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) tests.

“The National Park Service has created a valuable learning tool for local history with the Spirit of the Mountain distance learning program,” said William Monroe Middle School history teacher Stephanie Hammer. “It addresses curriculum standards while allowing for a level of creative expression.”

At the conclusion of these lessons, students will be able to present a journal with recorded insights and revelations about the establishment of our national park and the impact on local communities both past and present, including the people displaced from the mountain communities at the time of the park’s founding. They will also be able to locate the Blue Ridge Mountains and explain how eminent domain allowed for private land to be acquired to create the park.

“It is important for students to learn local history and this online program allows for that both in the classroom and for parents working with students at home,” Hammer said. “It promotes critical historical thinking skills that are imperative for navigating the modern world. By weaving geography, government, social, political, and economic history into one program, students gain a comprehensive understanding of their community.”

While Shenandoah National Park remains closed, take advantage of their online learning opportunities or learn about other ways to support the park at snptrust.org/support.

“The Spirit of the Mountain looks like a terrific learning experience for families to explore during distance learning,” Hammer said. “Then, when our world opens again, they can take a field trip to the park to experience it firsthand!”

The Greene County Record covered the formation of the national park 85 years ago throughout our pages and with our “Coming off the Mountain” special section in the 1990s.

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