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THE TERRA TABLOID
by Larry


September, 2009

In Celebration of Our National Parks

Next week, on 9/27/09, beginning at 8:00 PM, eastern time, a great new Ken Burns documentary, this one focused on the U.S. National Parks system, will commence with the first of a series of six 2-hour PBS films, "The National Parks, America's Best Idea." Some six years in the making, this series will not merely present viewers with some of the country's most gorgeous landscapes, filmed by among its greatest documentary movie makers, but will do so with narration that is filled to the brim with ideas about our rich national heritage, symbolized by the nearly 60 National Park locations set aside forever for us and our posterity. I have seen the preview, plan to watch the entire series myself, and urge others to do themselves a favor and view this magnificent set of films as well. Why not make it a family affair? These movies seem likely to do for our National Parks what in the 1980s Carl Sagan did for space. If one cannot see the films just as they come out, perhaps a modest investment in the DVD set of the entire series would be worthwhile, a bargain at only about $70 (shipping included).

For those interested in other ways to enjoy our national parks, the best, of course, is to pay a visit to one or, even better, several of them, preferably in the off season, like I did in 2004 to Yellowstone or in 2007 to the Redwoods National Park. We have a great one here in TX that Val and I have both enjoyed several times, Big Bend. And early next year I hope to visit Grand Canyon National Park as well.

Besides the rich rewards of actually being there, through the National Park Foundation there are several ways for young people and their parents, teachers, mentors, etc. to either participate in the national parks experience online or have related adventures in their communities. Electronic Field Trips or EFTs, a youth oriented online feature, can take the user into a magnificent national park experience from the comfort and convenience of her or his home computer or classroom. 36 million viewers have already participated. Teachers, parents, students, mentors, and others are encouraged to register and experience the EFT phenomenon for themselves. EFT topics include an hour long field trip on erupting volcanoes in Hawaii, an exploration of the underground water system in Carlsbad Caverns, a tour of the Grand Tetons, a dip into the Grand Canyon, an Everglades excursion, and more.

There are also WebRangers, Junior Ranger programs, and First Bloom, the National Park Foundation's program for involving young children directly in the national park experience. As it says on the site, "First Bloom is a simple idea. The National Park Foundation works with youth groups to bring children particularly urban kids to nearby national parks, where park rangers teach them about plants native to the area. Then the kids dig in, nurturing the natural habitats and designing gardens to show off the park landscape and beautify their neighborhoods. Through hands-on immersion into the science of native plants and habitat restoration, First Bloom helps kids connect in new ways to their environment and develop an early passion for conservation."

The imminent release of Ken Burns' magnificant series on the national parks is an opportunity to focus anew on these American treasures. Acquainting ourselves with them, in turn, is an excellent way to know the wonders, grandeur, and perfection of the natural world.




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