Virtual Book Group, March 15-April 28
National Parks: America’s Best Idea

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FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt at Glacier National Park.

In a 1934 speech at Glacier National Park, President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed, “There is nothing so American as our national parks.”

The National Park Service just turned 100. If you’ve ever wondered how it started, join Susannah Renzi to read and discuss The National Parks: America’s Best Idea by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns (Knopf Doubleday, 2009, 403 pp).

Don’t let the length scare you; it’s lavishly illustrated and Susannah is an experienced facilitator. She has worked for 23 years in regular, special, and at-risk secondary education and as a THVIP advises on place-based learning. Susannah also spent five years helping teachers with technology integration. In addition, the PBS website has lesson plans, day trip activities, and other resources for educators.

How a virtual book group works

All are welcome. The group will be entirely asynchronous, i.e., you log in weekly at your convenience from March 15-April 28 to get assignments, see what your colleagues are thinking, and share your insights. To register e-mail THV your name, e-mail address, and school, site, or other group by March 14. If you want a certificate (30 CTLE-approved hours) for professional development purposes:

  • Answer weekly questions based on the reading.
  • Reply to at least one post per week.
  • Finish the book by April 28.
  • Complete a blog post about a visit to a national or state park by May 10.

More about the book

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea is a history of the people, the politics, and the controversies surrounding the parks’ development. Deanne Stillman, in a Los Angeles Times review, lauded the authors for assembling “lost stories” of those whose lives were shaped by their connections to the American landscape.

Among those interviewed are Shelton Johnson who grew up in Detroit where national parks seemed unreachable until he became a ranger; Gerard Baker, a Native-American NPS superintendent (now retired), whose tribe considers the land sacred; Tuan Luong, a Paris-born Vietnamese rock climber and photographer who fell in love with the parks; writer and environmentalist Terry Tempest Williams; and Bev Dunham, publisher of an Alaska newspaper, who initially opposed creation of a national monument near her town.

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From left: Shelton Johnson, Bev Dunham, Gerard Baker, and Terry Tempest Williams.