Building Relevant Programs: Audience Needs, Integrate Park Themes, and Curriculum Goals

Interpretive Development Program (IDP)

Updated Curriculum-based Education


Building relevant educational programs in our national parks requires skill. When planning education programs there are many factors that must be considered to ensure the program is relevant. These factors include: who is the audience, what park theme(s) connect and relate to participant interest and experience, and what curriculum standards are being introduced and explored in the classroom. “Achieving Relevance in our 2nd Century” states that “we provide opportunities that attract and engage new audiences, leverage existing and new partners, and consistently meet or exceed audience expectations” (April 2014).

Is your educational program relevant? How well do you connect the park’s interpretive themes to education standards? Is your park interpreting untold stories? Is your park creating meaningful experiences? Through this lesson you will explore ideas, resources, and suggested activities to examine how your education program and individual programs balance audience needs while integrating park themes with your curriculum.

What You’ll Learn

  • How to triangulate the needs of the audience, park theme, and the curricular goals.

How to Use the Following Resources

You might want to dig in and complete all of the following ideas; however, the content is organized so that you can choose your own adventure. Do this alone or with your team. Upon completion, write a review below!

Audience Needs

  • Schedule a meeting with a local school and/or associated organization. Discuss audience needs, including what resources are needed. Share the results with your team.
  • Attend a local meeting about community issues and explain how the park can be a resource.
  • Observe or shadow a teacher in the classroom.
  • Ask for feedback on a program that focuses on current societal issues from local teachers with whom you have a relationship.

Integrate Park Themes

  • Brainstorm a list of connections between your park’s themes and the local news stories of the school communities with which you work.
  • Create a list of relevant societal issues that connect to your park themes and share with your team.

Curriculum Goals


  • Consider weaving the Common Core skills-based curricular goals with strategies that connect to teaching tolerance and anti-bias.
  • Watch the video clip on Bloom’s Taxonomy to assist you in connecting your curriculum goals by writing learning objectives based on different levels of learning, or review and use this handout to help form questions.
  • Present at a local or national conference and share your ideas and promising practices.
  • Seek out local activities in your community and request space or a booth. (i.e. WorldFest, Jamboree, Juneteenth Celebration, etc.).
  • Considering the societal issues that connect to your park’s resources, employ a student centered teaching technique or activity to create connections between the resource, topic, and students.

Write a Review

  1. This article is very helpful, especially for employees that are delving in to the education field for the first time or are trying to blend their teaching background with a new career in the park service. Giving a relevant program is critical to establish meaning in the audience. Many interpreters have experience giving a meaningful program, but tying it to curriculum standards is essential for educational programs. Meeting with teachers ahead of time to get a feel for the students’ prior knowledge and curriculum needs can help shape a program and make it have a lasting impact. I appreciate the resources given about Bloom’s Taxonomy and student centered teaching techniques. Those resources can help beginners see the direction their program should go, but also include great reminders for all park educators to ensure their program is robust and reaching multiple learning levels. I encourage all educators to check out those student centered teaching strategies in the link provided since they can be applicable in many different settings and help broaden student critical thinking skills.


  2. The plethora of resources allows you or your team to chart your own path and I look forward to using them to update our program to include our park’s themes into the curriculum.

  3. I really like the resource of student-centered teaching techniques or activities. It helped me think of more ways to facilitate learning and discovery with school groups.

  4. We are looking forward to gaining knowledge and perspective on creating relevant programs at Gateway Arch National Park, especially how relevancy relates to the telling of stories about the under-represented groups of people who have impacted our local history.

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