Creating Lesson Plan Assets for NPS Educators Portal

Interpretation and Education Career Academy

Updated Curriculum-based Education

Creating Lesson Plans for NPS Educators Portal

An effective lesson plan is comprised of many important components, from introducing the lesson and writing clear objectives to synthesizing and concluding the lesson. There are also many general questions to consider: how does park content relate to state standards? Is the lesson student-centered? What behavioral objectives will be included and do the objectives describe the learning outcome in a realistic manner? How much background information is needed to prepare teachers?

What You Will Learn

You will learn to:

  • Identify the essential components of a lesson plan
  • Examine and compare good lesson plans
  • Explore how to make your lesson plans place-based specifically for your park

How to Use this Resource

  • Review the following sections
  • Review and use the Additional Resources
  • Leave a review

This resource was created by NPS educators and classroom teachers to assist interpreters and educators who add lesson plan assets to the NPS Educators Portal. This resource will help you design your curriculum-based materials and activities that will be posted on the NPS Educators Portal as a lesson plan. A thoughtful plan on how to best analyze, develop, and evaluate this content is essential. Additionally, it is a good practice to develop lesson plans with local teachers.

Lesson Plan Components:

Focusing Lesson Plans on Place

The NPS Educators Portal is a resource for teachers to find lesson plans about your park. The content and activities should highlight your park and address cross-curricular concepts and standards. When developing your lesson plan, it is very important to think about what makes this lesson different from the everyday, run of the mill lesson that is about a general concept and not connected to a real-world place, event, person, etc. Lesson plans should provide opportunities for teachers and students to explore curricular concepts through the context of the park.

Making it relevant to teachers’ and students’ lives also creates an important connection. Check out this Common Learning Portal resource about Relevance in Education.

Consider your site’s themes and educational goals. What sets your site or story apart from others? How does your story relate to students and their community? Share your thoughts on the Common Learning Portal.

To learn more about making your lesson plans place-based, consult the following resources:

Lesson Plan or Field Trip?

It is important to create the appropriate asset in the Educators Portal to help teachers find the resources they need. There are many different teacher audiences in the Educators Portal. Teachers around the world can use the Educators Portal to find lesson plans to connect to curricular concepts. A teacher that is looking for lesson plans to use in their classroom is not looking for a field trip resource. More guidance about the difference between lesson plan assets and field trip assets can be found in the Digital Community resources.

From the Digital Community guidance:

“If you have materials that might seem like a lesson plan but MUST be done onsite at a park unit, they need to be categorized as “Field Trips” and not “Lesson Plans.” One of the defining characteristics of a Lesson Plan is that it can be done in the classroom without a park visit, so any materials that require a park visit will fall under “Field Trips.”

Lesson Plan Asset Technical Guidance

Employees who enter assets into the NPS Educators Portal should also consider Digital Community resources. This is where educators and web authors can find technical guidance on entering lesson plan assets using the Content Management System (CMS). By working collaboratively, educators and web authors strengthen the Educators Portal by providing quality content in a convenient and organized source.

Resource Updates

This resource was updated in August 2019 based on feedback in the comments from the previous version. Please leave additional comments so we may continue to update and strengthen this resource. A printable version of the resource is also available.

Write a Review

  1. I appreciate how this article broke the lesson plan into different sections that could be looked at more closely. Also, the included links and resources were helpful. One thing that would be a nice addition would be a savable/printable pdf of the information from each web page or a “quick tips” summary page.


  2. @jasnow – I agree that a print version of what’s on the page would be a great thing to add to the CLP overall. It’s in our backlog of possible future features – I’ll add your comment to that potential feature as a vote in it’s favor. Thank you!

  3. While full lesson plans are great for us as park rangers to use for teaching students, I personally feel that what we provide to the public should be more aligned with activities and not full lesson plans. Teachers today are looking for pieces to add to their lesson plans as a supplement. As a former formal educator, I was never able to use full lesson plans from outside organizations, but had to pick pieces out and then rewrite everything into a very specific and lengthy lesson plan that my school system required. I always found the activities that could be added into the lesson to enhance learning to be the most beneficial.


  4. This is great start for me as I begin learning to how create and use lesson plans for the first time. I find “making your lesson plans place-based” the most fascinating and I know this will help me grow as a interpreter.


  5. This is a great introduction to creating a lesson plan. The set up and design of this page are also very well done. One thing I would like to see added is a link or pdf about teaching tips and guidelines, like inquiry techniques or the 5Es. This page is great for lesson plan set-up, but I feel adding a little bit more on subject matter that should be put into a lesson would be great.


  6. I appreciate that accessibility is the first topic addressed, but it leaves out accessibility for the lesson (program accessibility). The accessibility page only addresses that our materials must be 508 compliant, which is accessibility for the teacher or educator to read the material.

    The accessibility page should include considerations for accessibility for the participants, even just knowing what questions to ask or what to describe in your lesson plan. What does the educator do to request sign language interpretation? Do any of the students use mobility aids? For walks and outdoor activity, is portable assistive listening available?

    In the background information for the park, what is most useful for accessibility is for the park to describe what is there. Are their curb cuts for wheelchair users? Flat, level ground with a firm surface, or a steep trail with loose rock? Bathrooms on site? Accessible stalls? Just saying “the site is accessible” is usually not completely true, and doesn’t help an educator plan for student’s needs. Example description: This program is at Peirce Mill in Rock Creek Park, in Washington, DC. Buses park across the street in picnic grove 1, and all students use a crosswalk across a two lane road to access Peirce Mill. There are curb cuts at the cross walks, and a firm, level surface up to the mill. Bathrooms are closed for renovation, an accessible portable toilet is located near the mill. Inside Peirce Mill, the first floor can be accessed by people using wheelchairs, the basement and the second floor can be reached using stairs.

    The content about essential questions, etc is very useful and well organized.


  7. When I think of PBE, I immediately think of parks as classrooms, and how we can utilize the resources that can be found in the parks and museums as teaching and learning tools. In this way, PBE encourages the learners to develop a sense of ownership. I’m still new to developing curriculum for parks, so I will be interested to check out the portal more thoroughly before the webinar.

  8. This is a good start for learning how to write lesson plans. I appreciate the reminder that it is a best practice to develop park lesson plans with local teachers. This will help ensure the lesson plans are closely aligned with the local school education objectives and curricula.
    I also found the assessments section a helpful reminder with good links.


  9. I thought the place-based education links were useful. I thought there would be more content, especially practical content under accessibility, but it really only address 508 compliance. I do hope we will get guidance in the CMS aspects too.


  10. The four essential elements are a nice reference to always check your objectives against. I think that everyone is guilty of making some of the common mistakes once in awhile.

  11. Great set of materials for creating lesson plans. I would like to see more description of the mechanics of entering the information on the Educator’s Portal (screen shots would be helpful.) It would also be nice to see some great examples of how folks have made typical educational tools 508 compliant (thinking about Venn Diagrams, flow charts, maps and graphic organizers). I also agree with other reviewers stating that the accessibility section should cover (or link to) more than just 508 accessibility. (The star rating seems to not be working – I would have given it 4 stars but it seems the highest I can go is 2 stars.)


  12. As some have mentioned before, it would be helpful to have each page printable as a pdf version of the screen. The page brings up several topics that I’m not well versed in such as 508 compliance. I would like to see information about adult learners and older students.


  13. I think that it’d be helpful to have a case study run through each of these sections, so someone who is writing a lesson plan can see each part as it develops.

  14. I like how this page talks about lesson plans that are place-based. I’ve attended programs before that, while in magnificent settings, really could have been taught anywhere. Planning a lesson that not only teaches core educational standards but also teaches about the unique nature of our sites creates for better learning, and better learners!


  15. These lesson plan components are great! Reading through the resources has helped me to reflect on how I have (or haven’t) thought of and used the components to created lesson plans in the past. This was a great refresher on the how to think of the components we need to be including in lessons plans. I have great ideas on how to refresh and update those plans that are already created at my park site to not just be good, but great and maybe more helpful for teachers looking on the Ed Portal.

  16. I liked everything how it all the links tell you what to expect. My favorite was ways to improve conclusions and that is something I will integrate to my lesson plans.


  17. Not coming from an education background, this provides a very good overview of creating and using lesson plans. The examples and additional resources given are extremely helpful. I particularly liked the stressing of the importance of lesson wrap up and conclusions and working with local teachers.

    It would be helpful to include information on how to enter information into the education Portal and to have the ability to save/print the material.


  18. 1st thing — You have a broken link on the Goals and Objectives page — the link for the Tips for Writing Goals and Objectives article returns a “File does not exist” error message.
    2nd — I like that the information is broken down into components, but I do wish there was a way to easily print these out for off-line reading. (How about a 508 compliant pdf? Show us how its done?) I do wish there were some good examples of alt text (or at least instructions) for us to follow to make these actually meaningful for users. I’d also like some guidance on how to do 508 compliance for an activity such as a word search or crossword puzzle. I’m at a loss how to make some of our elementary-age student handouts 508 compliant for the online pdf to be downloaded by a teacher so they can continue to be included in the materials.


  19. I think the portal is a good way for teacher to find the lesson plans parks have to offer. This was a good outline of what makes a good lesson plan, and provided lots of resources and examples.

  20. This is a great clearinghouse of links to educational topics and points of interest. I found myself following multiple links concerning assessment., as I feel like this is an educational aspect that can be easily overlooked or rushed in our limited time with students.


  21. I really enjoyed how you all had links for resources such as the articles about improving conclusions, etc… I also think it’s important to work with local schools to make sure you are aligning your lessons to what they need. We try to hold at least one teacher workshop per season with local teachers and that has really helped our programming.

  22. It’s wonderful when one feels in sync with how the NPS is evolving! Over the last year we have been working on revamping our education lessons, and our priorities are exactly what are outlined in the Common Learning Portal, student centered, place based, and curriculum relevant. I appreciate the focus on 508 compliance as that is a topic that has come to the forefront our work in the NPS recently. The resources referenced are current and relevant. Thank you for providing reference materials that will be used!

  23. I am looking forward to updating older lesson plans and writing new ones for our website. I have a better understanding of creating compliant documents so these should be great assets for educators.

  24. I really appreciate how this article gathers together the most relevant resources needed for creating lesson plans. The next time I have to introduce someone to the idea of creating a lesson plan for a park, I’m going to send them here to start.

    I would like to second what this article mentions about working with local teachers to create your site’s lesson plans. We have done this at my current and past park and it was immensely helpful. Now that I have worked with the teachers on the creation of their lesson plans, I feel more capable of creating a lesson plan of my own. And working with these teachers created a strong enough relationship that they would likely give me feedback on the lesson plans I create as well.

    I agree with other reviews that a PDF that included the information in the article and major highlights from the links would be very helpful. Having an easily printable version of this material would be a great resource.

    Thank you for compiling this, I’m looking forward to engaging more with the content within the links provided and using this article for reference in the future.


  25. Thank you for creating this portal. We have for a long time considered doing Teacher Lesson plans in particular including state standards in connection with our junior ranger program. the resources on this page are a great start in the direction we want to go.


  26. The resources are all very helpful. The most eye opening thing for me were the Accessibility and 508 Compliance notes. I always thought those built in title and header options were odd, but now it makes SO much sense. I’m definitely going to make a point to use them from now on.

  27. This is a nice resource. I think the section on place-based learning is a little thin. I recommend connecting with the NER Parks for Every Classroom program which focuses on Place-Based Service Learning in the NER and has a wealth of resources and examples for place-based learning. I also think it would be good to add information about best practices in science, civic, and history education.


  28. As a young interpreter and environmental educator, I find this page to be very useful. I appreciate that it has outlined all of the components that a good lesson plan should include. The resources provided by this page will be tremendously useful to refer to when creating lesson plans of my own.

  29. First and foremost, I really like the layout of the page as a whole. Some of these portals can have a lot of information and can be difficult to navigate, but this one works well. One of the first sections is in fact “How to use this portal”. I also like the additional resources as well, so that one can ‘go down the rabbit hole’ when developing lesson plans and really exploring this page.


  30. As a young interpreter and environmental educator, I find this page to be an extremely useful resource. I will likely refer to this page when developing new lesson plans.

  31. This tutorial was very thorough and can serve as a control against which to measure the effectiveness of lesson plans that may have been crafted in the past. I appreciate the attention given to the value of place-based education, however, each park unit may first want to develop a work plan vision of the audiences to target to ensure place-based lesson plans are effective for those audiences visiting in person and for others who may be standing in their own, yet similar, resource.

  32. Have not seen anyone write it yet, maybe I missed it, but the Wrapping up your Lesson Plan was the part that caught my eye. I like how the resources for improving conclusions, which were non-NPS, but seemed to fit in very much with ACE techniques.

  33. I see how place-based learning gives us the opportunity to showcase the uniqueness at each of our sites and to discover what is relevant to the students. This hopefully ensures a “buy-in” from the students to not only treasure the park site’s story but to also want to protect and preserve it.

  34. I was able to view this material on my phone through the MAAS app, but didn’t want to try logging in until I was back at my work desk to write a comment. I didn’t want to try creating a “public profile” in case it messed with my NPS profile. But I was glad this summer when the Common Learning Portal became available off the NPS network. I was able to share it with my seasonal staff, who do not have access to networked computers.

    I have just filled the Ed Specialist position at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, so this is great timing to be learning about the latest in online lesson plans! Thank you for these trainings. I found the materials here a great reference for future use. It’s great that the education community is as collaborative as it is.

  35. One piece of advice I’m glad to see here is to work WITH a teacher or teachers to develop lesson plans. They are the experts in what works in classrooms, many of us are not. Without their input, we risk spending a lot of time and effort on something that they won’t or cannot use.

    The links to external resources are extensive and generally useful here, though so extensive that they run the risk of being somewhat overwhelming–lots to go through. What might be useful to distill it all down would be links to three or four example lessons that have been vetted as high-quality–one on a natural resource, one on a cultural resource, perhaps one that is designed to capitalize on some park data and one to capitalize on a park visit .

    I see one comment above from a former teacher that encourages us to offer activities and “pieces” rather than full lesson plans since, in his experience as a formal educator, he was rarely able to use “outside” lesson plans in their entirety. Having conducted many teacher workshops and, as a result, talked with many teachers, I would agree with this in part. I have found that particularly middle and high school teachers are looking for parts and pieces–activities, data sets, etc–to add to their own lessons, but that elementary teachers are often more receptive to full lesson plans. This is a bit of an oversimplification, but I guess my point is that I see usefulness in both offering activities and “pieces,” AND in developing some full lesson plans. That said, I am much more cautious about about developing a full curriculum or set of lessons without identifying a clear need and input from teachers. My sense is that agency-developed curricula often sit on shelves and serve our internal need to report that we developed something more than they serve the needs of teachers.

  36. I agree with other reviewers that it would be great to have all the information linked to in this resource available in one document- I tend to lose momentum when an article gives me so many things to click on. I started with one tab at the beginning of reading it and I’m up to 28 open tabs now because each link had so many more links- links on links on links! I know part of the issue is a personal fault of mine for failing to stay focused on the task at hand, but a single printable style version of the resource (not that I”ll actually print it!) would be helpful to me.
    Maybe I missed it, going back and forth from this article to the links, but more than lesson plans, teachers have been asking for pre- and post-visit activities for field trip and guest speaker programs. I wonder how the Education Portal treats that style of product?


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  39. This resource was updated in August 2019 based on the comments/feedback. Updates include: a printable version of the resource, linked examples on the Educators Portal, and discussion threads for certain topics. More Section 508 compliance resources available on the CLP were linked the resource. Many sections were also updated to provide more clarification and guidance in areas that need improvement in lesson plan assets.

    Please note that this resource is for lesson plan assets in the Educators Portal, not field trip assets. More explanation on this has been added to this content page.

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