New Science Education Program Brings Rock Creek Park to Classrooms

Contact: Caroline Brewer, [email protected]


Chevy Chase, MD –Rock Creek Park and Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS) have been selected to participate in a new science education program, Citizen Science 2.0 in National Parks. Made possible thanks to a $1 million Veverka Family Foundation donation to the National Park Foundation’s Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks, this new program supports collaborations among select national parks, local environmental science education providers, and local middle and high schools for three years.

Rock Creek Park’s partnership with ANS and Montgomery County Public Schools will engage students in investigating watershed health in their own schoolyards and nearby Rock Creek Park. Through a new, hands-on, field-based module, high school chemistry students will explore real-world environmental problems and participate in citizen science water quality monitoring while learning about careers in the National Park Service.

The goal of the program this year is to:

  • establish a place-based, science-focused community of practice among national parks, schools, and education partners;
  • equip classroom teachers with the tools, training, and opportunity to conduct high quality, experiential science education aligned with Next Generation Science Standards; and
  • create student-centered curriculum that connects students to their local national park through hands-on scientific study of water quality and watersheds.

The Director of Education for ANS explained the impact of this grant on the partners and students. “We are thrilled to be recipients of this generous grant from the National Park Foundation and Veverka Family Foundation, and to be partners again with MCPS. It will strengthen the programming we can provide to local schools and enhance the model of outdoor education we’ve developed with Montgomery County Schools over the past 12 years.

“We’re excited the students will be designing solutions to problems that threaten stream health and the long-term sustainability of the Rock Creek Park and watershed. They will test water quality parameters such as pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, alkalinity, and more.  They also will sample the water for benthic macroinvertebrates – tiny creek critters whose presence or absence can tell us about the health of the stream over the long term.  Finally, students will investigate the current conditions of the watershed and learn about how our human activities impact it in both positive and negative ways,” Lill added

“This represents a great opportunity to augment classroom experience with real world scientific exploration of the watersheds connecting the school yard with their nearby national parks,” said Mary Jo Veverka, president of the Veverka Family Foundation. “Students will be tasked with developing actionable programs to improve their local watersheds.”

Programs such as Citizen Science 2.0 highlight the expertise for which ANS, now celebrating 120 years of environmental education and advocacy, is known and respected. “We are about to enter our 13th school year of serving MCPS with our award-winning GreenKids program. Since 2005, we have increased access to outdoor environmental education programming for MCPS students – raised more than $2 million to directly support environmental education in MCPS schools – trained hundreds of teachers to take students outside for investigating their local parks, streams, and school gardens,” EE Director Lill said.

In addition to Rock Creek Park, this program is also kicking off this 2017-2018 school year at Cabrillo National Monument, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“Private support from generous partners like the Veverka Family Foundation is making it possible for national parks – some of our richest learning environments – to offer new and innovative education programs like Citizen Science 2.0,” said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation.

To date, the National Park Foundation’s Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks, a comprehensive fundraising campaign to strengthen and enhance the future of America’s treasured places for the next hundred years, has raised more than $420 million.

“The National Park Service greatly values citizen science. We are excited to work with the National Park Foundation and the Veverka Family Foundation to implement this citizen-science based education project,” said Ray Sauvajot, Associate Director, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science at the National Park Service. “It will help us understand our protected resources, foster new connections between the public and their parks, and support students’ understanding of and passion for science.”

For more information about Citizen Science 2.0, please click here.


ABOUT AUDUBON NATURALIST SOCIETY – Through outdoor experiences, education, and advocacy, the Audubon Naturalist Society inspires residents of the greater Washington, D.C. region to appreciate, understand, and protect their natural environment.   * Naturalist SocietyNaturalistSociety  *

ABOUT ROCK CREEK PARK – Rock Creek Park is truly a gem in our nation’s capital. This 1,754-acre city park was officially authorized in 1890, making it the 3rd national park to be designated by the federal government. It offers visitors the opportunity to escape the bustle of the city and find a peaceful refuge, recreation, fresh air, majestic trees, wild animals, and thousands of years of human history.

Media Contact: Dana Dierkes, Chief of Interpretation, Education, and Outreach, Rock Creek Park, 202-895-6222, [email protected]

ABOUT THE NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION – The National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks and nonprofit partner to the National Park Service. Chartered by Congress in 1967, the National Park Foundation raises private funds to help PROTECT more than 84 million acres of national parks through critical conservation and preservation efforts, CONNECT all Americans with their incomparable natural landscapes, vibrant culture and rich history, and INSPIRE the next generation of park stewards. Find out more and become a part of the national park community at  Media Contact: Alanna Sobel, 202-796-2538, [email protected]