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Explore the Outdoors with National Park Week

Redwoods National Park | Michael Schweppe via Flickr

National Park Week, an annual event in the United States, begins this weekend on April 18! To celebrate, the National Park Service is offering free admission for guests to all national parks during opening weekend, April 18-19. If you live near a national park, this is a great opportunity to get outdoors and explore geology, earth science, and ecosystem biology.

Between the lower 50 states, Alaska, and Hawaii, the United States encompasses an incredible variety of biomes. A biome is a group of organisms that are often found in similar geographical and climatic conditions. Only China has as many different biomes as the United States: countries with large land masses like this encounter more variation in climate, an important distinguishing factor. American national parks protect some of the purest and most beautiful landscapes in a variety of different biomes.

National parks like the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, and Yellowstone might be the most familiar to the public, but don't forget about the other 56! The Everglades National Park in Florida protects wetlands and mangrove forests that are home to panthers, crocodiles, and manatees, while the National Park of American Samoa encompasses volcanoes, rainforests, and coral reefs. National parks also can serve as important protectors of heritage, such as Mesa Verde in Colorado, which was created to protect archaeological evidence of the Ancestral Puebloans who lived in the area between 600 and 1300 CE. Mesa Verde is home to the ruins of cliff dwellings such as Cliff Palace.

Take advantage of National Park Week this coming weekend with free admission to all national parks. And be sure to check out Science NetLinks' Celebrating Our National Parks collection for additional teaching and learning resources.