Elmo in the National Parks

When I was little, as in from the age when I began forming memories until I was in school full-time, I distinctly recall filling the majority of my time with three activities; playing outside, building things with Lego blocks, and watching TV. My two favorite TV shows were Sesame Street and Zoobilee Zoo (this show seems slightly creepy to me now…). Sesame Street influenced me so much growing up that for a period of my life (maybe 4th through 6th grade), I was seriously reconsidering my plans to become a marine biologist and decided that I wanted to work in Jim Henson’s creature shop making muppets instead. Obviously neither of those things happened but my childhood love and my current career path met one another this week when the National Park Service, Sesame Street, and the National Park Foundation teamed up!

“Sesame Street Explores National Parks” is a recently developed program that aims to encourage children to learn about science by exploring the outdoors. The program does not only focus on national parks – but prompts kids to explore local parks (including urban parks) and even their own backyard to learn about nature. “Sesame Street Explores National Parks” begins with a series of videos where Elmo and Murray (two of Sesame Street’s resident monsters) “play” at being park rangers. Elmo and Murray then meet up with a real park ranger from either Grand Canyon NP or Gateway National Recreation Area.  While hanging out with the park ranger, Elmo and Murray learn something cool about the animals, habitats, or seasons specific to that national park unit. The videos are charming, humorous, and educational. Even as an adult, I had no problem watching all six videos in the series; although I suppose I may be bias.

Elmo, Murray, and a park ranger exploring nature!

The learning can continue at the “Sesame Street Explores National Parks” webpage where parents or teachers can get additional tools such as a nature journal, a nature scavenger hunt, and some coloring pages (Dave is totally getting one of the coloring pages mailed to him in field camp this summer!).  The current director of the National Park Service, Jon Jarvis, is excited about the partnership and hopes it can continue into the future. In an article from NPR, Jarvis expresses his concern about children losing their connection to nature and he hopes that “Sesame Street Explores National Parks” will inspire kids to get outside and learn something!

If you’d like to watch all of the videos in the series you can find them at the National Park Service’s YouTube page or at Sesame Street’s website.  I will have to keep my eye out for Elmo this summer in Grand Teton National Park, maybe he’ll hike with a GPS unit as part of my field work. 😉

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