APU Environmental Original

Celebrating National Park Week and Earth Day This Month

By Dr. Kristin Drexler
Faculty Member, School of STEM

This month, there are two annual events to celebrate conserving Earth’s natural resources: National Park Week and Earth Day. National Park Week starts on Saturday, April 16 and runs through Sunday, April 24, and Earth Day is Friday, April 22.

Happy #NationalParkWeek!

National Park Week is an annual event held by the National Park Service (NPS) and its partner, the National Park Foundation. National Park Week is designed to help us remember the value of our magnificent national parks and why it is important to preserve and protect them for future generations. 

Free Admission to National Parks on April 16

On the first day of National Park Week, all 400+ areas in our national park system will have free admission, including:

  • National parks
  • Monuments
  • Battlefields
  • Military parks
  • Historical parks
  • Historic sites
  • Lakeshores, seashores and other recreation areas
  • Scenic rivers and trails

The National Park Service also offers free admission during other days of the year, including:

Themes for National Park Week

National Park Week hopes to “sPark” public interest during National Park Week. According to the National Park Foundation, each day of National Park week will have a different theme:

  • April 16: sPark Discovery
  • April 17: sPark Creativity
  • April 18: sPark Collaboration
  • April 19: sPark Innovation
  • April 20: sPark Opportunities
  • April 21: sPark Preservation
  • April 22: sPark Action
  • April 23: sPark Curiosity
  • April 24: sPark Memories

For more information on National Park Week events, visit the National Park Service’s National Park Week site or the National Park Foundation’s National Park Week site. To locate a park near you, visit Find Your Park/Encuentra Tu Parque.

Earth Day Is April 22

With our planet completing another trip around the sun, it’s time to celebrate Earth Day this April 22. This year’s theme is “Invest in Our Planet,” so that our world will have a prosperous and sustainable future. Earth Day 2022 reminds us that it is our collective responsibility to ensure an “equitable, prosperous green economy for all.”

Earth Day’s Origins and Impact

The first Earth Day occurred in 1970, during the birth of the modern environmental movement. Author Rachel Carson and her 1962 New York Times bestseller, “Silent Spring,” are credited with inspiring today’s environmentalism.

Carson’s book raised public awareness and inspired people to take action to create cleaner air, cleaner water, and promote the conservation of nature and wildlife. Carson’s work was the first critical examination of environmental pollution and showed how pollution is linked to human health. The book alsoshifted our environmental consciousness from humans dominating the planet to understanding that humans are inextricably linked to Earth; our health and survival directly depends on how we treat the Earth. 

Sen. Gaylord Nelson (WI) proposed the legislation for Earth Day in the spring of 1970, supported by 20 million Americans demonstrating in different cities across the United States. In December of that same year, Congress authorized the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since then, we’ve established the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and many other important policies and legislation.

Investing in Our Planet: The “I” in COWRIITE

In a set of articles I wrote last month on local actions we can take to positively influence climate change, I introduced the acronym COWRIITE, as in “Let’s COWRITE our climate future.” One of the I’s in COWRIITE stands for Invest.

By taking action to investing in our planet’s well-being, we can consume less and practice sustainability. In addition, we can invest in environmental, social and governance responsible (ESG) funds.  

Related link: The 2022 Olympic Games: Lacking a Good Carbon Footprint

How to Celebrate Earth Day

To help you celebrate Earth Day, there are several activities taking place. The Earth Day website features information on the Great Global Cleanup, Sustainable Fashion, The Canopy Project, Climate Literacy Campaign and other activities. Also, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory offers educational Earth Day resources with downloadable posters, articles and online events.

For younger generations, Earth Day offers a video from its March 31 “Invest In Our Planet: Community and Youth Activism” webinar.

Promoting Community Education and Citizen Science

You can also celebrate Earth Day by serving your community through STEM education and promoting citizen science. For instance, I started “Science Talks with Dr. Drexler and Friends” in 2020 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and to educate young children in response to schools shifting to online classes due to COVID-19 school closures.

Science Talks turned out to be a year-long journey of weekly Zoom visits designed to educate 5th grade students on various topics in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Their favorite topics were wildlife science, climate change, science in films, marine biology, viruses and vaccines, fire science, national parks, and space exploration.

Related link: Why Marie Curie Remains an Inspiration for Women in STEM

Environmental Organizations and Programs at the University

The University has several organizations related to environmental science, including:

The School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) also offers degree and certificate programs in several environmental disciplines, such as:

  • Environmental Science
  • Space and Earth Studies
  • Natural Science
  • Fish and Wildlife Management
  • Public Lands Management
  • Environmental Technology
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Environmental Management
  • Environmental Planning and Design
  • Natural Resource Management

For more information about these programs, please contact the University.

About the Author

Dr. Kristin Drexler is a full-time faculty member in the Space Studies and Earth Sciences Department. She teaches geography, environmental science, earth system history, conservation of natural resources, and earth and planetary sustainability for the School of STEM. She earned her Ph.D. in educational leadership at New Mexico State University by researching socioecological systems, sustainable agroecology and community education. She earned her Master of Arts in international affairs with an emphasis in natural resources management from Ohio University. Dr. Drexler earned the Undergraduate Excellence in Teaching Award for the APUS School of STEM (2020) and the Dr. Wallace E. Boston Leadership Award for American Public University System (2021).  

Kristin has conducted numerous community surveys in Belize regarding agroforestry, conservation and sustainable agriculture. Until she became a full-time instructor with APU in 2009, she was an environmental scientist in New Mexico, conducting field biology surveys and environmental impact analyses. Drexler founded the Belize Field School Program at NMSU, coordinating short courses in Belize in wildlife, agroforestry, marine ecology, and documentary film (2006-2014) and produced an award-winning short film, “Yochi” in 2017 about youth conservation and action against poaching and illegal wildlife trade. In the late 1990s, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Belize. She co-founded and serves on the board of directors of Full Basket Belize, a U.S. nonprofit that provides high school scholarships and community grants in Belize. Kristin serves as a faculty advisor for the university’s wSTEM and AWIS chapters. She also founded the “Science Talks with Dr. Drexler and Friends” lesson series for primary school (2020-21).

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