Ben Johnson’s earliest memory of Shenandoah National Park was driving southbound on Skyline Drive from Front Royal.
As the son of a Marine, his family moved around a lot, but he mostly grew up in Northern Virginia. Together, Ben and his family explored a number of battlefields and memorials in Washington D.C. as his father studied the Civil War.
Today, Ben is an Education Tech at Shenandoah National Park. He transitioned to a National Park Service role directly from an internship with the Appalachian Conservation Corps (ACC), a program of Conservation Legacy, which is a partner of AmeriCorps and support from you!
Ben immersed himself as an interpretation and education intern for ACC, funded by SNP Trust supporters. Ben, among other corps members, carry the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in our park.
After his summer internship, he extended his work as an Education Tech for virtual school programs during the 2020 school season. With many schools currently a hybrid schedule, he leads virtual programs every day from elementary school to high school. Last year, they had to build these programs from the ground up.
“One of the biggest challenges that I think we faced was how do we make these interactive and fun for students in a virtual manner.”
Donor-funded park internships give the education team more boots on the ground, which offers more in-person programs and virtual class offerings, giving students at a distance increased access to Shenandoah’s rich resources.
“We were getting some schools from Northern Virginia who just don’t have the time to make it all the way down to the park as a field trip location,” Ben said. While many students come from Virginia school districts, Ben taught virtual classes to students from Texas, New Mexico and even California.
So what does that mean for the future of youth education in the park? Your impact extends beyond the bounds of our park.
Early access to the outdoors for children that is incredibly important to Ben.
“Being in nature itself is a very unique experience,” Ben said. “If we give kids a lot of opportunities to jumpstart that idea and experience that — sometimes for the first time — we can encourage them to continue on with that experience to explore and protect these places.”
We need to continue to support education in our national parks systems, Ben said, especially in Shenandoah. These programs can spark an interest in conservation work that children can do themselves in their local, state and national parks.
“We have the opportunity to instill in our youth the excitement and drive for these unique places,” he said. “One of the things that really drives our programs tends to be ‘the wow moment’ where kids really get a deep connection to the park in one way or another. Even virtually we have seen some of these things happen.”
Donor-funded park internships give the education team more boots on the ground, which allows them to offer more in-person programs and virtual class offerings, giving students at a distance increased access to Shenandoah’s rich resources.
Support internships and youth education in Shenandoah National Park by donating to SNP Trust today.