Introduction to the National Park Service: The History of the NPS

Learn about the ideas that formed and later transformed the National Park Service, the people who generated those ideas, and the laws that continue to shape the NPS today.

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The National Park Service (NPS) is an organization with a rich heritage and an important place in U.S. history. In this course, you will learn about the ideas that formed and later transformed the National Park Service, the people who generated those ideas, and the laws that continue to shape the NPS today.

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Course Schedule

This course is self-paced, allowing learners the flexibility to complete the course as quickly or slowly as they need. While exploring course content, learners can investigate topics in greater detail through enrichment activities that link to real-world examples, original source materials, and policy documents. Learners can easily move from section to section as they navigate through the course, revisiting concepts as needed.

Elements of the course

  • Informational text
  • Informational video
  • Interactive practice activities
  • Supplemental reference materials
  • Final assessment

After completing all course activities, you will complete a brief assessment to demonstrate your understanding of key course concepts. Upon successful completion of the assessment, you will be awarded a certificate of completion.

Course Chapters

  • National Park Service
  • Origins of the National Park Idea
  • Creation of the National Park Service
  • Changing Times
  • The NPS Regroups
  • The Environmental Era
  • Entering the 21st Century

Be able to:

  • Identify the people and ideas that formed and transformed the NPS.
  • Explain the significance of major events in NPS history.
  • State the key points of the Organic Act and the NPS Mission Statement.

Recommended Background

No additional background knowledge or skills are required for this course.


Summary of the PastReview by Philip
Good course summarizing the past of the NPS looking towards the future. (Posted on 4/28/2020)
Awesome!Review by Joe
A very good foundation o the National Park Service. (Posted on 4/28/2020)
5 Stars!Review by Kendra
Great course! Very detailed and informative. (Posted on 4/19/2020)
Great!Review by C
This was a great overview of the beginning of the National Park Service. Visual aids would be a great bonus. (Posted on 4/10/2020)
Great!Review by Courtney
Very insightful, this motivates me to go on and visit as many parks as possible to experience the wonderful sites. (Posted on 1/22/2020)
Great InformationReview by Joe
This course was great. I learned new things about the Park Service. (Posted on 10/18/2019)
good elearningReview by Mary
good elearning (Posted on 10/1/2019)
Great CourseReview by Neil
Wonderful overview of a great century of protection, stewardship and improving the lives of millions of Americans and travelers. (Posted on 9/24/2019)
Informative CourseReview by Jessica
This was a very interesting course. The placement of the quizzes were not very helpful, as they addressed topics not addressed yet. The layout of information itself with pictures was great. I like the extra resources available for use as well. overall, I enjoyed this course. (Posted on 6/24/2019)
GreatReview by Jackie
The wording on the exam did not match the wording of the course (example: the same Act had two different titles). But other than that, the course was great! A rich history of the NPS and look into the problems it has faced over time. (Posted on 4/10/2019)
Easy to use and full of information Review by Whitney
This course was very helpful in helping me gain knowledge in this subject and the instructions were easy to follow as well (Posted on 4/2/2019)
wonderfulReview by sk
I loved this course, most especially the first 3 chapters. The extra quizzes, reflections, and extra information and photos really helped clarify what the founders of the NPS were challenged with and their vision of what the NPS mission was. The last chapters were very helpful to illustrate the modern challenges the NPS has, how the challenges have been met and what the goals for the future are. Thank you for the privilege of this amazing overview of the NPS. (Posted on 4/1/2019)
Good Information with Design FlawsReview by Sofia
Although the information was relevant, the course was poorly designed. Most of the practice quizzes in the first half of the course especially would either quiz you on information that was not specifically included in the course or quiz you on information that had not yet been presented at that point in the course. I would recommend that the quizzes are placed on pages after all the relevant information has been presented, instead of before.

Also, a few quizzes included errors. In one quiz, when you selected Kenai, the quiz would say you were incorrect and then listed the "correct" answer as Kenai. Also, at least one of the quizzes included a question where the correct multiple choice answer included a bubble, but no words. (Posted on 3/9/2019)
ComprehensiveReview by James
Took me a lot longer to complete than the average 1-2 hours, but it was a very comprehensive and coordinated historical description of the NPS. (Posted on 2/14/2019)
.Review by stacy
(Posted on 12/28/2018)
Great Introduction to the Park ServiceReview by Roger
Very informative in the development and creation of the National Park Service and how it changed over time. (Posted on 12/19/2018)
ExcellentReview by David
I thought it was very informative on legislation that helped the building of the National Park Service (Posted on 12/18/2018)
goodReview by dallas
good (Posted on 11/30/2018)
excellent courseReview by Phillip
Very inforative (Posted on 10/18/2018)
Very interesting and informativeReview by carol
I found this to be very interesting and very informative. (Posted on 10/17/2018)
Well writtenReview by LEE
Great course (Posted on 10/17/2018)
Excellent overviewReview by Kate
Great overview of the cultural and legislative foundations of the NPS. 4 stars because a few of the links are broken. (Posted on 8/11/2018)
ExcellentReview by Abby
Excellent course, especially for individuals going to work for the National Park Service. The course lays a foundation excellent for park rangers working at various parks. Excellent history. (Posted on 6/11/2018)
Objectives and measurement not alignedReview by Alexander
The certification exam was not clear measure of stated course objectives. (Posted on 5/25/2018)
Some minor improvementsReview by Colleen
1. When doing the in-lesson assessments, sometimes the material presented was not covered. I was asked about Mt. Rainier, for example, after the section discussing Mesa Verde. Mt. Rainier was never discussed in the lesson. Sometimes the material was covered, but wasn't covered until a later page in that section.

2. When participating in the final assessment, when a question was answered correctly, you are given information about it. However, when you answer a question incorrectly, you are not. I think providing information or clues about the correct answer may have been helpful. (Posted on 3/7/2018)
Informative and InterestingReview by Danielle
I took this course just for personal enjoyment and interest, and I'm very glad I did. It was highly informative. The course does an excellent job of covering each era of the NPS and illuminating the changes and growth of the agency. (Posted on 1/31/2018)
very well written and detailed.Review by Kieran
very well written, very interesting, and well detailed. (Posted on 9/22/2017)
love the formatReview by parkperson
The clickable timeline throughout really grounded the historical eras - Very cool activities, too! (Posted on 10/28/2014)
Great introductionReview by Matthew
This course was a great way to familiarize myself with history of the National Park Service. I found it informative, captivating, and creative. (Posted on 8/25/2014)

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