The N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation has long been committed to providing interpretive and educational programs for the public. After all, we call our state parks “nature’s classrooms.” But it wasn’t until recently that we rewrote our mission statement to specifically name education as a tenet. By doing so, we wanted to acknowledge that education is at the center of our mission —to teach the safe and healthy ways to recreate outside, from fishing tournaments to backpacking lessons and hands-on demonstrations about camping... all while exemplifying good stewardship of our natural resources.

Passion for nature starts with learning about the world around us. To love something is to know something, and we believe in sparking that knowledge at a young age. We offer a lot of engaging programs at state parks, such as Track Trails and the Junior Ranger program, to start encouraging children's natural curiosity about what they experience on a trail, by the water, or in the forest. We also launched the Schools in Parks initiative to ensure every public school student experiences our state parks by the time they finish secondary school.

We know that learning shouldn't stop at any age, so all N.C. state parks provide a variety of educational opportunities for visitors of all ages. We have educational material in brochures and on our website, as well as exhibits and displays at our state parks, that explore the history and natural and cultural resources of each park. Park staff regularly schedule programs for visitors at the park and special events for the local community. We work closely with teachers in public, private, and home schools who wish to schedule field trips or invite a ranger to their class for an educational program.

Science is at the forefront of our work in natural resource management, but other disciplines play important roles at the park, including social studies and mathematics. We offer programs in nature journaling, shell crafting, nature photography, and Storywalks. And it’s not just our park rangers who provide these opportunities either; our administrative staff answer questions daily about flora and fauna in the park, and our maintenance staff work side-by-side with ranger staff in tackling invasive species, prescribed fire, and more. We view conservation, recreation, and education as team efforts — not just by imparting knowledge but also by learning from each other.