Project goal: Engage visitors through short, thought-provoking educational activities that stoke deeper understanding of and appreciation for the natural world.

Why this work matters: You’ve probably heard of pop-up restaurants, pop-up shops and pop-up art shows … but what about pop-up education?

Visitor education is an essential element of park management. Effective park-based education not only helps people learn about and develop an appreciation for the natural world, but it also communicates key information about staying safe and protecting plants, animals and landscapes.

A new approach to visitor education is emerging — or, more appropriately, popping up — in parks across the country: impromptu, interactive experiences. Park-based “pop-up” educational programs offer short bursts of learning that encourage people to pause and take a deeper look at their surroundings. At Grand Canyon National Park, for example, rangers placed a typewriter at a scenic overlook and invited hikers to share their thoughts, resulting in dozens of messages, poems and short “love letters” to the park.

As one of the nation’s most popular parks, Yosemite needs to be able to provide modern, effective visitor education. This grant allowed Yosemite rangers to stretch their creative muscles as they coordinated a variety of pop-up educational programs designed to spark conversation and curiosity while prompting people to think more deeply about their experience in the park.

How your support helped: With your help, park rangers dedicated time and materials to dreaming up, developing and delivering innovative programming to inspire and educate Yosemite visitors of all ages — and to fill a gap in interpretive programming while many other educational activities were on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rangers designed and piloted 11 formal pop-up programs, as well as several smaller, more informal activities; altogether, those programs reached more than 14,400 visitors. The 2020 pilot programs included art projects, opportunities to learn about bears and watersheds, postcard-writing prompts, an exploration of glaciers and climate change, and more.

Keep an eye out for pop-up programs on your next visit!

Project partner: Yosemite National Park.

Bob Loudon

Branch Chief of Field Interpretation, Yosemite National Park

Project Notes

"Throughout the nation, public land agencies and museums are making a much-needed shift in how we educate the public. The new model, Audience Centered Experience, reflects our changing demographics and changing audiences as well as the shift that has come with 21st-century technology."