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Summer Learning: Celebrate Great Outdoors Month

Summer is a wonderful opportunity for learning in the great outdoors. June is recognized as Great Outdoors Month. In 1998, President Clinton established Great Outdoors Week to celebrate America’s natural treasures. The week-long celebration was expanded by President George W. Bush in 2004 when he issued the first Presidential Proclamation designating the entire month of June as Great Outdoors Month. This recognition emphasizes the benefits of outdoor recreation and encourages Americans to enjoy our magnificent public lands and waterways. The annual tradition has continued under the Obama administration. In 2015, proclamations were issued by all 50 governors declaring June as Great Outdoors Month.

Hikers on the North Inlet Trail

Hikers on the North Inlet Trail
By Brian & Jaclyn Drum (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Exciting events occurring during Great Outdoors Month include National Trails Day, National Fishing & Boating Week, National Get Outdoors Day, National Marina Day, and the Great American Campout. Great Outdoors Month reminds people to take the time to appreciate the natural beauty around us. If you are interested in getting outside and reconnecting with nature, here are some ways to celebrate Great Outdoors Month.

Plan a camping trip, take a hike, go rock climbing and horseback riding. Watch wildlife. You don’t have to go far to enjoy the great outdoors. Walk or jog in a neighborhood park. Ride a bicycle. Have a picnic or barbecue in your own backyard. Plant a garden. If you like the water, beaches, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls are great places for outdoor activities. Go boating, fishing, swimming, diving, snorkeling, canoeing, and kayaking. Visit a national or state park.

I love exploring national parks. I’ve visited some of the most popular ones, including the Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. National parks offer visitors stunning landscapes, breathtaking views, and an opportunity to view wildlife in their natural habitat. National parks are amazing and I hope someday I’ll be able to visit all of them, but my favorite park is not a national park, it’s a state park on the central coast of California.

Often overshadowed by national parks, I believe state parks are hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a perfect example. Point Lobos may not get as much attention as Yosemite, but in my opinion, it is the most beautiful place in the world. Many beautiful state parks—like Point Lobos are exceptional for hiking, photography, sightseeing, and observing wildlife.

eLibrary contains many resources related to national and state parks. If you want to learn more about America’s national parks, click here. If you want to find more information about state parks, perform a basic search in eLibrary by typing in the name of a state followed by parks. When I was planning a trip to Utah and wanted to know more about Utah’s state parks. I typed in Utah parks and I retrieved this Research Topic page in the results list Utah Forests & Parks.

How will you and your students explore learning outside during Great Outdoors Month? Check out the following SIRS WebSelect and ProQuest eLibrary resources to get some ideas about how you can enjoy outdoor recreation.

Camping Research Topic

Hiking Research Topic

National Park Service

National Park Service Research Topic

National Parks Research Topic

The National Parks: America’s Best Ideas

“The Greatest Show on Earth” Is Closing After 146 Years

“It is the only spectacle I know, that, while you watch it, gives the quality of a truly happy dream.”—Ernest Hemingway

Elephants Performing at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus

Elephants Performing at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
By Amy n Rob (originally posted to Flickr as Circus 1 (183)) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In a couple of weeks, “The Greatest Show on Earth” will cease to exist. After 146 years, the iconic Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will deliver its final performance on May 21 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. The circus, with its acrobats, clowns, and animal acts, has been a staple of American entertainment for over a century. Once lauded as wholesome family fun, the show has become increasingly controversial in recent years. The circus has been targeted for decades by animal rights activists, who say that forcing animals to perform for human entertainment is cruel and inhumane.

In January, Kenneth Feld, chairman, and CEO of Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Bros., told The Associated Press that high operating costs combined with declining attendance, changing tastes, and lengthy battles with animal rights organizations, all contributed to the American spectacle’s demise. Feld Entertainment spent years fighting allegations of elephant mistreatment. Despite never losing in court, and winning $25 million in settlements from animal rights groups, the company lost in the court of public opinion. Pressure from animal rights groups and shifting public attitudes toward the use of captive wild animals for entertainment purposes forced Ringling Bros. to end its practice of using performing elephants in May of 2016. The retired circus elephants were sent to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida. Ticket sales plummeted following the removal of the elephants from the show.

The company’s decision to close the circus has been hailed as a major victory by animal rights groups. “After 36 years of PETA protests, which have awoken the world to the plight of animals in captivity, PETA heralds the end of what has been the saddest show on earth for wild animals, and asks all other animal circuses to follow suit, as this is a sign of changing times,” Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a longtime critic of the circus, wrote in a statement.

But not everyone is happy to see the circus come to an end. About 400 circus employees will soon be out of a job. “It’s traumatic!” said ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson, expressing his sadness. “For artists and crew alike, it’s bearing witness to the death of the penultimate icon of our industry. This decision has international ramifications. Artists, the world over, work their entire lives to get to the Greatest Show On Earth.”

What do your students think about the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus shutting down? Do they support or oppose the use of animals for entertainment? Do they think using animals for entertainment constitutes cruelty? They can learn more about both sides of the debate in our Animal Cruelty Leading Issue.

SIRS Leading Issue: Animal Welfare

SIRS Leading Issue: Animal Welfare by ProQuest LLC via ProQuest SIRS Issue Researcher

Let us know your thoughts about the closing of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Comment below or tweet us using #ProQuest.

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Looking for Field Trip Ideas? Here Are 5 State Parks to Visit This Spring

Spring is in the air! It is a great time for students to get outside and enjoy nature. One way students can connect with the great outdoors is to visit a state park. State parks are frequently used by educators and students as outdoor classrooms. They offer students unique environmental and historical learning opportunities. If you’re looking to create a memorable experience for your students, consider planning a field trip to one of these stunning state parks.

 

Antelope Island State Park, Utah

Antelope Island State Park, Utah
(Credit: Michelle Brault)

1. Antelope Island State Park

Antelope Island State Park is located north of Salt Lake City, Utah and is accessible via the Davis County Causeway. The park provides excellent views of the Great Salt Lake and is home to many kinds of animals, including bison, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, bighorn sheep, bobcats, coyotes, and a wide variety of birds. One of the highlights of my trip to Antelope Island State Park was getting the chance to see bison and beautiful horses at the Fielding Garr Ranch. A visit to the park is not complete without stopping at the historic ranch. The ranch house built by Fielding Garr is the “oldest original-foundation Anglo building” in the state of Utah.

Antelope Island State Park provides numerous field trip opportunities. Students can take a guided hike to Buffalo Point, participate in a scavenger hunt during the visitor center tour, and wade into the Great Salt Lake to look for brine shrimp and brine flies. If you’re thinking about planning a field trip to Antelope Island State Park, check out some of these lesson plans offered by the park to get you started:

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah
(Credit: Michelle Brault)

2. Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point State Park is one of the most popular state parks in Utah. The park is located near the town of Moab, which also serves as the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands national parks. The park’s main attraction is the Dead Horse Point Overlook Trail. The overlook offers breathtaking views of the Colorado River and adjoining canyon country 2,000 feet below.

Dead Horse Point State Park offers students the chance to learn about geology, local flora and fauna, prehistoric cultures, and the park environment.

Emerald Bay State Park, California

Emerald Bay State Park, California
(Credit: Michelle Brault)

3. Emerald Bay State Park

For anyone interested in experiencing the beauty of Lake Tahoe, California’s Emerald Bay State Park is a must-see. It is located 12 miles north of South Lake Tahoe. The park offers sightseeing, hiking, boating, swimming, scuba diving, and kayaking. The scenic overlook on Highway 89 provides visitors with a magnificent panorama of Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, and Fannette Island. In 1969, the U.S. Department of Interior designated Emerald Bay as a National Natural Landmark.

If you’re considering taking your students on a field trip to Emerald Bay State Park, I highly recommend taking a tour of Vikingsholm. The historic mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered “one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture” in the country. Guided tours are available for a nominal fee from Memorial Day through September.

Franconia Notch State Park

Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire
(Credit: Michelle Brault)

4. Franconia Notch State Park

Franconia Notch State Park is located within the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. It offers students the opportunity to see some amazing geological wonders. The park was home to New Hampshire’s beloved Old Man of the Mountain landmark until it collapsed on May 3, 2003.

Popular activities at the park include riding the aerial tramway at Cannon Mountain, walking through the spectacular Flume Gorge, and visiting the New England Ski Museum. Other activities include boating, fly fishing, swimming, bike riding, hiking, and camping. If you live in New England, I encourage you to take your students on a field trip to visit this magnificent state park.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, California

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, California
(Credit: Michelle Brault)

5. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is considered the “crown jewel” of the California State Park system. The entrance is located on California Highway 1 just south of Carmel. Point Lobos is known for its breathtaking ocean vistas, scenic trails, and its abundant wildlife. On my trips to Point Lobos, I’ve been lucky enough to see deer, sea lions, harbor seals, and sea otters.

Point Lobos gives students a chance to appreciate the natural treasures of California’s Central Coast, making it an ideal destination for an educational field trip. Students can observe marine mammals in their natural habitat, study the area’s diverse flora and fauna, and visit the Whalers Cabin and the Whaling Station Museum to learn about the cultural history of Point Lobos.  I’ve visited Point Lobos many times, and in my opinion, it is the most beautiful place on Earth.

Now you know some of my favorite state parks, tell me about the state parks you love to visit. Are you planning an upcoming field trip to a state park? What state parks do you recommend?

Comment below or tweet us using #ProQuest.

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Red Cross Month Offers Learning Opportunities

March has been designated as Red Cross Month by every U.S. president since World War II. The American Red Cross is a charitable organization committed to providing care to people in need. The humanitarian organization’s mission is to prevent and relieve suffering. It depends on volunteers and generous donors to support its lifesaving programs and services. March is the perfect time to educate your students about the history of the American Red Cross, the services it provides, and the volunteer opportunities available.

American Red Cross Truck

American Red Cross Truck
By Ibagli (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The American Red Cross was founded on May 21, 1881, in Washington, D.C. by Clara Barton. Clarissa Harlowe Barton worked as a school teacher and as a recording clerk at the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C. During the Civil War, she provided assistance to the soldiers by bringing them supplies and offering them support. When she visited Europe after the Civil War, Barton was introduced to the global Red Cross network in Geneva, Switzerland. After she returned to the United States, Barton lobbied for an American Red Cross and for U.S. ratification of the Geneva Treaty.  The treaty was signed by President Chester A. Arthur on March 1, 1882, and ratified by the U.S. Senate on March 16, 1882.

Clara Barton

Clara Barton
Mathew Brady [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Clara Barton became the first president of the American Red Cross. She led the organization for 23 years. During Barton’s tenure, the American Red Cross conducted its first disaster relief efforts domestically and abroad, cared for American soldiers during the Spanish-American War, and successfully campaigned for the inclusion of relief work in peacetime.

Today, the American Red Cross is focused on five key areas:

Disaster Relief: Every year the American Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters in the United States, ranging from home fires to hurricanes. Disaster victims are provided with food, shelter, and health and mental health services.

Lifesaving Blood: The American Red Cross is the “largest single supplier of blood and blood products” in the United States. Every year, approximately 4 million people support the American Red Cross by donating blood, helping to provide over 40% of the nation’s blood supply.

Supporting U.S. Military Families: The American Red Cross assists members of the military, veterans, and their families by helping them plan for, manage, and respond to the unique challenges of military service.

International Services: The American Red Cross provides assistance to disaster victims around the world, invests in disaster preparedness, reconnects families who have been separated by disaster and international war, helps vaccinate children against measles, and educates about international humanitarian law.

Health and Safety Services: The American Red Cross is the leading provider of safety and health courses in the United States. Such courses include CPR, Lifeguard training, and First Aid. Every year, over 9 million Americans take park in the organization’s training programs, including educators, first responders, and babysitters.

Being young is not a barrier to volunteering at the American Red Cross—approximately 25% of the organization’s volunteers are 24 years old or younger. The American Red Cross offers many opportunities for youth to have diverse and new experiences, serve the needs of their communities, and gain leadership skills. Some volunteer opportunities for young people include hosting a blood drive, distributing disaster preparedness information, assembling comfort kits for disaster victims, and fundraising activities.

Students can also start or join a Red Cross Club. Red Cross Clubs give students a chance to connect with their peers while helping their community. Students who volunteer with the American Red Cross are able to make a meaningful impact in people’s lives, maximize their talents, learn life-saving skills, and improve their resumes.

Will you or your students be participating in any activities to celebrate Red Cross Month? Leave us a comment or tweet us using #ProQuest.

To learn more about the American Red Cross, explore these websites available in SIRS Issues Researcher and this ProQuest Research Topic available in eLibrary:

American Red Cross

Clara Barton’s House: Home of the American Red Cross

International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement Research Topic

Happy 45th Anniversary Capitol Reef National Park!

“National parks are America’s largest classrooms.”–National Park Service

A visit to a national park, actual or virtual, is a valuable learning experience. The state of Utah offers abundant learning opportunities as home to five national parks: Arches, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef. This week marks the 45th anniversary of Capitol Reef being established as a national park. On Aug. 2, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Capitol Reef a national monument. President Richard M. Nixon signed legislation establishing Capitol Reef as a national park on Dec. 18, 1971. I would like to commemorate Capitol Reef’s anniversary by sharing some interesting facts about this beautiful park.

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park
(Credit: Michelle Brault)

Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden treasure located in south-central Utah. Capitol Reef received its name because early settlers observed that the white domes of Navajo Sandstone resembled the dome of the U.S. Capitol building. Prospectors in the area called Waterpocket Fold, a ridge in the earth’s crust, a reef because it was a difficult barrier to transportation. The park encompasses 241,904 acres. It is the state’s newest and least-visited national park, attracting almost 750,000 visitors every year.

I recently got to explore this often overlooked park, and I can tell you that if you take the time to visit this wondrous place, you won’t be disappointed. The park contains colorful canyons, red sandstone cliffs, ancient Fremont petroglyphs, diverse wildlife, the historic Fruita orchards, and amazing geological features. Capitol Reef National Park is defined by the Waterpocket Fold. The classic monocline extends for nearly 100 miles. The majestic park’s prominent landmarks include Cassidy Arch, Chimney Rock, Hickman Bridge, Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Moon, and my personal favorite, the Castle.

The Castle in Capitol Reef National Park

The Castle in Capitol Reef National Park
(Credit: Michelle Brault)

I was impressed by Capitol Reef’s geologic features, but I was equally impressed with the park’s unique history. People have lived in the area of Capitol Reef for thousands of years. The earliest inhabitants of the Capitol Reef area were archaic hunters and gatherers, the Fremont people, and Mormon pioneers who settled in the area that is now known as the Fruita Rural Historic District.

As much as I enjoyed learning about the park’s history and seeing the spectacular scenery, because I am an animal lover, the highlight of my visit was spotting mule deer. Capitol Reef is home to 71 mammal species, 239 bird species, 15 reptiles, 13 native fish species, and 5 amphibians.

I am so grateful that 45 years ago, Capitol Reef was reclassified as a national park. Since there are so many gorgeous destinations to visit in Utah, I have a feeling that if Capitol Reef had remained a monument, there is a chance I would have missed out on this remarkable place.

Take your students on a virtual field trip to Capitol Reef National Park! Explore these resources available in ProQuest eLibrary and SIRS Issues Researcher:

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park Research Topic

Utah Forests and Parks Research Topic

Remembering Walt Disney

50 years ago today, the world mourned the loss of one of its most beloved figures. Walter Elias Disney died of acute circulatory collapse brought on by lung cancer. He passed away at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank, California on Dec. 15, 1966. He was 65 years old.

Disney had undergone surgery for the removal of a lung tumor on Nov. 21. The tumor was discovered while he was being treated at the hospital for an old neck injury he had sustained during a polo match. He returned to St. Joseph’s Hospital for a “post-operative checkup” on Nov. 30. He remained in the hospital until his death.

Walt Disney Research Topic

Walt Disney Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

Walt Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois on Dec. 5, 1901. Walt Disney is regarded as one of the most influential figures in the entertainment industry during the 20th century. He created the beloved cartoon character Mickey Mouse and revolutionized the theme park industry by building Disneyland. Walt was an innovator and visionary leader who became a cultural icon.

He co-founded the media conglomerate that is now known as The Walt Disney Company with his brother Roy O. Disney in 1923. He was a pioneer in the animation industry, a film and television producer, an entrepreneur, and a dreamer. He was even the original voice of Mickey Mouse.

Although Walt Disney has been dead for 50 years, his legacy lives on. Generations of children have grown up watching his animated classics and live-action films, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Mary Poppins. Millions of people, including myself continue to enjoy his theme parks each year and The Walt Disney Company has become an entertainment empire.

On the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney’s death, I encourage you to explore more about his life and legendary career by checking out these resources available in ProQuest eLibrary and SIRS Issues Researcher:

Disneyland Research Topic

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Walt Disney

Walt Disney

Walt Disney Research Topic

Walt Disney Company Research Topic

Walt Disney World Research Topic

Walter Elias Disney

Happy Centennial, San Diego Zoo!

The San Diego Zoo is celebrating its 100th anniversary. I’ve visited the San Diego Zoo twice and both times I was amazed by the sheer size of the zoo. Located in Balboa Park, the 100-acre San Diego Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the world, with more than 3,700 animals representing over 650 species and subspecies. The goal of San Diego Zoo Global, the umbrella organization for the San Diego Zoo, is to help end extinction. San Diego Zoo Global participates in more than 130 conservation projects in over 35 countries and has reintroduced 43 species into the wild. In honor of the San Diego Zoo’s centennial, here are some interesting facts about the history of the world-famous zoo.

Bai Yun, a female Giant Panda at San Diego Zoo, California

Bai Yun, a female Giant Panda at San Diego Zoo, California
By Mfield, Matthew Field, http://www.photography.mattfield.com (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), [ CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It All Started with a Roar

The idea of opening a zoo in San Diego was conceived by Dr. Harry Wegeforth. On September 16, 1916, the local physician was driving past Balboa Park with his brother, Paul, when he heard an abandoned lion roaring. The lion had been left over from an exhibit for the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition. Dr. Wegeforth said to his brother, “Wouldn’t it be splendid if San Diego had a zoo! You know…I think I’ll start one.”

Beginnings

Dr. Wegeforth, his brother, Dr. Fred Baker, Frank Stephens, and Dr. Joseph Thompson formed the Zoological Society of San Diego (now San Diego Zoo Global) on October 2, 1916. Originally, the San Diego Zoo consisted of animal exhibits left behind from the Panama-California Exposition.

In 1917, a brown female bear named Caesar became one of the first animals given to the San Diego Zoo. Caesar had been living on a Navy ship as a mascot, but after getting too rambunctious, the sailors decided to donate her to the new zoo. When Caesar arrived at the harbor, zoo officials didn’t have any trucks to transport her. Dr. Thompson, the acting director of the zoo at the time, sat her in the front seat of his roadster and drove her to her new home at the San Diego Zoo.

Zoo Exhibit Design

The San Diego Zoo became the first zoo in the United States to display animals in open-air grottoes in the 1920s. The exhibits featured large moats as an alternative to cages. This meant there were no longer bars between the zoo animals and the visiting public.

Balboa Park

The Board of Park Commissioners for the City of San Diego approved the site for the zoo in Balboa Park in 1921. The same year, Ellen Browning Scripps donated $9,000 for a fence to indicate the zoo’s designated boundaries. Her donation made it possible for the zoo to charge an admission fee of 10 cents when it had its grand opening in January 1923.

Giant Pandas Arrive

In 1987, San Diego fell in love with two giant pandas Basi and Yuan Yuan when they came to the zoo for a 200-day visit. The pandas were seen by over 2 million people during their stay. The appearance of two giant pandas outside of China was a rare event. By hosting the giant pandas, the San Diego Zoo gave people the opportunity to see the charismatic species in person and raised awareness about their endangered status.

On September 10, 1996, two giant pandas from the People’s Republic of China arrived at the San Diego Zoo. Bai Yun and Shi Shi were part of a landmark 12-year research loan agreement that has been extended multiple times. On August 21, 1999, Bai Yun gave birth to Hua Mei, who is the first surviving giant panda cub born in the United States.

The black-and-white bears remain as popular as ever among zoo visitors. I visited the San Diego Zoo in the beginning of 2016 and I believe the wait time to view the pandas was between 1-2 hours.  Unfortunately on that visit I didn’t get a chance to see the pandas because I spent too much time admiring my favorite animal–the polar bear. Have you been to the San Diego Zoo? What’s your must-see animal at the San Diego Zoo? Comment below or tweet us using #ProQuest.

If you’re not able to visit the San Diego Zoo in person, check out the zoo’s videos and live cams to see your favorite animal. To learn more about the San Diego Zoo, explore these resources available in SIRS Issues Researcher.

Animal Attractions: Amazing Tales from the San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo Animals

San Diego Zoo Centennial

San Diego Zoo’s Panda Cam

Happy 100th Birthday National Park Service!

The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The National Park Service has been taking care of America’s national parks since 1916. The centennial will commemorate the achievements of the National Park Service over the past 100 years and kick off another century of preservation, conservation, and enjoyment of the nation’s beautiful national parks. In honor of the National Park Service’s centennial, I would like to share some interesting facts about the National Park Service and the National Park System that you and your students may not know.

National Park Service Research Topic

National Park Service Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

1. The National Park Service was established on August 25, 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the “Organic Act” into law. The National Park Service was created 44 years after Yellowstone became the country’s first national park. President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act on March 1, 1872.

2. There are approximately 22,000 permanent, temporary, and seasonal workers employed by the National Park Service. 221,000 volunteers donate their time to the National Park Service.

3. The National Park System includes “412 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.” The areas include 59 national parks, 83 national monuments, 78 national historic sites, 50 national historical parks, 30 national memorials, 19 national preserves, 18 national recreation areas, 11 national battlefields, 9 national military parks, 10 national seashores, and 4 national lakeshores.

4. The largest national park in the United States is Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska at 13.2 million acres. The country’s smallest national park is Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas at 5,500 acres.

5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the most visited national park in 2015 with 10,712,674 recreational visits, followed by Grand Canyon National Park (5,520,736), Rocky Mountain National Park (4,155,916), Yosemite National Park (4,150,217), Yellowstone National Park (4,097,710), Zion National Park (3,648,846), Olympic National Park (3,263,761), Grand Teton National Park (3,149,921), Acadia National Park (2,811,184), and Glacier National Park (2,366,056 ).

I feel lucky to have traveled to six of the country’s ten most visited national parks. I will be celebrating the National Park Service’s birthday by visiting three of Utah’s national parks in the fall. You can join in the National Park Service’s celebration by visiting a national park in your state. The National Park Service is offering free admission to all sites from August 25th through August 28th to mark the occasion.

To learn more about the National Park Service and America’s magnificent national parks, explore these resources available in eLibrary and SIRS Issues Researcher.

Find Your Park

National Park Foundation

National Park Service

National Park Service Research Topic

National Parks Research Topic

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

Are you going to visit a national park to help the National Park Service celebrate its birthday? How many national parks have you visited? What is your favorite national park? Comment below or tweet us using #ProQuest.

SeaWorld: The Captivity Debate

On March 17, 2016, SeaWorld made the shocking announcement that it will end its controversial practice of breeding killer whales. The 29 orcas in SeaWorld’s care will be the last generation of killer whales enclosed at the company’s theme parks. The killer whales will not be released into the wild. They will live in SeaWorld’s parks for the remainder of their lives, but they won’t be replaced. SeaWorld’s theatrical killer whale shows are also being phased out nationwide. The shows will be replaced by exhibits that highlight the natural behaviors of killer whales. The company’s plan to end its killer whale shows was announced in November 2015 and initially only applied to SeaWorld San Diego, but now applies to all three locations, including SeaWorld San Antonio and SeaWorld Orlando. The shows will end in San Diego in 2017 and in San Antonio and Orlando in 2019.

Shamu Show with Orcas at SeaWorld San Diego

Shamu Show with Orcas at SeaWorld San Diego
By Yathin S Krishnappa (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

SeaWorld’s decision to envision a future without its iconic Shamu attraction comes amid mounting criticism by animal rights activists over the company’s treatment of captive marine mammals. SeaWorld has faced increased scrutiny for keeping killer whales in captivity since the tragic death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau. A killer whale named Tilikum battered and drowned the 40-year-old animal trainer on Feb. 24, 2010, at SeaWorld’s Shamu Stadium in Orlando, Florida. The growing backlash against SeaWorld intensified with the 2013 documentary, “Blackfish,” which scrutinized the company’s practice of keeping killer whales in captivity and focused extensively on Tilikum, the killer whale involved in the deaths of three people, including Dawn Brancheau. The film attributed Tilikum’s aggressive behavior to his life in captivity and accused SeaWorld of mistreating its killer whales.

“Blackfish” was largely responsible for shifting public opinion about the use of captive wild animals for entertainment purposes. The documentary incited widespread outrage after airing repeatedly on CNN and changed Americans’ perception of SeaWorld. Since the release of the documentary, SeaWorld has suffered a decline in attendance, revenue, and stock value. In October 2015, SeaWorld was dealt another blow when the California Coastal Commission moved to ban the breeding of killer whales in captivity as a condition of its approval of SeaWorld’s proposed plan to expand its killer whale habitat in San Diego.

Orcas at SeaWorld San Diego Show

Orcas at SeaWorld San Diego Show
By Leon7 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

SeaWorld tried to repair its tarnished image by launching an advertising campaign aimed at refuting the claims made in “Blackfish,” defending its treatment of killer whales, and promoting the company’s rescue and conservation efforts. SeaWorld also committed to donating $1.5 million to a partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through the Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program as part of the company’s pledge to contribute $10 million to fund conservation and research of killer whales in the wild. But eventually Americans’ growing discomfort with companies using animals as entertainers forced SeaWorld to relent and change its policies for killer whales.

SeaWorld’s ground-breaking conservation and animal welfare reforms won praise from a long-time foe, the Humane Society of the United States. The two organizations announced a new partnership focused on protecting marine wildlife and ocean preservation. They will work together to advocate for animal welfare and ocean conservation. In addition to the partnership, SeaWorld has committed to spending $50 million over the next five years to rescue and rehabilitate marine animals.

However, not everyone is satisfied with SeaWorld’s historic changes. Some critics want SeaWorld to release the killer whales currently in captivity to sea pens. SeaWorld’s most vocal detractor, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, released a statement saying that “SeaWorld must do more and ‘open its tanks to the oceans to allow the orcas it now holds captive to have some semblance of a life outside these prison tanks.'” In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, Joel Manby, the president and chief executive officer of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, wrote that releasing the killer whales back into the wild is “not a wise option.”

“Most of our orcas were born at SeaWorld,” Manby wrote, and “those that were born in the wild have been in our parks for the majority of their lives. If we release them into the ocean, they will likely die. In fact, no orca or dolphin born under human care has ever survived release into the wild. Even the attempt to return the whale from ‘Free Willy,’ Keiko, who was born in the wild, was a failure.”

Keiko was captured off the coast of Iceland in 1979. He was trained to perform at a marine park in Mexico City. The star of “Free Willy” became famous after the movie was released in 1993. In the movie, a young boy helps return the captive killer whale back to the ocean. Inspired by the film, a real-life campaign began to return Keiko to the wild. In 1998, Keiko was moved to a sea pen in Iceland, where his handlers tried to teach him how to survive in the wild. Millions of dollars were spent to coax Keiko back to the open ocean. He was released in July 2002, but never fully adapted to life in the wild, remaining dependent on humans. Keiko died of pneumonia on Dec. 12, 2003.

What do your students think about the controversial debate over keeping killer whales in captivity? They can learn more about both sides of the debate in our Animal Cruelty Leading Issue.

SIRS Leading Issue: Animal Welfare

SIRS Leading Issue: Animal Welfare by ProQuest LLC via ProQuest SIRS Issue Researcher

Students can find more information about killer whales, SeaWorld, and the captivity debate through resources available in ProQuest eLibrary and SIRS WebSelect:

A Whale of a Business

Killer Controversy: Why Orcas Should No Longer Be Kept in Captivity

Killer Whales Research Topic

SeaWorld Cares

SeaWorld Research Topic

Whales in Aquariums

What are your thoughts on SeaWorld’s recent announcements? Do you support or oppose keeping killer whales in captivity? Do you think SeaWorld’s killer whales should remain in captivity or be released to sea pens?

Comment below or tweet us using #ProQuest.

Celebrate National Skating Month!

U.S. Figure Skating recognizes January as National Skating Month. It is a time for ice skating rinks and figure skating clubs to celebrate and promote the sport. When I was growing up, I dreamed of becoming a figure skating coach. I started taking ice skating lessons when I was five and fell in love with the sport. In honor of National Skating Month, I would like to share some interesting facts about three of my favorite female figure skaters.

Dorothy Hamill Research Topic Screencap

Dorothy Hamill Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

Dorothy Hamill: At 19-years-old, Dorothy Hamill captured the gold medal in women’s figure skating at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria. Hamill quickly became known as “America’s Sweetheart” because of her sweet personality, bobbed hairstyle, and skating skills—she invented her own signature spin, the “Hamill camel.” Shortly after the Olympics, Hamill won the World Championship title in Gothenburg, Sweden. She then decided to turn professional and toured with the Ice Capades from 1977-1984. Hamill won a Daytime Emmy award for her performance in the 1983 production of “Romeo & Juliet on Ice.” She also competed on the 16th season of “Dancing with the Stars” in 2013.

Katarina Witt Research Topic Screencap

Katarina Witt Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

Katarina Witt: Katarina Witt is a two-time Olympic champion, four-time World champion, and six-time European champion. The East German figure skater captivated both judges and spectators with her technical skating skills, beauty, charisma, and showmanship. She won her first Olympic gold medal in women’s figure skating at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, and her second at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She became the first female figure skater since Sonia Henie to retain her Olympic title. Following her victory at the 1988 World Championships, Witt retired from amateur competition and embarked on her professional skating career. She toured with other world-class figure skaters, including fellow Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano and headlined her own skating shows. She ended her successful professional skating career in 2008.

Sasha Cohen Research Topic Screencap

Sasha Cohen Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

Sasha Cohen: Sasha Cohen is one of the most graceful and beautiful figure skaters of all time. Her given name is Alexandra Pauline Cohen. Sasha is a Ukrainian nickname for Alexandra. The 2006 U.S. figure skating champion is known for her flexibility, exquisite spirals, and outstanding spins. Cohen finished fourth at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Four years later, she won the silver medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. In addition to performing in ice shows, Cohen has also engaged in acting. She has done commercials, guest starred on television shows, and landed movie roles. Cohen made a cameo appearance as herself in the movie “Blades of Glory.” On Jan. 22, 2016, Cohen was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame.

You can read more about these Olympic figure skaters and the sport of figure skating in eLibrary. Check out these resources:

Figure Skating Research Topic

Dorothy Hamill Research Topic

Katarina Witt Research Topic

Sasha Cohen Research Topic