43C4C8CE-1DD8-B71C-07D80B53EDF4495CPat Owen watches on as students use radio telemetry to try to find a wolf collar. (Photo Credit: Ed O’Conner)

This fall, Denali National Park and Preserve offered Denali’s neighboring teens a behind-the-scenes tour of their own backyard. During the Intensives program, fifty 8th and 9th grade students from Susitna Valley High School spent three days exploring why Denali is so special. The students shadowed many types of rangers, and in doing so, experienced first-hand the challenges of managing this spectacular and complex place. The Intensives program was developed to celebrate the National Park Service Centennial in 2016 and Denali National Park and Preserve’s 100th birthday in 2017.

Each student chose between one of six Intensive subjects: Biological Sciences, Cultural Sciences, Physical and Environmental Sciences, Trail Crew, Visitor Outreach, and Visitor and Resource Protection. Activities ranged from exploring Denali with bear biologists to dissecting visitor outreach talks and discovering what makes them universally compelling. Some students helped grade and buff trails, while others hunted for dragonfly larvae to quantify mercury levels in the park’s ponds. All students shadowed the many types of rangers that keep Denali safe while helping visitors to enjoy the park.

A group of more than 30 Alaska Geographic and National Park Service staff organized and instructed the Intensives. Alaska Geographic paid for the students’ meals, Doyon-Aramark Joint Venture donated the campsites, Su-Valley High paid for transportation, and all other costs were covered by NPS.