Partners in the Parks

An Experiential Learning Opportunity

Partners in the Parks is an outdoor experiential learning program that partners National Parks with host University Honors programs in the region to create week-long adventures in education. Over the course of these programs, University faculty and National Park employees give students a unique understanding of both the natural and cultural diversity of the park as well as research and management issues unique to the park. Students not only get to see what a park really "is" and "does" by meeting the incredible people whose research and work ensure its survival, but also enjoy recreating in some of America's most scenic destinations.

In 2014 eight programs are being planned in different National Parks across the country. After hosting three PITP programs in Olympic National Park, the University of Washington Honors Program is pleased to offer its first program in Mt Rainier National Park in August 2014. Students are encouraged to travel to a park and program not hosted by their own University and instead explore a new region of America; priority for the UW Mt Rainier Program will be given to students from Honors Programs at other institutions.

UW Honors students may meet the Experiential Learning leadership requirement by participating in any Partners in the Parks program. Please see an Honors adviser for information regarding an additional leadership project and look at our Experiential Learning website for more on the requirement and application process.

Learn more about Partners in the Parks -- and see which Parks will participate this year -- by visiting the website: From there, you can also read more about the individual programs, and enroll in a summer 2014 program!

Rialto Beach with Park Archeologist Dave Conca
Hiking the Snyder-Jackson trail in the Hoh River Valley
In the Hoh
Tree coring with UW Climate Scientist Jeremy Littell
At the top of Klahane Ridge
"Check out the mountain goat!"
"Field" research with ONP Research Coordinator Jerry Freilich
Beautiful wildflowers on the PJ Lake trail
Mist in the trees at the PJ Lake trailhead
Mt. Olympus from Hurricane Ridge
2011 ONP PitP crew
Sunset at Hurricane Ridge

We thrilled to once again be able to offer one Partners in the Parks scholarship to cover the registration fee of a 2014 Partners in the Park program.

Please note the following in regards to this award:

  • Applicants must be UW Honors students in good academic standing within the UW and the Honors Program. Interdisciplinary, Departmental or College Honors students are all eligible.
  • Applicants must have enrolled in a 2014 Partners in the Parks program. Please note that enrolling in a program does not guarantee or confirm your participation; enrollment is only confirmed once your registration fee has been paid. See the Partners in the Parks website to enroll in a program.
  • Scholarship funds may only be used towards the registration fee of a 2014 Partners in the Parks program. The registration fee generally does not cover travel costs, gear or lodging before or after the program. Contact the specific program director of your chosen program for questions and details.
  • Scholarship awardees will be responsible for completing a short written reflection after returning from their summer program, as well as participating in the publicizing of and recruitment for future Partners in the Parks programs
Apply for this scholarship »
Due: April 4, 2014 at 5PM

Please enjoy Madison Mayfield's reflection of her PITP program in Acadia, NP. Madison was our PITP Scholarship recipient in 2012.

Madison Mayfield - Acadia National Park 2012

On Mount Desert Island, Maine sits Acadia National Park. Few consider it splendid enough to group with the more celebrated National Parks like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, yet in the frigid northeastern tip of the US it waits for those eager to discover its beauty, and this past summer I was given the opportunity to do just that.

My Partners in the Parks journey began with a five hour trip of awkward silence in a van full of girls from schools across the nation. It wasn't until we arrived at our campsite, and had to find food to make our dinner that we began to open up to each other. Names and faces immediately became familiar and somewhere in between trying to light the stove and molding hamburger patties, the barriers that keep you from getting to know a new acquaintance disappeared. Sitting around the campfire later that night, we all realized there was no longer a need to be shy. For the next week there would be nothing but the wilderness and us.

The next few days were filled with adventure. We built art out of nature on the beach; learned about glacial erratic while hiking and picking fresh Maine blueberries; watched a stream of meteors pass overhead while star-gazing in the sand; cleaned the old carriage roads with rakes and hoes (also known as "flossing Rockefeller's teeth"); seined for fish in the river; ate the freshest lobster; and constantly complained about the lack of showers and boys around camp. But the most memorable experience was our 3:00 a.m. hike up Cadillac Mountain to watch the sunrise on the last day. Embarking on our journey in pitch darkness, we lost track of time until the first rays of sunlight began to peek over the horizon and we realized we still had a long way to the top. Panic stricken at the idea of missing the sunrise, we sprinted up that mountain like goats: there was no way we were going to miss the view after merely four hours of sleep. Running and screaming like madwomen (looking like ones too), we emerged from the woods, making it just in time to watch the sun pop over the clouds below us. I've never seen the sun so large and bright, and never heard silence like that before.

Our last night around the fire, we each shared our experiences of the past week. Along with her thoughts, one girl shared a small bandana bracelet for each of us, something to remember our week in Acadia with each other. As cheesy as it was, tying "friendship" bracelets onto each other's wrists, it made us all sad to leave. Somewhere amongst the maple and birch, on the granite cliffs kissed by the salty sea breeze, we grew together. Even after I said my goodbyes, flew back to Washington, and began the process of "friending" each girl on Facebook to keep in touch, I never took off my bandana bracelet. That part of Maine, the whole experience embodied in a single piece of cloth, will always be a part of me.

The first night on Otter Cliffs watching the sunset.
Learning about Art in Nature from a professor at the University of Maine and making our own creations on the beach.
A piece of art made out of bits of nature.
Ranger Charlie teaching us about the Leave No Trace Program after our hike up Cadillac Mountain.
The Margaret Todd in Bar Harbor.
Tamara getting to hoist the sails of the Margaret Todd.
Seine fishing with two professors from the College of the Atlantic.
Posing with Bubble Rock, a glacial erratic.
The beautiful 5:30 a.m. sunrise atop Cadillac Mountain.
Lobster dinner as our last meal together in Maine.
The bandana bracelets that Tamara and Jess made for everyone.
All the Pipsters at the entrance to Acadia National Park on our last day.
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