Magnaghi Course Tied to PBS Documentary

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is mentioned in the final episode of Ken Burns' public television documentary, The National Parks: America's Best Idea. Based on a request from the lakeshore superintendent, Russ Magnaghi (History) developed a fall-semester online course that is built around the six-part series.

“Jim Northup at Pictured Rocks asked about the possibility of doing something because the National Park Service encouraged local schools to do a class connected with the program,” said Magnaghi. “We talked casually at an environmental symposium in Marquette and I said I could do it. We were able to pull it together pretty quickly. Students who came back in the fall went online, saw it was available and 34 enrolled.”

Ken Burns: The National Parks: America's Best Idea DVD - In early September, students were assigned a book on conservation in America. They watched The National Parks documentary when it was broadcast on PBS stations Sept. 27 to Oct. 2 and studied a book that serves as a companion to the series. They also were invited to spend an October day at Pictured Rocks with Northup. Other topics covered through supplemental readings and video programs are National Park Rangers, a position Magnaghi held at one time, the grand lodges of the National Parks and the important role that railroads played in their development.

“Lots of parks either originated because of railroads or were enhanced by them,” Magnaghi added. “At Glacier, they built a big timbered lodge right near the tracks that remains open. It was the same with the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.  All were interlocked with the railroad.”

Magnaghi was a ranger at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in Florida before joining the Northern faculty. He has been visiting parks since 1952 and is on a quest with his wife, retired art professor Diane Kordich, to see the nearly 400 parks that comprise the NPS system. They’ve crossed 275 off the list so far.

“Many students are interested in the environment and the whole National Park concept,” he said. “This course is an outlet for their interests. I got some wonderful essays reflecting their love of nature. We plan to offer this course again in the fall.”  


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Updated: November 19, 2009

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