Prof. Nagle shares love of national parks with middle schoolers

Author: Susan Good


Notre Dame Professor of Law John Nagle spends Thursday afternoons in the classroom. That’s not unusual for a University professor—except that his classroom is at Covenant Christian School, and his students are in grades 5-8.

A specialist in environmental law, Nagle wrote a chapter on the law governing the management of national parks for his latest book, due to be published by Yale University Press in spring 2010. That expertise, combined with the timeliness of a recent PBS broadcast on the subject of national parks, convinced him to share his knowledge with this young group of budding environmentalists.

“These kids plainly, really care about the environment,” says Nagle, whose two daughters attend the school. “They have a keen appreciation for its importance.”

Nagle adds that, so far, the students have completed an assignment to identify the national park that they would most like to visit, and have suggested places that should be named national historic sites. “One student suggested that Fort Hood should be recognized as a national historic site in the aftermath of the tragic shootings there, which shows that the students understand how history unfolds before their very eyes,” Nagle observed. They also discuss topics such as national park land use and the conflicts that arise, such as wanting to snowmobile through Yellowstone versus wanting to maintain a more pristine landscape.

Nagle understands the impact that exposure to a subject early in life can have on one’s adult choices. “My family took a trip to Door County, Wisconsin, when I was about ten years old,” he explains. “My mom woke me up at 6:30 a.m. for a hike through the woods to see cedar waxwing birds. I wasn’t so happy about getting up early for a hike at the time, but it’s one of my favorite memories now.” He went on to study environmental policy at Indiana University before attending the University of Michigan Law School.

At Notre Dame, in addition to environmental law, Nagle teaches pollution law, biodiversity and the law, legislation, election law, constitutional law, and property. For more on Prof. Nagle, visit