Teaching Writing

Looking Forward To It! Stories set in the future: Prompts for Writing Outside


This resource is available to support place-based writing outside anytime of year and comes with related resources and age-level recommendations. Originally developed for Write Out (writeout.nwp.org).

“The past is always tense, the future perfect.” ― Zadie Smith

One of the most challenging, yet most freeing, aspects to writing stories is that you can bounce around in time from the present to the past to the future to get all of the information to the reader. It’s fun to flip back into the past of a story to shine more light onto how things came to be, but it can be even more fun to bounce forward into the future to imagine how things are going to turn out!

In these next two videos, National Park Rangers will be asking you to put your future suits on and to create situations and worlds based solely on what your imaginations can come up with. And in the third video, Park Ranger Sam steps in with the handy tool of Storyboard-making to help you to visually keep track of the timeline of your ‘plot,’ or, sequence of events.

Writing “Sparks”

A spark from Thomas Edison’s National Historic Park– Imagine leaving an artifact for a future generation to find

Content focus: Artifacts
Age-level recommendations: intermediate, advanced
Time: 2:02

Park Ranger Miller of the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, stands beside the car of Edison’s wife, Mina, and explains that this car, this artifact of the past, tells a story to those who come across it today. It says that Mina chose to live as a confident and independent woman for the era, nearly one hundred years ago. Beth then asks you to think of an artifact that you might leave for future generations to find that would say something about you!

A spark from Springfield Armory National Historic Site – Imagine a city block being overtaken/retaken by nature and time in the future

Content focus: Springfield Armory’s placement within an urban setting
Age-level recommendations: intermediate, advanced writers
Time: 2:06

Park Ranger Scott stands on a porch of the Commandant’s House at the Springfield Armory National Historic Site and explains that the house was situated on top of a hill in order for it to be more easily defensible on all sides. He stands on the porch to avoid the rain, which causes him to think of the woods that once surrounded the structure, but now, after many years, has been replaced by city streets.

He asks you to imagine a city block or urban center (like a plaza) that in the future has been overtaken or retaken by nature. What might that look like in your future world?

A spark from Colorado National Monument—Creating Storyboards to show passage of time

Content focus: Passage of time
Age-level recommendations: beginning, intermediate, advanced
Time: 1:43

Park Ranger Sam stands beside the amazing monoliths of the Colorado National Monument to explain how the immense formations took millions of years to come to look the way that they do today. She shows us how she uses storyboards–sequential squares of changing images that she sketches–to show people who come to the monument just how these changes happened over time. She then suggests that you try your own storyboard of some place that you know that might change over time (an overgrown lawn, an abundant garden, maybe even an urban center that has been overtaken by nature!).

This post is part of the Story-powered Prompts for Writing Outside collection.