WASHINGTON – The National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, has awarded $465,000 in grants to 34 national parks across the country through its America’s Best Idea program. Inspired by the critically acclaimed Ken Burns’ documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” the America’s Best Idea grant program funds park activities designed to connect diverse, underserved and under-engaged populations throughout the United States with their national parks in innovative and meaningful ways.
“One of the great things about our national parks is that every American can relate to these treasured places if given the chance to experience them,” said Jonathan B. Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service. “It’s our mission to engage visitors from all backgrounds in the diverse stories that we tell in our national parks. Thanks to the support of the National Park Foundation, we can propel that outreach, and engage new audiences that would otherwise never have the opportunity to experience a national park.”
“The America’s Best Idea program gives people – particularly youth – incredible opportunities to connect to our national parks through unique and innovative ways,” said Neil Mulholland, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation. “From experiences that center on history, the environment and even adventure, we are able to capture the imagination of a new generation of park-goers in ways that benefit their lives and the future of the parks.”
Examples of programs made possible through the 2013 America’s Best Idea grants include:
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, Missouri
The staff at Jefferson National Expansion Memorial designed a summer camp for youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). They created camp programs to provide a safe, comfortable, and fun environment for the youth in which they can explore and learn. Program activities will focus on park themes and resources such as: Lewis & Clark, Plains Indians, Pioneers, Westward Expansion, Fur Trade, 19th-century St. Louis, and the Mississippi River. The youth will be given still and video cameras to record and share their experiences at the park. For youth with language and social interaction challenges, the cameras will be a way of empowering them and providing them an avenue for communication.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Twenty-five underserved, disadvantaged Southern Paiute youth in junior high school grades seven to nine will be invited to participate in a field camp with immersion into their traditional homeland. The four-day, three-night field excursion will include camping and educational activities that teach the participants about their ancestral ties to the area and resource stewardship responsibilities. Students working with tribal elders and select agency staff (many are American Indians) will not only learn the connection between traditional practices and current land management techniques, but also will learn about potential career fields of interest. Integrated into all lessons, field camp will provide opportunities to conduct activities in Paiute language skills, cultural values, Paiute oral history, societal and community customs and norms.
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Georgia
Six homeless high school students from the Fulton County School District are being provided month-long paid internships at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. This internship, conducted in partnership with Homestretch and Greening Youth Foundation, will provide the youth with practical job skills, a positive and safe means of working within the community, an introduction to the National Park Service, a resume-building workshop and discussion about the Youth Conservation Corps program, as a means of possible future summer employment.
For a full listing of participating parks and program descriptions, please visit the National Park Foundation website.
For more information on the National Park Foundation or how you can support and protect America’s national parks, please visit www.nationalparks.org. For more information about the National Park Service, please visit www.nps.gov.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 401 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION
The National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, raises private funds that directly aid, support and enrich America’s more than 400 national parks and their programs. Chartered by Congress as the nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation plays a critical role in conservation and preservation efforts, establishing national parks as powerful learning environments, and giving all audiences an equal and abundant opportunity to experience, enjoy and support America’s treasured places. www.nationalparks.org.