4 Million Kids In Parks
Last week, President Obama announced “Every Kid in a Park,” a new effort to welcome four million fourth graders to national parks and public lands during the 2015-16 academic year, and we are thrilled.
In fact, our current work through our Open Outdoors for Kids initiative already supports Every Kid in a Park by eliminating barriers that prevent America’s youth from visiting their national parks. We eliminate barriers by providing the much-needed funds to make it possible for students to experience lessons from the classroom first-hand in national parks through citizen science projects, Junior Ranger activities, and more. Over the last three years, National Park Foundation grants have made it possible for more than 200,000 students to visit their national parks.
So why is it so important for youth to visit and connect with America’s national parks?
Research shows that spending time outdoors is incredibly important to a child’s development and parks serve as some of our nation’s most dynamic classrooms and centers for active learning for all ages.
A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that young people now devote an average of more than seven hours a day to electronic media use, or about 53 hours a week – more than a full time job. Children are more disconnected from their natural and cultural heritage than ever before, and experiences in national parks can help change that and build on a child’s innate wonder and curiosity about the natural world.
The Every Kid in a Park initiative uses a four-part strategy:
- Provide 4th graders and their families with free admission to national parks and federally-managed public lands and waters for a full year. This will start in time for the 2015-16 school year.
- Provide transportation assistance to schools with the greatest need. The National Park Foundation is expanding its Ticket to Ride program to award transportation grants so that kids can visit parks, public lands, and waters.
- Equip schools and families with the tools to easily arrange field trips. Online resources about nearby park lands and youth programs will be available online to help identify potential field trip opportunities.
- Provide a wide range of educational programs and tools. This initiative will build on a number of existing education programs. The National Park Service will relaunch its online education portal - an interactive teacher tool where teachers can access lesson plans, sample field trips, professional development resources, and distance learning technology.
This national program provides a visionary framework to introduce millions of youth and their families to national parks and public lands. By engaging with students early in their lives, we give them the opportunity to experience their parks in meaningful and lasting ways. National parks are gateways to self-discovery and learning and we are committed to helping make sure that every 4th grader has the chance to experience them.