Bringing Learning to Life

September 13, 2018Liz TrabuccoNPF Blog
— Dawn Kish

This school year, the National Park Foundation is providing grants to parks across the nation to support hands-on educational opportunities on a broad range of subjects, such as science, math, social studies, literature, and the arts through Open OutDoors for Kids. This program aims to connect young people to national parks through meaningful, educational and engaging activities, and encourages kids to build lifelong connections to these special places. A few examples of these incredible learning opportunities include:

Everglades National Park gives students the opportunity to explore trails in the park and observe wildlife including alligators, birds, fish, spiders, and turtles at close distances. Students also learn to identify and interact with some of the plants, and, by the end of the trip, gain comfort in the outdoors.

Kids looking at nature at Obed national wild & scenic river
Dawn Kish

At James A. Garfield National Historic Site, students use clues to find facts about President Garfield, the history of Ohio, the eight U.S. presidents born there, and general U.S. history to create a multi-layered timeline showing how all these stories intertwine. A guided tour demonstrates how children lived in the 1880s which students can compare to their own daily lives.

Part of the Mississippi River, which sits in the center of Minneapolis-Saint Paul, is a national park that is accessible to millions of urban dwellers. Unfortunately, even though the river is geographically close, some people may feel that it’s far away and difficult to access. Thanks to the National Park Foundation’s support, Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is showing people how accessible it is and connecting students to the park’s vast offerings. Teachers can even take their students on a riverboat field trip that matches their classroom learnings.

“It was an amazing experience for our students. They will remember this day their whole lives.”
– A teacher who visited Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Children can experience diverse learning opportunities that parks offer when barriers like cutbacks in school funding for field trips are removed.

Last year, the National Park Foundation provided Chamizal National Memorial with funding to engage over 2,000 fourth graders from Title I schools in the El Paso region. For most of these children, this was their first experience in a national park and their first time hiking. Ninety-six percent of these children had never been hiking or on a trail. To help prepare the students, park staff visited each school prior to the field trips and led workshops about hiking skills and safety, the ”leave no trace” principle, what to wear and what to bring in their pack.

A group of kids reading Journey to the Falls through Open Outdoors for Kids
Dawn Kish

Open OutDoors for Kids introduces and exposes children to experiential, outdoor experiences that promote physical and emotional health, civic engagement and long-term appreciation for nature and heritage sites. Using the spectacular and unparalleled resources of our national parks, the program connects more children to their culture and heritage, enhances hands-on learning opportunities and deepens connections to the national parks community.


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