Q&A With National Park Enthusiast Cristy Clavijo-Kish
Some people have just recently discovered our national parks, while others have been visiting them for years.
Los Tweens & Teens founder and co-publisher Cristy Clavijo-Kish is someone whose first memory of a national park dates back to her childhood growing up in New Jersey.
We recently chatted with Cristy about her love of national parks and how she shares them with her family.
How many national parks have you visited in total?
What was your first national park experience?
Growing up initially in New Jersey, as a child I visited Statue of Liberty National Monument with my family. Following our move to Miami, I enjoyed Everglades National Park in South Florida for the first time as part of a 6th grade fieldtrip. As an adult, my husband and I visited Haleakalā National Park during our honeymoon. It was our first park together before we had children.
What is your favorite national park memory?
My husband is the true national park fanatic and together we’ve pursued that passion. After watching Ken Burns’ “The National Parks: America's Best Idea” on PBS in 2010, he was even more inspired. That summer we ventured with our young twin daughters to his dream park, Yellowstone National Park, the first U.S. national park. Watching his expression as we drove into the park was priceless.
What national park(s) are you most excited to visit in the future?
Our family’s must-get-to list includes: Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska, Arches and Canyonlands in Utah, and taking our girls to Grand Canyon.
How did you first introduce your children to the national parks?
Each summer we plan a unique summer family outing together and the girls have earned more than 15 Junior Ranger patches. In particular we try to go horseback riding or experience a special activity that is unique to the park we’re visiting. For example, this summer we enjoyed a fun water tour around the islands bordering Acadia National Park.
What tips do you have for visiting national parks as a family/tips on engaging kids in the park experience?
Talk to kids about the experience before you arrive so they start getting excited. As a family, discuss the various activities available and include the kids’ ideas into your planning. Be ready to compromise. Perhaps you don’t get to all the hikes you’d like to do, but you do enough to enjoy the experience together. Plan some “fun time” in the surrounding towns adjacent to the parks. Maybe include activities like bowling, shopping or a movie, but have a balanced vacation planned so they enjoy all the experiences. Be sure and pick up the Junior Ranger program as soon as you arrive at the park. Give yourself plenty of time to complete the booklet together and be ready to snap pics when they are sworn in to protect the national parks – it’s a wonderful moment. Here is a post from Los Tweens & Teens that we created this summer to help with planning a family trip.
How do you celebrate American Latino history in our national parks?
We visit the museums inside the parks and try to find Latino influences and highlight them for our daughters. We particularly enjoyed our visit to Gettysburg National Military Park and Antietam National Battlefield (as part of the American Latino Heritage Fund’s 2012 road trip) where we specifically researched Latino contributions to U.S. history and the early US war efforts. You can read our blog post about these visits here.
I also love hearing so many languages when we visit the parks; this illustrates all of the international visitors that are attracted to their beauty. In particular, over the last few years I’ve heard more Spanish and have enjoyed meeting Latino families who are striving to share similar experiences with their children. I’ve served as a translator numerous times!
Is there anything else about the national parks you’d like share with our national park community?
What I love most about sharing our national park experiences with our young daughters is watching how it opens their minds to conservation and instills within them an appreciation for natural resources. Every time we work together on a Junior Ranger program during our visits it creates an opportunity to discuss the issues that face that particular park. If all children had this type of experience early in their lives we would have future generations concerned about protecting our national resources.
And most of all I welcome the opportunity to get away from tech for a few days! The “no service” message is a welcome departure from everyday life. Oh, and my husband and I have contemplated becoming rangers later in life- we’ll see!
Cristy Clavijo-Kish, a New Jersey native of Cuban decent, is an entrepreneur and award-winning marketing, media, and communications practitioner with more than 15 years experience and specialization in Hispanic and multicultural community initiatives. She is founder and co-publisher of Los Tweens & Teens, a bilingual blog and community resource site launched in 2011 to engage multicultural parents raising kids between ages 7-17. Cristy is an active Girl Scout Troop leader and volunteers with other community organizations, speaks nationally at conferences, and blogs regarding social media and multicultural marketing communications. You can follow her on Twitter at @latinomarketing and @LosTweens.
Photos by: Christopher Kish