WASHINGTON – The National Park Foundation (NPF) is excited to announce funding for 84 new Open OutDoors for Kids grants focused on leveraging technology to engage and connect more children and classrooms to meaningful learning experiences provided by parks. Funding will support innovative educational programs at national parks across the country that integrate virtual and in-park ranger-led experiences.
“National parks are America’s largest classrooms, offering new and expanded learning opportunities for students,” said National Park Foundation President and CEO Will Shafroth. “Open OutDoors for Kids grantees are pioneering the ways kids and classrooms connect with national parks and experience -- both in-person and virtually -- the wonder and complexities of nature and history.”
Open OutDoors for Kids grants will help to meet the increasing demand for popular virtual and hybrid programs, providing unique educational activities that connect kids to parks across the country.
“Each national park is related to a part of our national identity and park educational programs bring history, civics, science and the arts to life for students,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams. “The increase in virtual options for field trips provided by these grants will enable teachers and students anywhere in the country to travel to national parks, regardless of location, for engaging and inspiring curriculum-based programs.”
This school year, NPF is partnering with the National Park Service and other community partners to expand opportunities for students to explore park landscapes and historical sites, connecting kids to the many diverse stories our national parks preserve and share. A sampling of programs supported by NPF grants includes:
- Jimmy Carter National Historical Park (Georgia) – Thanks to this grant students will learn about Rosalynn Carter’s role in mental health advocacy during her tenure as First Lady of Georgia and First Lady of the United States. Students will receive in-person or virtual classroom instruction from park personnel followed by a visit to the gardens at Jimmy Carter’s Boyhood Farm to learn about the physical and mental health benefits of gardening and being outdoors.
- Golden Gate National Recreational Area (California) – The Rock! Pattern! Systems! education program offers a hybrid learning and optional distance learning experience for students. The hybrid learning experience will include three pre-recorded videos as part of a pre-lesson plan to prepare learners for a live, interactive experience with park rangers. A new introductory trilingual video in English, Spanish and Cantonese will spark students’ curiosity by offering a glimpse of the natural world, including dramatic cliffs, spectacular ocean views, native habitat, wildlife, and geology.
- Homestead National Historical Park (Nebraska) – In collaboration with Tribal partners, the Spirit Lake Dakota and Pawnee Nation Tribes, park staff will develop on-site and distance learning lessons about the history and ongoing impacts of the Dawes Act of 1887, and a more complete historical account of the Homestead Act. These educational programs encourage wider historical interpretation and a deeper understanding the reality of Native American dispossession during America’s westward expansion.
- Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota) – The park and its official local nonprofit partner Voyageurs Conservancy will expand the Dark Sky Classroom program. New funding will Increase staff capacity for the Dark Sky Classroom and park field trip experiences, increasing student engagement. The project will encourage students to recognize the national park an outdoor classroom, and an inviting space for families to deepen connections with one another.
Thanks to partners and donors, NPF is investing nearly $3 million in its Open OutDoors for Kids program in fiscal year 2023, including support from Youth Engagement and Education premier partner Union Pacific Railroad.
“Union Pacific is proud to help connect young people to the historical and cultural treasures found in our national parks,” said Scott Moore, Senior Vice President, Corporate Relations, and Chief Administrative Officer for Union Pacific. “Open OutDoors for Kids gives children a hands-on learning experience in the great outdoors and instills in them a deeper understanding of our country’s rich history and natural beauty that encourages exploration and appreciation for nature.”
Additional funding is provided by Alicia and Peter Pond, Columbia Sportswear, Sierra, Parks Project, Humana, The Batchelor Foundation, Inc., and many other donors.
Open OutDoors for Kids, part of NPF’s Youth Engagement and Education Initiative, is making park educational experiences more accessible for all people with a specific focus on children who live in communities that are striving to overcome a lack of resources to offer innovative learning opportunities for students.[i]
Since 2011, NPF has engaged more than one million students in educational programs connecting them with national parks across the country with the goal to connect another one million students to parks by the end of the 2024-25 school year.
View the full list of NPF Open OutDoors for Kids grantee projects for the 2022/2023 school year.
Individuals, foundations, and companies can support NPF’s Open OutDoors for Kids program by visiting the National Park Foundation website.
[i] The majority of funding for this program supports fourth grade students at Title I schools. These schools receive financial assistance through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to help ensure students have the resources to meet academic standards. Nationally, school districts in high-poverty communities have the highest total Title I allocations per eligible student. Schools in these communities are less likely to have the resources to engage national parks and outdoor education into student curriculum.
About the National Park Foundation
The National Park Foundation works to protect wildlife and park lands, preserve history and culture, educate, and engage youth, and connect people everywhere to the wonder of parks. We do it in collaboration with the National Park Service, the park partner community, and with the generous support of donors, without whom our work would not be possible. Learn more at nationalparks.org.