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National Park Foundation Funds Powerful and Innovative Learning Opportunities During Second Half of School Year
GRANTS ENABLE PARK STAFF AND PARTNERS TO ENGAGE STUDENTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY WITH IN-PERSON AND VIRTUAL PARK EXPERIENCES

WASHINGTON – With students and teachers settling back into school after winter break, the National Park Foundation (NPF) is excited to announce 92 Open OutDoors for Kids grants to connect children to meaningful learning experiences with parks across the country. Open OutDoors for Kids is a program within NPF’s Youth Engagement and Education initiative.

“National parks are America’s largest classrooms, and Open OutDoors for Kids seeks to connect as many kids as possible to them,” said National Park Foundation President and CEO Will Shafroth. “With parks, learning is fun, memorable, and hands-on. Parks open kids’ eyes to the wonder and complexities of nature and history, sharing diverse perspectives that offer a wider understanding of our country’s progress and struggles.”

At the core of Open OutDoors for Kids, NPF is making educational experiences in parks 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 Programs such as Open OutDoors for Kids also help students, teachers, and families feel safe and supported as they explore national parks

“Education and access are central to the National Park Service mission and we are grateful to the National Park Foundation for their continuous work to bring unique national park experiences to students and teachers through the Open OutDoors for Kids program,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams.

This school year, NPF is partnering with the National Park Service, Expeditions in Education, and National Park Trust to support educational experiences, both in-person and virtual, across the country. Programs supported by NPF include:

  • Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument (Alabama) – Thanks to this grant, 1500 students from the local area will go beyond the classroom to explore the nonviolent struggle to dismantle racial segregation and discrimination in Birmingham, AL, during the 1950s and 1960s. They will visit Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Kelly Ingram Park, and churches that were instrumental in the local civil rights movement including 16th St. Baptist Church, St. Paul United Methodist Church, and The Historic Bethel Baptist Church. This program complements an immersive African American History institute program for high school students that NPF helped fund in partnership with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).
  • Fort Vancouver National Historic Site (Washington, Oregon) – The park and its official nonprofit cooperating association Friends of Fort Vancouver are expanding traditional field trip opportunities to include virtual options so they can reach even more students. On-site and virtual field trip programs help children process how local history, including difficult topics like colonialism and trade, affects surrounding communities today. These educational programs encourage deeper personal connections with history, creating unique memories that expand children’s views of their community and heritage. This project also interconnects with the work the park has done to broaden storytelling to include more stories about women in the fur trade, which is funded by a NPF Women in Parks grant.
  • Haleakalā National Park (Hawai’i) – A first of its kind in the National Park Service, this park is creating new distance learning programs in the Native Hawaiian language ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi. These new programs, designed by two Hawaiian immersion schoolteachers and a digital media intern, offer educational opportunities to Hawaiian immersion students. The goal is to help strengthen the park’s connection to the surrounding community and to perpetuate Native Hawaiian culture through the preservation and use of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi.
  • Northeast Archeological Resources Program (including parks in Delaware, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, and Virginia) – The Mobile Exhibit and Archeology Laboratory (MEAL) will travel to students in parks, in classrooms, and in communities, engaging kids with archeology through digital and hands-on experiences. MEAL will make visits to many parks including Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park, Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, Longfellow House Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site, Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, and First State National Historical Park.
  • San Antonio Missions National Historical Park (Texas) – In partnership with Expeditions in Education, the park will drastically expand its educational offerings by bringing on four seasonal education park rangers to engage thousands of students in classrooms and through distance learning about this National Park Service unit and the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas. This program complements the Cultural Landscape Apprentice Program, a collaboration between the National Park Foundation’s Latino Heritage Fund, National Park Service, Mission Heritage Partners, and American YouthWorks' Texas Conservation Corps, which matches local Hispanic and Latino young adults with opportunities to learn about cultural landscape management alongside National Park Service employees.

“We are honored and grateful to receive this grant from the National Park Foundation, and eager to provide high-quality, curriculum-based programming to local youth,” said Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument Acting Superintendent William (Bill) Reilley.

View the full list of NPF Open OutDoors for Kids grantee projects for the 2021/2022 school year.

Thanks to partners and donors, NPF is investing more than $2.3 million in its Open OutDoors for Kids program in fiscal year 2022, including support from Youth Engagement and Education premier partner Union Pacific Railroad and supporting partner GoGo squeeZ. Additional funding is provided by Alicia and Peter Pond, Apple, Columbia Sportswear, Sierra, Parks Project, Humana, The Batchelor Foundation, Inc., and many other donors.

Since 2011, NPF has engaged more than one million students in educational programs connecting them with national parks across the country. NPF’s goal is to connect another one million students to parks by the end of the 2024-25 school year

“Sparking the wonder that comes from exploring a national park – whether it’s in person or virtually – is something Union Pacific is proud to have helped students nationwide experience, as we partner with NPF to create the next generation of adventurers and environmental stewards,” said Union Pacific’s Senior Vice President – Corporate Relations, Chief Administrative Officer and Foundation President Scott Moore. “These new Open OutDoors for Kids grants fuel that sense of adventure as we work toward our joint goal of helping another one million students experience all that our national parks have to offer.”

Individuals, foundations, and companies can support NPF’s Open OutDoors for Kids program by visiting the National Park Foundation website.

Collage of images demonstrating Open OutDoors for Kids programs and participants

Students engage with a distance learning activity with Homestead National Historical Park in Nebraska, thanks to support from a National Park Foundation Open OutDoors for Kids grant to Expeditions in Education. In these photos, students excitedly show off the tractors they designed, as they learned about farming at Homestead National Historical Park and practiced their engineering skills.

Steve and Dacia Jones / Expeditions in Education

Endnote

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 Founddation

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.