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National Park Foundation to Connect Over 200,000 Children with National Park Experiences through $2.3 Million-Plus Support


WASHINGTON — Over 200,000 children across the country will visit national parks during the 2018-2019 school year, thanks to grants from the National Park Foundation, the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service. The grants, supporting 132 national parks, are part of the Foundation’s Open OutDoors for Kids program, which connects young people to national parks through meaningful, educational and engaging activities, and encourages kids to build lifelong connections to these special places.

The grants announced today total more than $2.3 million and provide funding to facilitate field trips to national parks, with a special focus on underserved communities. Recognizing that transportation is one of the greatest barriers preventing youth from exploring national parks, this strategic funding will help provide comprehensive access to natural, cultural, historical and recreational parks across the country.

“Trekking along trails, observing our natural ecosystems and engaging with our shared history are experiences that benefit all children,” said National Park Foundation President Will Shafroth. “Making it possible for hundreds of thousands of kids to explore our national parks is an investment in their future and the future of the national parks community.”

Collaborations among parks, schools, teachers, youth groups, philanthropic and other partner organizations make each project possible. Examples include:

Ice Age National Scenic Trail (WI)
Students will learn to saunter in all four seasons across Wisconsin’s glacial landscape through a program consisting of three threads – day hikes of up to 12 miles, backpacking immersion trips and service learning opportunities, such as back-country camping. Throughout these experiences, participants learn about themselves, the lives of those who came before them and the benefits of protecting and enjoying national trails. In addition to extensive nature immersion, the program is designed to help combat childhood obesity and provide real-world application of school curriculum.

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site (AR)
Students will visit the park and neighboring sites for outdoor learning tied to the civil rights movement, including the separate but equal doctrine and struggles for equal access to public recreational areas such as swimming pools, campgrounds, playgrounds and beaches. Rangers will also discuss accessibility issues people face today and encourage students to use art to share what a park for all looks like to them.

Mesa Verde National Park (CO)
Students from the Four Corners region and regional tribal schools will travel to the park to hike trails, visit cliff dwellings, walk to archaeological sites, explore the Chapin Mesa historic district and snowshoe during winter months. Students will also have the opportunity to complete Mesa Verde’s Junior Ranger program while learning about the park’s rich cultural and natural resources.

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MN)
Students will climb aboard “floating classroom” riverboats for programs such as Big River Journey and Journey to the Falls. These hands-on, experiential formats create emotional connections to the river and include lessons in history, social studies, science and the environment. In the 2018-2019 school year, a winter pilot program will focus on winter ecology and snow science, and up to 10 River Educators will run programs and engage with local schools and community partners.

Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (NC, SC, TN and VA)
Students from 48 primary schools in 20 counties along the 330-mile trail in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia will visit sites along the trail for interactive lessons in national, state and local history. During field trips, students will hike, learn about the role of children during the Revolutionary War and take part in other colonial living demonstrations.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks (CA)
The parks will add approximately 2,000 students from Fresno County Schools to their education programs, which currently reach 25,000 students from the counties of Fresno and Tulare annually. Students will learn about their natural surroundings and how they can help preserve public lands through classroom ranger programs and park field trips. These visits help bring science to life as students experience giant sequoias and the natural world.

Read the full list of grantees and their projects.

The National Park Foundation is also supporting Open OutDoors for Kids Focus City programs that provide transportation funding for field trips, foster collaboration among local partners and raise awareness about the importance of connecting children to the outdoors. Cities and parks participating in 2018-2019 include:

  • Baltimore, MD: Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
  • Cleveland, OH: Cuyahoga Valley National Park
  • Houston, TX: Big Thicket National Preserve
  • Los Angeles, CA: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
  • Miami, FL: Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN: Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
  • New York City, NY: Gateway National Recreation Area
  • Seattle, WA: Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park and Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience
  • St. Louis, MO: Gateway Arch National Park and Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site
  • Washington, DC: National Mall and Memorial Parks

The National Park Service and the National Park Foundation will continue to identify additional cities and park locations to participate in this program based on available funding.

The National Park Foundation thanks Union Pacific Railroad, a premier partner of the Find Your Park/Encuentra Tu Parque movement; The Ahmanson Foundation; The Batchelor Foundation, Inc.; Carol and David Natella Living Trust; Ernesto M. Vasquez, AIA, NCARB; George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation; Margaret A. Cargill Foundation Fund of the Minnesota Community Foundation; Phillip R. Cox; Sierra Trading Post; and Stephen L. Hightower for their generous support of Open OutDoors for Kids.

Individuals, foundations and companies can contribute to the National Park Foundation’s efforts to connect kids to national parks.

Celebrating 50 years, the National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks and nonprofit partner to the National Park Service. Chartered by Congress in 1967, the National Park Foundation raises private funds to help PROTECT more than 84 million acres of national parks through critical conservation and preservation efforts, CONNECT all Americans with their incomparable natural landscapes, vibrant culture and rich history, and ENGAGE the next generation of park stewards. In 2016, commemorating the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, the Foundation launched The Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks, a comprehensive fundraising campaign to strengthen and enhance the future of these national treasures for the next hundred years. Find out more and become a part of the national park community at