Sharing the wonder and curiosity of the natural world with students is pivotal in shaping tomorrow’s national park stewards and ensuring our national parks are protected for generations to come. The National Park Foundation (NPF) is proud to have reached a program milestone with the 2023-2024 Open OutDoors for Kids (OOK) grantees, totaling $4.4 million dollars in grants and over 2 million students connected to parks since the program’s inception in 2011.
This year’s 99 projects are dedicated to connecting students with national parks through field trips, classroom engagements, and educational activities. This hands-on learning helps demonstrate the importance of conservation and sustainability, as well as encourages students to interpret parks’ historical and cultural resources with assistance from park rangers, scientists, Indigenous leaders, historians, and digital materials.
Here are some of the learning opportunities that Open OutDoors for Kids have made possible for the 2023-2024 school year:
Salem Maritime National Historic Site
Park staff, classroom teachers, and Indigenous educators have worked to create a curriculum that engages students in the intertwined history between colonialism and the lived experiences of Indigenous people. Using traditional knowledge along with natural and cultural resources within the park, educators will help students to interpret their region’s history.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Students will learn about the cultural importance of the night sky throughout time. With special focus on the Anishinaabe, the local Native Americans of the region, students will engage their senses to experience the visual, tactile, and auditory experiences that connect cultures with the stars, with accommodations for students with learning disabilities as well as those who may have hearing or visual impairments.
Bronzeville-Black Metropolis National Heritage Area
Students will visit the Pullman National Historical Park and the A. Phillip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, to learn about the history of the Pullman community and the significance of the Pullman Porters in the Great Migration and to the labor movement in the United States. Through engagements with the park and museum staff onsite, monthly virtual presentations, and opportunities for research and collaboration with their peers, students will investigate the cultural significance of their community considering architecture and housing, occupations and opportunities, and successes and challenges while making connections with their own lives.
Point Reyes National Seashore
San Francisco Bay Area fourth graders will embrace the great outdoors at Point Reyes National Seashore by visiting the native northern elephant seals and gray whales. Marine biologists, park rangers, and wildlife educators will provide students with the tools to engage in personal reflection on the magnificent migrations of the animals. Lessons will contain information from local indigenous groups and will be available in both English and Spanish.
Everglades & Biscayne National Parks
Over 15,000 students in the Miami area will take their first step towards becoming lifelong national park stewards by visiting Everglades and Biscayne National Parks to learn about the region’s rich biodiversity. Lessons on these sites will be shared with students both hands-on and virtually with the purpose of engaging student’s families and the larger community.
NPF is proud to have connected 2 million students to national parks and anticipates engaging millions more through Open OutDoors for Kids. A full list of the 2023-2024 Open OutDoors for Kids grantees can be found here.