National parks can teach us a lot about our world and ourselves. The National Park Foundation (NPF)’s support of outdoor recreational youth activities invites participants to connect with nature and enjoy all the recreational opportunities our national parks provide. These projects help promote physical and emotional health, civic engagement, and a long-term appreciation for nature and our national parks, helping cultivate the next generation of park adventurers and champions.

Highlights & Projects

A Creek in Prince William Forest Park in January

Environmental Education Camp

With assistance from an NPF grant, youth from the Mid-Atlantic region were able to participate in an immersive environmental education camp at Prince William Forest Park built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Guided by the themes of interconnection, sense of place, and stewardship, youth experienced hands-on, inquiry-based field science, covering topics from the water cycle to the park’s cultural history.

High Schoolers engage in National Park, ranger-led activities

Denali Expedition

On a seven-day Denali Expedition, Alaskan high school students patrolled with a wilderness ranger and learned to gather and monitor data in the park. Through hands-on experience, discussion, and guided journal reflection, participants learned about park management issues and shared their thoughts on how to make the park increasingly relevant to their generation. 

Fall tree cover in Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Smokies Centennial Challenge

Along planned hikes totaling more than 100 miles, youth interacted with Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash and other knowledgeable outdoor enthusiasts. Incentives were provided to encourage completion of the 100 miles, and an interactive webpage invited participants to share photos and reflections.

Race point beach on cape cod national seashore

Exploring Cape Cod

NPF supported youth from the Boys and Girls Club in Chelsea by facilitating monthly visits to Cape Cod National Seashore, where they enjoyed snorkeling, canoeing, camping, and more. Participants also learned about conservation and potential careers in national parks and chose a conservation issue at the park to become an active participant in efforts.

Kids perform a science experiment in the woods

Retreat in the Nation’s Capital

Through a pilot partnership with the NPS National Capital Region parks, the Fly by Light: Discover Your True Nature program gave youth safe spaces in which they could learn to express themselves emotionally and artistically in the outdoors. Participants enjoyed a series of after-school workshops and retreats throughout National Capital Parks-East, which includes 12 major park areas at 98 locations throughout Washington, D.C. and its eastern environs.