Youth Education & Engagement

A park ranger gives a demonstration to a group of teachers and students
NPS Photo / Kayla McCraren
Connecting the next generation to parks

Our national parks are America’s largest classroom, offering unparalleled educational resources. The National Park Foundation (NPF), together with our partners, supports Youth Education & Engagement programs that provide ways for kids to enjoy, understand, and connect with the nature, history, and culture of parks through a variety of classroom subjects at national parks across the country.

Education programs tied to our parks enhance curriculum taught in the classrooms and have a transformative impact on students, increasing critical thinking skills, knowledge, self-confidence, and motivation to learn. Beyond time spent in the parks, classroom activities conducted before and after in-park or virtual field trips reinforce what students learn during their exploration, furthering impact.

The experiences that NPF and its partners help make possible for students promote physical and emotional health, civic engagement, and long-term appreciation for nature. By connecting young people to parks, we cultivate the next generation of park stewards.

Program Highlights

  • Open OutDoors for Kids – Since 2011, NPF’s Open OutDoors for Kids program has helped more than one million students experience the beauty, history, and culture of our parks through field trips and educational resources. From Fall 2019 through February 2020, NPF supported the transportation of over 100,000 students to 132 parks and public lands across the country. For roughly two-thirds of the students, it was their first time in a national park.

  • Citizen Science 2.0 - Since 2017, NPF has partnered with NPS and the Veverka Family Foundation for Citizen Science 2.0, a program that allows students to expand their classroom lessons and see science in action in national parks. In 2018, the program helped 36 schools across the country explore their local watersheds and water quality. 

  • From the Cities to the Mountains – NPF’s Open OutDoors for Kids program has selected focus cities to help better serve Title I schools. In and around 12 focus cities, such as Los Angeles, NPF is helping schools and parks come together to develop meaningful and educational connections.  

  • Hybrid Learning Program – Students nationwide will now be able to interact with our parks in new, exciting ways. As parks and schools alike face unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, NPF established the Open OutDoors for Kids Hybrid Learning Program, helping parks develop innovative ways to reach teachers, students, and families, from new distance learning programs to enhanced existing hybrid programs.  

  • More than the Mississippi – Since 2017, support from NPF’s Open Outdoors for Kids program helps local students explore Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. Students participated in an eco-scavenger hunt and learned the basics about water conservation. Said one student, “the Big River is in us. And we are a part of that river, regardless of us being humans and the river being water. So we need to take care of it.” 

  • Flexing Mussels in Anacostia Watershed – During the 2019-2020 school year, 400 local students from Washington D.C. were able to put their science lessons into action. Through NPF’s Citizen Science 2.0 program, students and teachers took part in Anacostia Park’s freshwater mussel restoration program, collecting data and seeing first-hand how their work improved local water quality.  

  • Learning Alliance – NPF supports national park education partners who provide hands-on-learning for hundreds of schools across the country through the National Park Learning Alliance. Through facilitating the Alliance’s Field Leadership team, NPF helps provide resources and best practice measures, as well as fosters critical connections between partners as part of our ongoing support of Parks as Classrooms. Strong education partners ensure strong connections with teachers and students through place-based learning.

Youth Education & Engagement Partners

Our Youth Education & Engagement partners believe in the power of providing outdoor experiences for America's next generation and helping students build a lifelong connection to the parks.


Union Pacific logo on a white background

As a premier partner of Youth Engagement and Education and the largest private sponsor of Open OutDoors for Kids, Union Pacific Railroad is proud to encourage young adventurers to explore America’s national parks. For more than 155 years, Union Pacific has traversed the beautiful scenery of our nation's western states, delivering the goods Americans use every day. When the National Park Service was created, Union Pacific's family of railroads allowed travelers to experience the wonderment of the new national parks, working hand-in-hand to develop the infrastructure that park visitors still treasure. Today, Union Pacific remains committed to sharing the wonders of our American nation with the next generation of park goers through our commitment to the National Park Foundation. Learn more about Union Pacific's giving programs by clicking here.  


How You Can Help
By donating to the National Park Foundation, you support programs like these that allow us to continue our commitment to youth education programming and providing outdoor experiences for America’s next generation. Help us give students the opportunity to build a lifelong connection to the parks.