Youth Engagement & Education


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 Engagement & Education 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

A park ranger shows a small hermit crab to three young visitors in orange lifevests

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 scientist examining a water sample at Rocky Mountain National Park

Field Science

Field Science, formerly Citizen Science 2.0, began in 2017 when NPF partnered with NPS and the Veverka Family Foundation to pilot a program that enables students to expand their classroom lessons and see science in action in national parks. By 2020, the program helped 36 schools across the country explore their parks through science lessons. 

A student smiles as he reaches for a replica animal skull

From Cities to 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. 

A ranger stands in front of a tablet and a sign that reads 'Virtual Field Trip in Progress'

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. 

A green floodplain forest surrounds the path of the Mississippi River below the bluffs

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.” 

Youth Engagement & Education Partners

Our Youth Engagement & Education 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

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 nearly 160 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. Learn more about Union Pacific's partnership here.


Additional program support provided by Columbia Sportswear Company, Humana, Parks Project, Sierra, and Winnebago Industries Foundation.