WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More than 140,000 kids will have the opportunity to visit federal public lands and waters in the 2015-2016 school year, thanks to 186 grants from the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America's national parks. These grants, part of the Foundation's Open OutDoors for Kids program, support the White House youth initiative Every Kid in a Park.
"It is inspiring to see the National Park Foundation and many other partners step up to support our goal of getting fourth graders and their families into parks, public lands and waters that belong to all Americans," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. "These generous grants will ensure children across the country have an opportunity to experience the great outdoors in their community while developing a lifelong connection to our nation's land, water and wildlife."
The 186 grants announced today total $1.1 million and provide funding to remove barriers to accessing our nation's public lands and waters, with a special focus on underserved and urban communities. With cutbacks in school funding for field trips, this strategic funding will help provide comprehensive access to all federal sites, including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, marine sanctuaries and more.
"We have long known that kids learn better when they have opportunities to practice what they are learning in school, and parks and public lands offer them great opportunities to get their feet wet while collecting water samples, studying wildlife in its natural habitat, or exploring the places where history happened," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "These grants provided by the National Park Foundation will connect schoolchildren with public lands and waters, taking the lessons out of their schoolbooks and bringing them to life."
National Park Foundation grants, supported by Disney, have made it possible for more than 400,000 students (including this year's grantees) to visit national parks and other public lands and waters. Since 2014, Disney has been the lead sponsor of Open OutDoors for Kids, opening a world of possibilities, inspiration and adventure for young people.
"We want to help people everywhere, from all backgrounds, discover how national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other public lands and waters are relevant to their lives, and the best way to do that is to give people the opportunity to experience them first-hand," said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation. "Through our grants that provide funding for transportation and in-park learning, we are able to connect youth and their families to these special places and inspire people across the country to find their park which, in turn, can foster a lifelong connection to all that public lands and waters have to offer."
The National Park Foundation is leading the on-the-ground efforts for Every Kid in a Park in collaboration with the National Park Service, Forest Service, Department of Education, Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. You can read quotes from each of these agency partners on the National Park Foundation's blog today.
Collaborations between schools, teachers, youth groups, Friends Groups, and other partner organizations make each grantee's project possible. Examples include:
Boston African American National Historic Site (Massachusetts)
- More than 600 fourth-graders in the Boston Public Schools system will visit the park and learn about the importance of the African American community in Boston and the fight against slavery.
Libby Dam and Lake Koocanusa (Montana)
- More than 170 fourth-graders will use a stream table model with conservation district partners, visit with a wildlife rehabilitator and see live birds of prey, learn about animal track identification, tour the dam and outdoor recreation areas, and go on a nature hike and scavenger hunt.
Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (Idaho)
- 100 fourth-graders from Reed Elementary School will hike in the footsteps of those who traversed the Oregon Trail.
Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (Michigan)
- Approximately 650 fourth-graders from local schools will get hands-on experience exploring underwater shipwrecks with robots, taking water samples in the Thunder Bay River, and learning the effects of climate change with NOAA scientists.
Pisgah Ranger District (North Carolina)
- More than 150 fourth-graders from local schools will have the opportunity to be "gumshoes" and travel back to 1905 to learn tools and traditions from mountain culture, including washing clothes with a washboard and forest water.
Patuxent Research Refuge (Maryland)
- 500 Baltimore, Prince George's, and Fairfax county public school fourth-graders will participate in wetland observation and water quality sampling, outdoor wildlife and habitat games, an educational tram ride, and a woodland scavenger hunt.
Saguaro National Park (Arizona)
- 2,550 fourth-graders from Tucson schools will explore the Hohokam culture by creating petroglyphs, digging into the past with archaeologist tools, tasting foods of O'odham and Mexican cultures, and engaging in homesteading chores like those of the Hispanic and Anglo-American settlers. Students will also learn about hunting and gathering during hikes through the park.
The National Park Foundation wishes to thank Disney for its generous support of Open OutDoors for Kids.
Individuals, foundations, and corporations can visit www.nationalparks.org/everykidinapark to contribute to the National Park Foundation's efforts to support Every Kid in a Park. You can also view the full list of grantees, and their projects, on the same website.
To participate in the Every Kid in a Park program, fourth graders nationwide can visit www.everykidinapark.gov and download a free pass.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION
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 INSPIRE the next generation of park stewards. Find out more and become a part of the national park community at www.nationalparks.org.
MEDIA CONTACT: Alanna Sobel
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SOURCE National Park Foundation