As the third year of the Where's Buddy Bison Been? school program comes to a close, NPT is proud that thousands of students had a transformational outdoor experience. The program was created three years ago to reverse a disturbing trend – our nation's youth are spending less time outside, and more time indoors, than ever before. Many kids growing up in urban areas have no connection with nature whatsoever.
Through the Buddy Bison program, students are discovering the health and educational benefits of spending time in nature. Most important, they are learning that exploring outdoors is a whole lot of fun! With the help of Buddy Bison, students are fostering an appreciation for our nation's parks and open spaces which will help them to become the park stewards of tomorrow – those who will protect our treasured natural areas for years to come.
Here is a recap of our students adventures with Buddy Bison over the past month:
- Thanks to generous funding from Caesars Entertainment and the outstanding efforts of their HERO volunteers, the fourth graders of Longfellow Elementary School in Council Bluffs, IA had a park experience at the Lewis and Clark National Historical Trail. Located in Omaha, NE, the park offered the students a first-hand learning experience centered around the amazing journey Lewis and Clark embarked on over 200 years ago. A highlight of the trip was an educational riverboat trip down the Missouri River. For many of the students, it was the first time they had ever set foot on a boat.
- NPT worked in concert with the Get to Know Your Wild Neighbours Art Contest, US Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Federation, and numerous other partners to bring 250 third and sixth graders from six Washington, DC Metro-area schools to the U.S. Botanic Garden. The students were greeted by big Buddy Bison and listened to speeches from U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Harris Sherman and U.S. Department of the Interior Counselor to Secretary Ken Salazar Will Shafroth and Senior Advisor to Secretary Ken Salazar Rebecca Wodder. They were then led through various stations where they were taught about local wildlife, the importance of conservation and America's system of parks, refuges, forests, gardens and natural spaces.
- The kindergarten class at Beauvoir, the National Cathedral Elementary School in Washington, DC raised "Pennies for Parks" during their flea market which was held in the courtyard of their school. Big Buddy Bison was in attendance as parents and teachers made their way through the flea market to purchase arts and crafts created from recycled materials by the students. They also sold plants and grasses which were grown in the school garden. The resources raised from the flea market will be used to fund one or more of NPT's park preservation programs – the students will select which ones. Click here to see video footage of the kindergartners at the flea market!
- Fifth graders from KIPP DC: WILL Academy in Washington, DC visited the U.S. National Arboretum for an adventurous time learning about trees and other vegetation. The students learned the intricacies of a growing plants and vegetables on their walk through a youth garden, participated in a scavenger hunt through the bonsai tree exhibit and observed a variety of local wildlife and fauna on a hike through the forest.
- Third graders from the Bullis School in Potomac, MD acted out the Buddy Bison musical "Get Out", which was written by Rob Cohen – who was in attendance. Rob is the husband of Carolyn Cohen, the teacher of the third grade class and the first recipient of National Park Trust's "Buddy" Award – bestowed annually to a teacher for excellence in environmental stewardship. The musical has a theme of the importance of getting outside to play and rediscovering the wonders of nature.
- Second graders from Harmony Hills Elementary School in Silver Spring, MD visited the Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, MD. The students went on a off-road tram ride around Cash Lake where they viewed turtles, hawks, osprey, and other wildlife. They learned about native plants and animals on a ranger led hike and were taught about endangered species as they made their way through the visitor center. The second graders also learned how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is protecting our nation's wild neighbors.