Author Archive

Celebrating Halloween at the White House

Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah had a very special Halloween this year. Sarah traveled to Washington, D.C. to celebrate Halloween at the White House with fellow Student Ambassador Audrey and Buddy Bison! Check out Sarah’s adventure below:

“Did you know that the President of the United States lives in a National Park? The White House is located in President’s Park , which is one of the units of the National Park Service.  President’s Park includes the land around the White House, an area called the Ellipse, and Lafayette Park. There are many different statues and memorials in the park areas near the White House.

Student Ambassadors Sarah (right) and Audrey (left) at White House Halloween Event.

Last month, I had an amazing opportunity to visit Washington, D.C., and  volunteer on the White House grounds with National Park Trust for a Halloween event. I was able to hand out goodies, such as Buddy Bison stickers and Junior Ranger hats and badges, to lots of children and their families who came to trick-or-treat at the White House. A lot of the families asked questions about my Junior Ranger badges and how they could get their own. It was fun talking with them about some of the parks that I have visited and about parks that they had been to before. I even got to meet Buddy Bison, Smokey Bear, and Woodsy Owl! It was also exciting to get my own President’s Park Junior Ranger badge. There were lots of other government agencies that were handing out treats too, such as the U.S. Park Police, the U.S. Forest Service, and NASA. NASA even brought a moon rock for people to see!  

While I was in Washington, D.C. I was able to visit many of the different monuments and memorials that are part of the National Mall and Memorial Parks site.I was able to get my junior ranger badge from there also. My family and I walked around the National Mall and we followed the trail around the Tidal Basin to see some of the memorials. Fall is a great time to visit Washington,D.C., because the leaves on the trees are starting to change color. We saw beautiful leaves as we walked by the Potomac River and around the Tidal Basin and the National Mall.  

Some of the monuments that I visited were the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.  Each monument and memorial is unique and special, and visiting these places was very inspirational to me. I really enjoyed learning about the history of these places and how they came to be. One of my favorite places was the Lincoln Memorial. Abraham Lincoln has always been one of my favorite presidents, and being able to visit the Lincoln Memorial was a very special moment for me. I can’t wait to visit Washington D.C. again to see more of the parks there!”

Exploring Park Activities with Student Ambassador Audrey

Hello Buddy Bison Friends!

I am asked from time to time how I started visiting parks.  My parents wanted me to start enjoying being outdoors more, so we visited my local State Park, which is Lake James State Park (NC). When I was 7, on a visit to a trail at Lake James, I learned about a program called Kids In Parks which is a program sponsored in part by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.  This cool program, which has a similar mission to the National Park Trust mission, is to encourage awareness and appreciation of parks and public lands. The Kids In Parks program has colorful brochures for kids called Track Trails, which are filled with activities kids can do on trails or in parks.  When kids complete an activity their parents can enter their activities on the website for Kids In Parks, and they will send kids awesome prizes! For each Track Trail kids complete they receive a unique sticker. Stickers are something that most kids enjoy and it was fun to receive mail myself and get a sticker to put into my Track Trail Journal.  When my parents went to the Kids In Parks website they found state parks and national park sites that were both a part of the Kids In Parks network. As we visited more parks, I discovered the Junior Ranger Programs which were available in National Parks. The Junior Ranger programs have given me the chance to learn a lot about the parks I visit and earn cool badges and patches. Earlier this year Buddy and I helped with a booth for the Kids In Parks Program (pictured below).

 I do my best to encourage kids to get out and explore parks that are around them! Programs like the Junior Ranger Program and Kids In Parks are just a couple of ways that families can get out and enjoy our parks.

Empowering Young Park Stewards at Cabrillo National Monument

This year for Kids to Parks Day the National Park Trust invited Buddy Bison and me to an interview with Whitney Southwick at NBC7 San Diego. We were there to talk about Kids to Parks Day at Cabrillo National Monument (San Diego, CA).

A few days before the interview, I was not sure what Cabrillo National Monument had planned for Kids to Parks Day, so I contacted my friend, Ranger Alex. I met Ranger Alex when I was volunteering at Channel Islands National Park—she is a scuba diver, scientist, and she loves working with kids. She said that Cabrillo National Monument didn’t have much planned for Kids to

Student Ambassador Tigran (center) and family getting ready for Kids to Parks Day with Ranger Alex (far left).

Parks Day, but she would like to help set up some fun activities. I was very pleasantly surprised about how enthusiastic and excited she was to participate in Kids to Parks Day. In just a few days, she had managed to set up a special booth with science games, junior ranger booklets, and other fun activities.

The day after the interview was Kids to Parks Day, and Buddy Bison, my cousins, and I rushed over to Cabrillo National Monument where we met up with Ranger Alex. She showed us around and let us run the science booth for the day. This Kids to Parks Day was one of the busiest I have ever been to. We were able to talk to a lot of people about the park. At the end of the day, we met with Ranger Alex and I found out that she does other very amazing activities at the park.

Ranger Alex has helped set up some special summer camps like the EcoLogik Project.  The EcoLogik program is a hands-on science camp that connects young ladies to nature and technology. This program is offered free of charge to increase access and promote inclusion for girls from underrepresented backgrounds pursuing scientific fields.  A few weeks later, Ranger Alex invited

EcoLogik participates Ophelia and Clara in action.

me to Cabrillo to talk to some of the kids in the Ecologik camp. When I got there, I found that they had set up an entire event to talk about what they did. The great thing about this camp is that the kids don’t just learn about science and nature; they get involved in REAL science that park rangers do everyday! Even better, the camp is free to enter and it tries to reach out to under-served communities. I was very impressed with all of the knowledge that the kids gained over two weeks of the Ecologik camp. They learned everything from animal telemetry to aquatic animal identification. This camp shows what the next generation of park rangers and visitors might look like. Ecologik gives these kids the tools for success.  

Later that same day I interviewed Ranger Alex about the Program.

  1. What is your name? – Alexandria Warneke
  2. What is your job in the NPS? – Science Program Coordinator and Marine Biologist
  3. What park do you work at? – Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego, CA
  4. What is your favorite part of your job? – I enjoy inspiring others to see the park in a new way and connect them to something they never thought about, or a different part of nature, to really get that “WOW” factor of why they would want to come back and preserve and protect their National Park.
  5. Why is it important to get kids outdoors and involved in activities? – I am really impacted by the idea of ‘legacy’- that something is so incredible, powerful and/or beautiful that people cared enough about it that they wanted to protect it so that others could see too. I think getting kids outdoors connects them to this idea, to their legacy. My job is to make sure that they too are inspired enough to care. 
  6. I have heard that you have set up some special summer camps and activities, would you describe a few? – My team and I are constantly coming up with new and fun activities, but most recently we have just hosted our second year of our summer camp – The EcoLogik Project. This is a two week summer camp for young ladies in science and it’s purpose is to connect them to nature through the lens of technology. In collaboration with our partners, we teach these students how to ask ecological questions within the context of the park and solve environmental problems using the innovative and game changing technology accessible at our fingertips. It is through this framework that we are providing them the tools to be the next generation of park stewards. 
  7. Why are these activities important? – So all the activities we do in the EcoLogik Camp are the actual ways we collect data in the park as scientists, so we don’t water it down at all. We don’t change it. We give them the same tools we are using because kids are fully capable of understanding as long as you make it relatable and provide them a reason to care. These girls are learning the same methods we have used to collect data for the last 30 years in the tidepools. They are learning how to track snakes in the Park using telemetry and why that matters and what does the data mean. So often in schools kids learn how to read graphs, and how to put data on a chart, but getting that context of what that data really means ecologically, what does it mean for the earth, what does it mean for the National Parks is what makes this camp a little bit different.
  8. What materials did you create to for the programs? – We focus on creating fully science integrated materials. We believe that students of all ages are more than capable to understand how we collect data and make inferences into what that data means. We strive to create materials that make science relatable. 
  9. How long have you been doing these activities for? I have been with the Park Service for four years. Before that I was a research scientist with San Diego State University and science communication and education consultant. 
  10. What are the benefits of these programs? National Parks are all about creating connections, people want to feel connected to the resources, to the stories, to the science. Through our program we strive to connect to people where they are- whether that be in the park or in the community. 
  11. Do you think other parks should have similar activities in their local area? – I am constantly inspired by the other units in the National Park Service. I have never met more passionate, hardworking people. I think each park finds it’s own way to connect with their community best. 
  12. What advice would you give to another ranger if they want to set up similar activities? Keep Calm and Adapt On. You must often champion your own projects and sometimes this can be intimidating and there can be many hurdles, but keep your head up, be adaptable, and push forward. You will succeed.

Student Ambassador Audrey Explores our Western Parks

Hello Buddy Bison Friends,

It’s Audrey and right now I am on summer break from school, which means vacation time!  My family is taking a special trip to several new parks. I took my first plane trip to the west coast, which was exciting by itself, but the parks are the feature of this trip.

So far we have been to eleven NPS sites. I started by visiting Lake Mead National Recreation Area, NV, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ, and the “Flagstaff” parks – Walnut Canyon National Monument, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Wupatki National Monument, Glen Canyon National Monument (and Horseshoe Bend), Arches National Park and Canyonlands National

Park. I also visited Navajo National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, and Hovenweep National Monument. 

During our visit to Navajo National Monument I was able to meet up with the latest Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Bryan. It was nice to meet Bryan and his amazing family. (Pictured Above)

My favorite part so far has been visiting Horseshoe Bend (AZ). We actually went twice. The first time it was really hot and we did not pack enough water, so we turned back rather quickly. I’ve learned to bring lots of water and wear appropriate shoes when visiting the parks out west. After we were better equipped, we went back later in the day and there was a breeze – it was still hot, but overall it was a little cooler.

Ambassador Audrey at Horseshoe Bend

At every park we have visited so far I have seen kids working on their Junior Ranger Booklets and I have been working on mine too. These booklets are great tools to learn more about the park you are visiting. Do not be afraid of getting a question wrong – the Rangers are great at helping and explaining harder questions you may not know or understand. 

Another big thing that we have been able to take advantage of is my fourth grade Every Kid In A Park Pass.  This is really the first time I have been able to use the pass – it has been very beneficial to me and my family to allow us to get into parks at no charge.  I am a short time away from starting my fifth grade year, and I wanted to remind those of you who are rising fourth graders to be sure and sign up for the Every Kid In A Park Pass and get out and find a Park near you!

Ambassador Audrey taking her Junior Ranger Oath at Mesa Verde National Park.

We have learned a lot about geology and Native American Cultures on this trip and it has been amazing! I also gave away a Buddy Bison plush to a little girl during our trip.  That was fun!

Bye for now and see you in the parks my Buddy Bison Friends!

— Audrey

Remembering the Long Walk

Our newest Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Bryan Wilson has recently moved with his family to Navajo Nation. This summer, Bryan interviewed Edison Eskeets, of The Message, The Run project,  to learn more about the Long Walk and how Mr. Eskeets honored the 150th anniversary of this devastating chapter of Navajo history.

“Ya’at’eeh, this is Jr Ranger Bryan with a message from Navajo Nation:

Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Bryan and Edison Eskeets at Hubbell Trading Post NHS.

After hearing accounts from Rangers at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site and Navajo National Monument and doing my own research, I learned about one of the most horrible times in Navajo history called the Long Walk.

In 1864, during a brutal winter, approximately 10,000 Navajos were forced out of their homes in present day Arizona and walked over 300 miles to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Men, women, children, and elderly were surrounded by US Army and if they couldn’t keep up, they were shot on the spot. Those who survived the walk suffered in horrible living conditions at the Bosque Redondo internment camp. Many people ate rats because they were starving. Many more became very ill. One third of the Navajos died. But finally, on June 1, 1868, a treaty was signed to return home where life was anything but back to normal.

June 1st, 2018 marked the 150th anniversary of the Treaty of Bosque Redondo. To commemorate the Long Walk and celebrate the resilience of the Navajo people, Edison Eskeets ran from Chinle, AZ to Sante Fe, NM and retraced the steps of the Long Walk.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Edison Eskeets, a 66 year old Navajo man, who started his running career as a young boy by herding livestock. He was such a great runner as a young adult he came seconds away from making the Olympics in the Boston Marathon.

I asked Mr. Eskeets why some Navajos were against him running and retracing the steps of the Long Walk. He said, “some traditional Navajos are sensitive and hesitant to it [the events of the Long Walk], but it is important to look at it as history. We have to read about it, learn from it, and understand it because ultimately we don’t ever want it to repeat because if we ignore it then here it is again.”

Mr. Edison Eskeets.

I also asked Mr. Eskeets what was the message he wanted to share to his people. He said, “A treaty was signed with agreements and they tried to make us leave behind traditions but we [the Dine, the Navajos] survived. The language survived and was maintained and used during WWII and since the treaty the Navajos have done very well and have been successful.”

Mr. Eskeets wanted to leave a message for the youth of today. “Maintain and embrace your ethnic background. When you get older, you will feel the loss. You will wish you could speak your native language and know more about its traditions.”

You can find Mr. Eskeets at Hubbell Trading Post where he works for the Western National Park Association (WNPA). He enjoys learning from and teaching visitors at Hubbell. He’s happy to be a part of the Trading Post history that will survive for a long time.  

You can also follow Edison Eskeets @theMessage_theRun on Instagram or check out his WNPA site.”

Ahe’hee,

Jr Ranger Bryan