Buddy Bison’s Buzz August Update

The Kids to Parks Day School Contest Is Open!


I’m excited to announce that applications are open for the Kids to Parks Day National School Contest! Title I schools can enter and win up to $1,000 to fund a dream park experience. I want to inspire kids and schools to explore the outdoors with me and use nature as their classroom.

The deadline for entries is Thursday, February 14, 2019. Winners will be announced on NPT’s website Thursday, March 7, 2019.

Click here  to learn more about the contest, download the entry form, and watch our school video from last year!

Questions? Contact Katie Zimmerman, (katie@parktrust.org) or call 301-279-7275. 

KTP Contest Winners Learn New Ways to Explore Outdoors

Last month, I shared some of the awesome projects completed by our Kids to Parks Day School Contest winners from 2018. This month, I wanted to show you a few schools that planned some fun outdoor recreation activities! Check out their adventures from across the country!

Greenwood Elementary (VA) 5th graders aboard the Spirit of the James. Photo courtesy of Greenwood ES.


Have you ever gone fishing? The 5th grade class of Greenwood Elementary (VA) participated in the Trouts in the Classroom project, which means they actually got to raise their own fish! They partnered with the James River Association, who took the students out on the river aboard their pontoon boat the Spirit of the James. On the water, they learned firsthand about the trout’s ecosystem. The students took this new knowledge back to their classroom and researched ways to improve their own local trout habitat. Eventually, their trout will be released back into the river. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find their fish one day!







Highland Springs High School (VA) students canoe on the James River. Photo courtesy of Eric Byers.


There’s more than one way to enjoy the James River! Highland Springs high schoolers (VA) hopped into canoes to explore their local watershed. Many of these students had never been on any kind of boat before, so it was a brand new (sometimes scary!) experience. By the end of the trip though, they all wanted to do it again! Besides learning to paddle, they also analyzed the water quality of the river. They discovered that even though it looked “bad” to them, it was actually very healthy. Have you ever gone canoeing? Try researching a rental company near you and give it a go!







Horizons Alternative high schoolers (MI) mountain bike at Copper Harbor Township Park. Photo courtesy of Luke Theisen.

A lot of kids know how to ride a bike, but do you know how to mountain bike? With the help of the KTP School Contest, the students of Horizons Alternative High School (MI) hit the trails! A guide lead them through the forests of Copper Harbor Township Park, taking them on paths with jumps and banked turns. Talk about some intense outdoor recreation! The high schoolers didn’t just ride bikes, though. They also gave back by removing spotted knapweed, an invasive species. Thanks to their spirit of stewardship, bikers and hikers will be able to enjoy these trails for years to come.








Girl Scout troop 390 at Chinook Elementary (AK) went camping at Denali National Park. Photo courtesy of Mary Henry.


If you’re a Girl Scout of America, you know that Girl Scouts work to “promote respect and love the great outdoors far and wide.” Well, Girl Scout Troop 390 did just that! They went on a 4-night camping trip in Denali National Park (AK). They went hiking, birding, and discovered how to build a fire and use a survival knife safely. Lots of different species of wildlife call Denali home, and the Girl Scouts saw a bunch! Part of the Leave No Trace principles (something else the scouts learned) is to respect wildlife. The girls did their part by observing the caribou, bears, wolverines, moose, snowshoe hares, and foxes from a distance. I hope you have an amazing experience when you go camping too!





How the Outdoors Transforms the Lives of Students

Ms. Salgado’s 4th grade class at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center

Heimy Salgado from West Education Campus in Washington, DC is one of my favorite teachers. She also serves on the board of NPT! Her students are in the Buddy Bison School Program and boy have they become park stars! 60% of her students spend more time outdoors with their families. At the start of the year her male students preferred playing video games. Now 90% of them would rather play in nature! I interviewed her for Buzz to find out how she does it. I think you will find what she shares inspirational!

Buddy: How do you work outdoor education into your curriculum beyond field trips?

Ms. Salgado: When I first started the program, I worked to provide the students and their families with information on activities they could do at nearby parks. To make this a learning experience for the students, I taught them how to read local maps so they could find other parks near their homes. Students then had to present research on a park near them with PowerPoint presentations, board displays, and flyers, which they handed out to parents and members of the community. Now, the students and their families have become energized and excited about finding and visiting their local parks and leading a more active life.

Before each field trip I connect the classroom to the outdoors so the students feel empowered, prepared, and excited to see what we have studied indoors and discover for themselves what it looks like outdoors. When preparing for a canoeing trip, we studied different methods of water conservation. In the student’s eyes, it is more than a field trip, they become explorers seeking out what we’ve talked about in class.

Buddy: How did the outdoors affect your students?

Ms. Salgado: I had one student with severe behavior problems at the beginning of the school year, he couldn’t focus and sometimes became aggressive when he was uncomfortable or felt challenged. I tried to teach him in a lot of ways but nothing was working. When we started thinking about ways to learn outdoors something clicked for him and he became really engaged.

When we went canoeing he received a compliment from the instructor leading his canoe and it made his day, it made his week, it made his month! From there on, he began to feel more confident and became a leader in the outdoors. He needed that adventure and activity as an outlet for his energy but it also became his connection to the information I was teaching. I was able to model my planning for him in a way that would allow him to do projects outdoors. Every STEM project he did was outdoors. He explored the different animals that are in DC and did a project on that. It completely changed how the class saw him, how I saw him, and how he saw himself.

Outside of the classroom he has also gone on to be a much more active kid. When I first met him his only hobby was video games, now he asks other students “why would you play video games when you can go outside?”

Buddy: How do you incorporate the outdoors in your lesson plans?

Ms. Salgado: I adapted one of the Buddy Bison School Program lessons that focus on the different types of parks there are in our country to instead look only at the parks in our area. By doing this, I didn’t have to do as much planning and the students had easier access to what we were studying.

To start the lesson we looked at maps, learned how to find parks that were near us, and then made presentations on the parks the students were most interested in. This project provided students with multiple ways of learning the same information.

This project in particular really helped to transform one of my students who had been very quiet, she fell in love with the stories behind the parks and it sparked an interest in her to learn all she could about each park. She became so passionate about the project that other students talk about how she will be a park ranger when she grows up.

Buddy: Can you tell our readers how you use me, Buddy Bison, in your classroom?

Ms. Salgado: In the beginning, the students would take turns taking you out to national parks. They were very excited to hear from each other where Buddy Bison had been over each weekend. Now each student has their own Buddy Bison, they bring him to school attached to their backpacks. They talk about the next trip that they’re gonna take and that they’re going to take their Buddy out.

Buddy: How has your classroom changed since starting the program?

Ms. Salgado: It’s made the actual content I teach more engaging because students know that they will be able to go out and do something with what we have learned in the classroom.

For example, when the students went hiking, they came back and talked about how they get thirsty, and that when you exercise you need to hydrate. Other students focused on the animals that we might have in Washington, DC. These are things that I didn’t have to tell them. They found it on their own and because of that they have a stronger connection to the information than if they had just learned it from a book. The students have realized they’re active learners and shouldn’t expect teachers to tell them everything. They feel empowered to go out and learn on their own. They’ve learned that the “park” in their own backyard has something to teach them.

The parents have also changed considerably, and with having an Every Kid in a Park Pass they are now planning family vacations around visiting parks, something that none of them considered at the start of the school year.

Buddy: How many families are planning park trips?

Ms. Salgado: I would say that 60% of the parents are thinking about ways to get their kids to a national park. Before this program, many of the families relied heavily on video games and TV to entertain their children during the weekend and in summer. Now they’re talking about how important is that their kids go out to play and learn. It’s definitely made a huge impact within the community.


Want to learn more about incorporating parks into your classroom? Check out the school resources on our website, or contact our Director of Youth Programs Billy Schrack with your questions: william@parktrust.org, 301-279-7275.


Ambassador Audrey Explores Out West

Audrey with Ranger John Slevin a Mesa Verde National Park

“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.

My favorite part so far has been visiting Horseshoe Bend. 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.

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!

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”