Buddy Bison’s Buzz November Update

Thank you note from Bianca, a Washington Grove Elementary School third grader.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I’m so thankful for students at the Bullis School (MD) who enter our Kids to Parks Day School Contest each year to help an under-served class in a nearby community. Because of the Bullis students, 50 children went on a free park field trip to Black Hills Regional Park and were able to celebrate Kids to Parks Day last May! What a wonderful idea!

To tell this story, I sat down with Bullis teacher Carolyn Cohen who has been an educator for over 30 years. She told me how her third graders were motivated to help others and how everyone learned so much more than expected.

“For eight years as an elementary school teacher at Bullis, I championed National Park Trust’s mission to make our local, state, and national parks accessible to children of all economic backgrounds. I saw the joy of children playing in nature, learning life skills like problem solving, cooperation, and stewardship, while getting exercise in a fun way.

I learned from NPT that many children can’t get to their local parks because of the cost of transportation or entry fee. To help change this I decided to have my third grade class enter the ‘Kids to Parks Day School Contest’ on behalf of a nearby Title I school. My students researched the costs of healthy snacks by looking at food ads in the newspaper. They used math skills to stay in budget and make smart decisions based on the costs. To write the application they discussed as a group how a persuasive writing style would help them win the contest. Finally they researched local parks near the school and found that they could plan a boat trip on a lake for the lucky winners.

My students were joyful as they worked hard to provide this trip for other kids who would not otherwise be able to enjoy this experience. When they learned they were one of the national winners their cheers were deafening. The other students were able to go on a field trip that showed them the habitats and ecosystems they had learned about in class. The students had a day full of healthy outdoor exercise and learning.

Too often, we have a narrow view of the world. We don’t realize the differences that exist for populations of children in our own backyards. If we continue to find ways for our youth to show their concern for others through environmental awareness we can save our natural world and our humanity as well.”

—Carolyn Cohen

Interested in learning more about our Kids to Parks Day School Contest? Check out the application here and be sure to apply by February 14, 2019.

What’s better than visiting one park in one day? Learning about four parks in one day! Thanks to support from the National Park Foundation’s Open Outdoors for Kids funding, we are working with local national parks to host 4 park jamborees for 4th graders.

At our first fall jamboree, National Park Service rangers from Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, National Mall and Memorial Parks, and Frederick Douglass National Historic Site all came together at Bladensburg Waterfront Park (MD). Hundreds of 4th graders from Patterson Elementary, Washington Jesuit Academy, Raymond Education Campus, and Langdon Elementary joined them. They had a fun day of hands-on activities at the park. Besides learning all about history, local wildlife and their local national parks, the kids paddled down the Anacostia River with Wilderness Inquiry (MN) and their Canoemobile program.  Plus, the Alice Ferguson Foundation taught them about the impact they have on their watershed!

Patterson Elementary (DC) fourth graders show off their Junior Ranger badges at Bladensburg Waterfront Park (MD).

The next jamboree took place at the Jefferson Memorial on the National Mall just last week. Our ranger friends from the first jamboree joined us, plus more rangers from Rock Creek Park, Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site, and Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site.


Fourth graders from Neval Thomas with Buddy Bison and Acting Superintendent Patricia Trap at the Jefferson Memorial (DC).

Are you in 4th grade at a Title I School in DC, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, or Northern Virginia? It’s not too late for you to join us! Talk to your teacher about signing up for a free park trip on our website. The last two jamborees will be at Rock Creek Park and Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens this spring. Hope to see you there!


Buddy Bison students paddling on the Anacostia River (DC).

After the jamboree in Bladensburg Waterfront Park, the Wilderness Inquiry’s Canoemobile program stayed in Washington, DC and Baltimore for almost two weeks so that our Buddy Bison kids could paddle on both the Anacostia (DC) and the Patapsco Rivers (MD). Many  partners joined us for land-based learning. L.L. Bean and The North Face showed us kids how to  set up a tent, the Bureau of Land Management led nature hikes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers talked to us about water safety, and the U.S. Forest Service played a game that showed us how trees keep water clean.

Over 1,000 kids in grades 3rd through 8th from D.C. and Maryland Title I schools had  fun both on water and on land. For most of them, it was their first time ever in a canoe or at the park! A huge Buddy Bison thank you to National Park Foundation, Paddle Nation, MCS Services, A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation, Pepco, and DecisionPoint, for supporting our Buddy Bison kids—and to all of our amazing program partners who helped make these adventures possible.

Great Oaks Public Charter School students discover the invertebrate life in First State National Historical Park (DE).

Students from Great Oaks Public Charter School, Kuumba Academy Charter School, and the Pilot School attend the first Science Fest in First State National Historical Park. Students participated in hands-on, interactive activities that helped students understand the historic resources, cultural landscape, and diverse ecosystem in the Beaver Valley, one of the newest units of the national parks.

Thank you to The North Face and their Explore Fund for sponsoring this school program. They also are sponsoring four other schools this year in St Louis (MO), Wilmington (DE), Newark (NJ), Brooklyn (NY), and Hendersonville (NC) who will explore their local national parks too! We look forward to sharing their park adventures too!

Bruce Vento Elementary (MN) students at Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary (MN).


Buddy Bison 4th graders from Bruce Vento Elementary (MN) went on a very special trip this fall. They visited the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary (MN) for a brisk but fun morning of outdoor fun and learning. Both the school and the Nature Sanctuary are named in memory of  Congressman Bruce Vento, a park champion and former school teacher.

Mrs. Vento (right) and NPT board member Chad Dayton (center) pass out Buddy Bisons to Bruce F Vento Elementary (MN).

During the trip, students learned about pollinators with the Minnesota GreenCorps, met a live owl with the Dodge Nature Center, and did a habitat assessment and hike with National Park Trust staff. This fun-filled morning was capped off by a surprise visit from Mrs. Sue Vento and NPT board member Chad Dayton, who presented each student with their very own Buddy Bison, their new travelling companion and a reminder to “explore outdoors, the parks are yours!” A special thanks to the Bruce  Vento Science Educator Scholarship Fund for sponsoring this school and for making this day possible.  





Buddy Bison Student Ambassadors Audrey and Sarah at the White House Halloween Event.

Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah Hullihen certainly had a spook-tacular Halloween! Sarah joined fellow Student Ambassador Audrey Elliott and NPT staff at the White House Halloween event for trick-or-treating. Check out Sarah’s blog to read more about her Halloween adventure, and hear about the rest of her trip to Washington, DC.