National Park Trust Advisory Board member and longtime teacher, Carolyn Cohen has had a large impact on our Buddy Bison School Program over the eight years she has worked with us. This month, she shares the story of how her Kids to Parks Day lesson left a lasting impression on her students.
“For eight years as an elementary school teacher, I championed National Park Trust’s mission to make our local and national parks accessible to children of all economic backgrounds. I witnessed the joy of children playfully engaged with nature, incorporating life skills such as problem solving, cooperation, and stewardship, while reaping the health benefits inherent in outdoor play.
Washington Grove students pose with a beaver-felled stump during their park trip.
Through National Park Trust I learned that many children did not have the opportunity to take advantage of our local, state, and national parks. Not all schools could afford the transportation costs for a park visit, and many families did not have the means or the transportation options to visit these parks on their own. To help address this inequality I decided to have my third grade class enter the Kids to Parks Day School Contest on behalf of a nearby Title I public school. They would calculate the budget and create a compelling story for their narrative to explain why this Title I school should receive a free park trip in their stead from National Park Trust.
The process of completing the application was an extremely gratifying endeavor for the students, it worked perfectly with my curriculum and provided an experiential learning component for them that was relevant and tangible. The students researched costs of snacks for the trip and used the food ads in newspapers to find the best bargains for healthy snacks. Budgeting for this gave them experience combining math skills and economically derived decision making.
My students worked together and decided that using a persuasive writing style would be more interesting and help them win the contest. They researched local parks, collecting photos of their favorites and adding captions to captivate their audience. They learned how to choose a park within reasonable proximity to the selected school and planned a boat trip on a lake for the lucky winners. Some of the children even called the selected park to determine any additional costs for this experience. The students exhibited great joy as they worked hard to providethis tripto other kids who would not otherwise be able to enjoy such a field trip. Their final application was an entire book, bound to accompany their application—a beautiful blend of technology and written expression showing why another class deserved this trip.
When my classlearned that they were one of the national winners, the cheers were deafening, there were high-fives all around and smiles that could not have been bigger. They were so proud that their hard work had paid off and that kids just like them that couldn’t have visited a park otherwise were going to experience the fun and adventure of a trip outside. The best moment came for my students at the end of the year, when they received handmade thank you cards from the fifty students from the winning school, expressing their gratitude for the free park trip.
Thank you note from Washington Grove student
Because of my students, fifty children went on a free class trip that seamlessly integrated with their science curriculum and let them witness first hand the habitats and ecosystems they were studying in class. They took a boat ride—many for the first time in their lives—with a naturalist who showed them the species they had studied in class. Their day was filled with healthy outdoor exercise and allowed them to engage with nature and experience the wonder of the outdoors.
We too often live with a narrow view of the world, not cognizant of the discrepancies 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 contests like this one, we can make a difference. Not only will our environment prosper but our humanity will as well.” —Carolyn Cohen
Senate Passes Bipartisan “Kids to Parks Day” Resolution
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Cory Booker, D-N.J., applauded the passage of their bipartisan resolution, which encourages children to get outdoors by designating May 19 National Kids to Parks Day.
First celebrated by the National Park Trust in 2011, the eighth annual Kids to Parks Day marks the beginning of a summer-long series of events at state parks countrywide that promote outdoor recreation and active, healthy living. The Senate passed the resolution by unanimous consent last night.
“Oregon is home to a wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities for people of all ages to enjoy,” Wyden said. “Kids to Parks Day serves as an important way for young Oregonians to connect with healthy outdoor recreation and take advantage of everything our local, state, and national parks have to offer.”
“It is important that we encourage younger generations to enjoy and experience the outdoors, and as a frequent visitor to our national parks I’m pleased that thousands of kids in Ohio will be visiting and learning about these national treasures on Kids to Parks Day,” Portman said. “I am proud to support the Kids to Parks Day Resolution to encourage more young people and their families to visit our treasured national parks.”
“In this age of smartphones and tablets, our national parks are even more, not less, important. Children are able to escape their digital diet to feast on a world of natural splendor and learn history in a place where history comes alive,” Alexander said. “I know a little bit about this – I grew up in Maryville, Tenn., which is next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the park looms large in many of my childhood memories. It is my hope that children across the country will take some time to celebrate Kids to Parks Day on May 19 and create their own memories.”
“Our national parks and public lands are outdoor classrooms with endless opportunities to learn and make memories,” Heinrich said. “Connecting kids to the outdoors can inspire a lifelong connection to conservation, while reaping all of the health benefits that go along with an active lifestyle. I encourage families to celebrate and explore the outdoors at Kids to Parks Day events taking place in New Mexico and across the country.”
“Kids to Parks Day encourages a lifelong love for the outdoors and our public lands,” Hirono said. “I encourage Hawaii families to take advantage of Kids to Parks Day activities by visiting the more than 50 state and national parks across Hawaii.”
“In New Jersey, and all across the country, our parks are a national treasure that allow Americans to immerse themselves in our natural environment and the great outdoors,” Booker said. “Kids to Parks Day encourages kids and families to enjoy our state and national parks, while helping instill a love and appreciation for the great outdoors among the next generation.”
More than 1 million people participated in last year’s Kids to Parks Day, according to the National Park Trust.
This year’s Kids to Parks Day will be celebrated Saturday, May 19, 2018. To find a list of events near you, click here.
National Park Trust invites YOU and students across the country to participate in the 8th annual Kids to Parks Day, a nationwide grassroots movement celebrating America’s parks and public lands. Kids to Parks Day takes place every year on the third Saturday of May. In 2018, it will be Saturday, May 19th.
In honor of this day of outdoor play, we are once again hosting the Kids to Parks Day (KTP) National School Contest to help educators engage their students with their local parks through education, outdoor recreation, and stewardship. This national contest is open to all Title I (that means 40% of students qualify for free and reduced-priced lunch) schools and school groups in the U.S. (grades preK through 12). Students can submit proposals to fund their KTP Day event in May 2018 at a park or public lands/waterways in their community. We will award park scholarships up to $1,000 to winning entries. Last year, 70 schools received park grants. The contest opens October 1st and closes the February 1st, 2018. Winners will be announced Tuesday, February 14th – Valentine’s Day.
2017 was a record-breaking year for National Park Trust’s Kids to Parks (KTP) Day! More than 1-million people participated in over 1,700 Kids to Parks Day events coast to coast – Alaska and Hawaii, too! Plus 3,764 students from 70 schools representing 28 states and Washington, D.C. benefited from NPT’s Kids to Parks Day National School Contest.
Watch this short Kids to Parks Day summary video featuring many of the students, most from Title 1 schools, who received park grants this past school year. Each winning proposal–written by the students!–incorporated education, outdoor recreation, and park stewardship. A sincere thanks to our lead sponsor, Northside! Their support of KTP Day 2017 funded many of these park experiences.
Do you know of a Title I school that would benefit from a park grant? Then let them know that our next school contest will open in October 2017 and will be featured in an upcoming issue of NPT News.
Save the date, KTP Day 2018 is May 19th! (Always the third Saturday in May.)