The pain of going back to school may be eased a little bit for fourth-graders this year with the formal launch of the Every Kid in a Park program. Starting this week, every fourth-grader in the country can visit the Every Kid in a Park website to sign up for a pass that enables free access to students and their families to all federally managed lands and waters – including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and marine sanctuaries.
The pass is valid for the 2015-2016 school year and grants free entry for fourth graders and three accompanying adults (or an entire car for drive-in parks) at more than 2,000 federally-managed sites.
“Every Kid in a Park is a chance for fourth graders from every background to be outside and get to know the lands and waters that belong to them, whether it’s a national forest, a wildlife refuge, a marine sanctuary or a historic site in the center of a city,” said Christy Goldfuss, with the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “By expanding their horizons and learning all the ways the outdoors can enrich their lives, this innovative program hopes to create greater awareness of the many benefits of our nation’s public lands and waters.”
This week, Goldfuss and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell are hosting the nation’s first official ‘Every Kid in a Park’ event with fourth graders at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area outside Las Vegas, Nevada. Goldfuss and Jewell will hike with the students and distribute some of the first free passes to America’s federal lands and waters.
President Obama announced the Every Kid in a Park initiative earlier this year as a call to action to get all children to experience America’s unparalleled outdoors, rich history and culture. Today, more than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and many lack easy access to safe outdoor spaces. At the same time, youth spend more hours than ever in front of screens instead of outside.
By introducing fourth graders to public lands in their backyards and beyond at an early age, Every Kid in a Park is part of a multi-pronged approach to inspire the next generation to discover all that our nation’s public lands and waters have to offer, including opportunities to be active, spend time with friends and family, and serve as living classrooms to build critical skills.
“America is blessed with the great outdoors, and through Every Kid in a Park, we’re inviting every fourth grader and their families to enjoy our nation’s unrivaled public lands and waters,” said Secretary Jewell. “We want to make sure that every American has the opportunity to develop a lifelong connection to our nation’s land, water and wildlife.”
“The National Park Service is inviting every kid in America to find their park as we celebrate our 100th birthday in 2016. When fourth graders and their families use their free passes, they will discover fun-filled adventures in the outdoors and learn about themselves and our collective history,” said Jonathan B. Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service.
Fourth graders can log onto the website at www.everykidinapark.gov and complete a fun educational activity in order to obtain and print their paper pass. Students may also trade in their paper pass for a more durable pass at participating federal sites nationwide.
Educators and community leaders can access educational activities, field trip options, and the ability to print passes for their classrooms. Parents visiting the new website can find additional links for more information on planning trips to nearby public lands.
As an integral component of this effort, the National Park Foundation (NPF) – the congressionally chartered foundation of the National Park Service – will award Every Kid in a Park transportation grants, focusing on removing barriers for youth from underserved communities to get to their parks, public lands and waters. For more information, visit www.nationalparks.org.
The Every Kid in a Park program is designed to continue each year with the then-current group of fourth graders. After twelve years, every school-age child in America will have had an opportunity to visit their public land and waters for free, inspiring the next generation to be stewards of our nation’s shared natural and cultural heritage.