Today, we were lucky enough to spend a beautiful summer morning with 65 fourth-grade students from West Preparatory Academy, a Title 1 public school in East Las Vegas, Nevada. The kids were enthusiastic about being outside and going on a hike to explore the stunning desert landscape, Native American rock art and surprise pockets of lush green plants at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, only a 20-minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip.
Thanks to President Obama’s visionary Every Kid in a Park initiative, which officially launched yesterday, all fourth graders and their families will be entitled to a free pass for a full year to visit federal lands and waters that belong to all of us. Before our hike, we distributed free passes to some very excited students!
At a time when youth spend more and more of their free time inside in sedentary activities on computers and smartphones and watching TV, this program will help close the gap between children and nature by introducing kids from all backgrounds to our nation’s great outdoors.
Fourth graders across the country can visit the Every Kid in a Park website to complete a short, educational activity to obtain their free pass to more than 2,000 federal sites, including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, marine sanctuaries and other federal lands and waters. 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). Educators can also access educational activities and print passes for their students.
And since we know a big reason why many kids don’t visit public lands and waters is that they can’t get there easily, the National Park Foundation (NPF) – the congressionally chartered foundation of the National Park Service – will award Every Kid in a Park transportation grants to participating federal agencies to help support travel for those kids with the most need.
The Every Kid in a Park initiative is designed to continue beyond just this year, so that every fourth grade child in America will have the opportunity to visit their public lands and waters for free, inspiring the next generation to be stewards of our nation’s shared natural, historical and cultural heritage.
Parks and outdoor spaces are living classrooms, and the awesome students we met today from West Preparatory Academy are well on their way to becoming lifelong learners and champions of America’s treasured landscapes.
Let’s get every kid in a park!