WASHINGTON — The Obama Administration formally launched the its new “Every Kid in a Park” program Tuesday.
The program represents the president’s commitment to protect the nation’s unique outdoor spaces, the Interior Department’s news release said, and to ensure that every American has the opportunity to visit and enjoy them.
“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,” Interior Secretary Jewell said. “We want to make sure that every American has the opportunity to develop a lifelong connection to our nation’s land, water and wildlife.”
How it works
Starting Tuesday, fourth graders (including home-schooled students) nationwide can obtain a paper pass for free entry into all federal lands and waters by visiting the new Every Kid in a Park website. Students will 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.
The pass provides 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 – Sept. 1, 2015, through Aug. 31, 2016 – 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 as often as they would like.
Fourth graders must be present for free entry into parks and to exchange the paper pass for a plastic pass. The fourth grader can use either the paper pass or the durable pass for fee-free entry.
Educators, community leaders, parents
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.
First official event – Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas area
The nation’s first official “Every Kid in a Park” event will be held Wednesday in Nevada when Christy Goldfuss, managing director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will host fourth graders at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area outside Las Vegas. Goldfuss and Jewell will hike with the students and distribute some of the first free passes to America’s federal lands and waters.
About the initiative
“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,” Goldfuss said. “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.”
Leading up to the 100th birthday of the National Park Service in 2016, 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, the Interior Department’s release said, 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 multipronged approach to inspire the next generation to discover all that the 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.
The “Every Kid in a Park” program is designed to continue each year with the then-current group of fourth graders. After 12 years, every school-age child in America will have had an opportunity to visit their public lands and waters for free, inspiring the next generation to be stewards of our nation’s shared natural and cultural heritage.
As an integral component of this effort, the National Park Foundation — 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 the National Parks website.
To further support getting youth outdoors, the President’s 2016 Budget includes a total increased investment of $45 million for youth engagement programs throughout the Department of the Interior, with $20 million specifically provided to the National Park Service for youth activities, including bringing one million fourth-grade children from low-income areas to national parks. This increase will also fund dedicated youth coordinators to help enrich children and family learning experiences at parks and online.
The “Every Kid in a Park” program is an administration-wide effort administered in partnership with the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Education, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The program is part of an overall strategy by the Administration to engage young people from all ages and all backgrounds with the great outdoors. This includes the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, a bold national effort to put thousands of young people and veterans to work protecting, restoring and enhancing America’s public lands and waters. In addition, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside initiative is committed to getting millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work in America’s great outdoors.
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