A TIME TO UNPLUG: Get Ready for Screen-Free Week!

Guest blog by Rinny Yourman, JD – originally appeared on childrenandnaturenetwork.org.  OAK is a proud endorser of Screen-Free Week.

Imagine a week when children give their undivided attention to the natural world around them. With the exception of school and homework, they spend that week outdoors – hiking, biking, reading, exploring, gardening, collecting, stargazing, dreaming.

With not a smartphone in sight, they are intently focused on their surroundings – shifting clouds, myriad bird songs, velvety moss, scented peonies, foraged edible plants.

This magical week is real and rapidly approaching. It’s called Screen-Free Week and it takes place this year from April 30-May 6. During this annual, international event, children and families are encouraged to unplug from entertainment screens and instead enjoy a host of fun screen-free activities, including reading, playing, exercising, crafting – and, of course, gardening, exploring nature, and enjoying outdoor recreation.

There are many reasons to carve out a screen-free week during the school year.  2016 study by the nonprofit Common Sense Media found that teens consume an average of nearly nine hours of entertainment media daily, while tweens average nearly six hours – and those averages exclude screen time for school and homework.  A similar study of children aged eight and younger found an average of two and a quarter hours of entertainment screen use daily.

What impact does this excessive time with screens have on children?  The evidence is mounting that it’s taking a toll on their physical, emotional, and social health. The American Academy of Pediatrics citesincreased risks of obesity, sleep disturbances, depression, internet gaming disorder, reduced school performance, earlier initiation into a host of risky behaviors, and the potential for exposure to sex offenders and cyberbullying. Other research has found that teens’ smartphone and social media use are correlated with increased rates of unhappiness and depression. And that when increased screen time displaces human interaction, children’s ability to read social cues is impaired.

These alarm bells would be less compelling if it were easy for children to disconnect. However, former tech industry insiders are now warning of the ways that tech companies have made unplugging nearly impossible.  And children aren’t the only ones struggling to disconnect. In a Common Sense Media studyof parents of teens and tweens, screen media use by parents for non-work purposes averaged almost eight hours per day.

Screen-Free Week is a small yet effective antidote to much of this stress, giving growing minds and bodies a much-needed respite from the seductive pull of digital screens and the constant barrage of harmful marketing messages.  When families take the week off together, they find that the screen break promotes such deep family connection that the experience informs more thoughtful screen choices for the remainder of the year.

While the nonprofit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood hosts Screen-Free Week, CCFC is only a clearinghouse of information and ideas.

Screen-Free Week is a dynamic grassroots movement where the real heroes are the thousands of parents, caregivers, teachers, librarians, activists, and community leaders who prepare a week’s worth of screen-free events, from bicycle rodeos to book readings to picnics to crafts activities and much more.

They are the ones who infuse Screen-Free Week with heart and spirit. Knowing children as well as they do, they commit to this undertaking year after year because they recognize that Screen-Free Week is more engaging and festive when it is celebrated with others.

Thanks to all of this organizing effort, there is yet another unique benefit of Screen-Free Week: it gives children the time and opportunity to explore activities that are new to them. During Screen-Free Week, children discover a love of such activities as cooking, knitting, reading Harry Potter books, and volunteering. Our goal for 2018 is to firmly cement gardening, nature exploration, and outdoor recreation to this growing list of new interests.

We invite naturalists and park rangers, master gardeners and beekeepers, parks and nature centers to help spread the news that spending time in nature is the perfect screen-free activity. While there may not be sufficient time to organize formal Screen-Free Week activities this year, we know that nature centers and local, state, and national parks routinely schedule screen-free nature and outdoor activities, so don’t hesitate to reach out to fans and followers to suggest they join your already scheduled activities during Screen-Free Week. Or just encourage members of your social networks to head outdoors, visit a local park or nature center, enjoy a family hike or bike ride, or try their hand at gardening during Screen-Free Week. With your support, we can help families, schools, and communities discover that the outdoors and Screen-Free Week truly are a natural fit.

Photo Credits: Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood & Children & Nature Network

CCFC invites nature lovers everywhere to plan ahead for next year’s Screen-Free Week, scheduled for April 29-May 5, 2019.

RELEASE: National Park Trust, Wilderness Inquiry join leadership of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Contact: Brenna Muller, 202-548-4581, contact@outdoorsallianceforkids.org

National Park Trust, Wilderness Inquiry join leadership of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids

Washington, DC– The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) announced the addition of Grace Lee of National Park Trust and Meg Krueger of Wilderness Inquiry to OAK’s steering committee. The addition of National Park Trust and Wilderness Inquiry to OAK’s leadership team brings a fresh new perspective to the multi-sector partnership to connect children, youth and families with the outdoors. Both organizations bring invaluable experience from their programmatic work serving youth directly in the outdoors. National Park Trust and Wilderness Inquiry are joining OAK’s steering committee as two year term-members, from January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2019.

Grace Lee, Executive Director of National Park Trust (NPT) has worked with the NPT board and staff to expand NPT’s mission, which originally focused solely on the preservation of national parks through land acquisition, to include youth programs with the goal of cultivating future park stewards. As a result, since 2009, NPT’s Buddy Bison School Program and Kids to Parks Day have benefited more than 2 million children across the country.

“I’m delighted to join the OAK steering committee and look forward to working with OAK members to improve access for all children to their local, state and national parks,” said Grace Lee. “It is vital that we connect our youth to the great outdoors — they are our future caretakers of our public lands, waters and the environment.”

Meg Krueger, Wilderness Inquiry’s Education Program Manager, coordinates the Canoemobile program, a roving fleet of Voyageur canoes that travels to over 50 cities and serves 30,000 youth and community members each year.

“Wilderness Inquiry is honored to join the steering committee, and contribute to OAK’s inspiring work as a convening and advocating agency,” said Meg Krueger. “We look forward to complimenting this work with our strength in directly connecting the next generation of environmental stewards to our public lands and waterways.”  

“The Outdoors Alliance for Kids is honored to welcome Grace Lee with National Park Trust and Meg Krueger with Wilderness Inquiry to the leadership of OAK,” said OAK’s founder and chair Jackie Ostfeld. “All children and youth should have regular, safe and varied opportunities to learn in and about the natural world. National Park Trust and Wilderness Inquiry are leaders in advancing programs to connect youth with the outdoors and have played critical roles in advancing OAK’s top priorities, including ensuring that fourth graders across America were able to take advantage of the Every Kid in a Park program. The addition of these tremendous leaders brings invaluable expertise to our growing alliance.”

###

About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK): OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together nearly 100 businesses and organizations, representing more than 60 million individuals to address the growing divide between children, youth and the natural world. For more information: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

RELEASE: CONGRESS ACTS TO PROTECT ACCESS TO PARKS AND EXPAND CAREER PATHWAY PROGRAMS FOR KIDS AND YOUTH

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Contact: April Thomas, 206.321.3850, april.thomas@sierraclub.org

Congress Acts to Protect Access to Parks and Expand Career Pathway Programs for Kids and Youth

Legislation encourages fourth graders to visit national parks and public lands; older youth and veterans to find employment opportunities in conservation

Washington, D.C.– Today, the Every Kid Outdoors Act passed out of the House Committee on Natural Resources on voice vote as part of a larger legislative package on outdoor recreation. The Every Kid Outdoors Act would continue an existing program that ensures every fourth grade student in U.S. has access and encouragement to visit national parks and public lands. This program is expected to end this year unless Congress acts to fund it past 2018.

The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act was also included in the package, and would provide career pathways for youth and young veterans in conservation, particularly veterans returning from deployment.

“Every kid should have access to our national parks,” said Jackie Ostfeld, Director of Sierra Club Outdoors and Chair of OAK. “Today kids are spending less time outdoors than any generation in history. We need the Every Kid Outdoors Act to maintain our kids’ connection with nature, and to protect public health. And for older youth and veterans, the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act provides a critical pathway for employment in conservation for youth and young veterans while helping to address the growing maintenance backlog in our national parks and public lands.

“Thank you to the House Natural Resources Committee for moving this legislation forward and making sure access and opportunities to play, learn, and work on our public lands are prioritized with so much else going on in Washington. With your continued support, we will pass the Every Kid Outdoors and 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Acts and ensure access to our national parks for the next generation.”

Connecting young people to our National Parks and other public lands is a great way to ensure that kids are active, healthy, and happy,” said Paul Sanford, National Director of Recreation Policy, The Wilderness Society and Vice Chair of OAK. “We need to do everything we can to connect kids to the great outdoors. The Every Kid Outdoors Act and 21CSC are key components of OAK’s comprehensive strategy for getting kids outside. The Wilderness Society applauds the House Natural Resources Committee for moving these bills forward.”

“Alliance for Childhood is enthusiastic about the opportunities the Every Kid Outdoors Act will provide for fourth graders and their families. Together with our partners at Outdoors Alliance for Kids, we look forward to working with federal agencies to ensure all children’s healthy development, especially through outdoor, child-initiated play in our natural world,” said Linda Rhoads, Executive Director, Alliance for Childhood.

“Parks play a critical role in teaching our nation’s youth about conservation and the importance of the outdoors,” said Barbara Tulipane, CAE, National Recreation and Park Association president and CEO. “Thank you to Congress for taking the first step to ensure every kid has access to our nation’s parks and the benefits they provide.”

“On behalf of Service & Conservation Corps (Corps) around the country, we thank Chairman Bishop and Ranking Member Grijalva for including the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act (21CSC) in the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act. The 21CSC Act will develop the next generation of outdoor stewards, recreationists, and sportsmen and women and provide new pathways for veterans to transition to civilian life,” said Tyler Wilson, Director of Government Relations for The Corps Network. “We also applaud inclusion of the Every Kid Outdoors Act which ensures opportunities to engage in the outdoors for thousands of kids around the country. Kids need opportunities for safe access to well-maintained public lands and through the 21CSC Act, Corps and their young adult and veteran Corpsmembers, will be better positioned to help land management agencies address the infrastructure and conservation projects needed for expanding recreation access.”

“Through our national Buddy Bison School Program, we have seen first hand the many benefits of the 4th grade federal park pass that would be continued through the Every Kid Outdoors Act. The pass has been an effective way to engage students and families across the country with our public lands and waters, many for the very first time,” stated Grace Lee, Executive Director, National Park Trust.

###

BACKGROUND:

The existing Every Kid in a Park program is a low-cost and popular public-private partnership that helps boost local economies while improving our children’s health and connections to nature. In the program’s first year, more than two million fourth graders downloaded the Every Kid pass. Over the first two years, nearly $5 million in private funding has been leveraged to support transportation costs for children from low-income schools across the United States.

About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK): OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together nearly 100 businesses and organizations, representing more than 60 million individuals to address the growing divide between children, youth and the natural world. For more information: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

RELEASE: After Public Response Interior Department Reverses Course on National Parks Entrance Fee Increases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 3, 2018

Contact: Jackie Ostfeld, 202-548-6584; contact@outdoorsallianceforkids.org

After Public Response Interior Department Reverses Course on National Parks Entrance Fee Increases
Victory for Kids and Families Everywhere

Washington, DC — News reports indicate that the Department of the Interior will withdraw plans to increase fees for visitors to U.S. national parks. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke had previously proposed to increase fees to as much as $70 per vehicle at seventeen of our most iconic national parks. It appears the proposal is being reversed while the Department of the Interior pursues other options for raising revenue for our national parks. This decision comes following an overwhelming public response and increasing pressure from their representatives in Congress.

In response, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids Founder & Chair Jackie Ostfeld released the following statement:

“The Interior Department’s decision to withdraw its proposal to raise fees in our national parks is a victory for kids and families everywhere. America’s youth are spending more time indoors and less time in nature than any generation in history. Raising fees nearly 200% would have created an unnecessary barrier to entry for many young people at a time when we need to be encouraging our children to explore the natural world.

Time in nature makes us healthier, happier, and smarter. The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) believes that all kids and families should have access, opportunities, and encouragement to visit our parks and public lands. In addition to keeping entrance fees affordable for working families, OAK supports measures to encourage participation in the outdoors, such as the Every Kid in a Park program, which offers free admission to fourth graders and their families to national public lands, waters, and shores. This and other pass programs currently support the engagement of fourth graders, seniors, people with disabilities, and active duty military service members in our parks, and help create a legacy of engagement in the outdoors that drives participation and supports local economies.

We appreciated the opportunity to weigh in on the Administration’s initial proposal, and are grateful to OAK members and the more than 100,000 individuals who made their voices heard through the open comment period. We continue to urge the Administration to work with Congress to identify adequate funding for our national parks, public lands, and their ongoing maintenance.”

In December, OAK commissioned a bipartisan national poll to better understand public opinion on the proposal to raise national park entrance fees. The poll found that nearly seven-in-ten Americans (68%) oppose the proposed fee increase, including majorities across all political and major demographic groups. It also found  that 64% of Americans would be less likely to visit a park if the fees were increased at the proposed rate of nearly 200%. That number spiked to 71% among households with incomes under $30,000. When it comes to funding national parks, Americans overwhelming believe that increasing federal funding (72%) is a better approach than increasing entrance fees (28%).

###

About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK): OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth, and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities, and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct, and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together nearly 100 businesses and organizations to address the growing divide between children, youth, and the outdoors.

Release: Bipartisan Poll Suggests Public Less Likely to Visit Parks with Higher Entry Fees

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 20, 2017

Contact: April Thomas, contact@outdoorsallianceforkids.org, 206.321.3850

Bipartisan Poll Suggests Public Less Likely to Visit Parks with Higher Entry Fees
Poll Results Released by Outdoors Alliance for Kids

Washington, DC– Bipartisan poll results released by the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) demonstrate that the public has major concerns with a proposal to raise entry fees at major national parks across the country. The proposed fee increase would affect some of the U.S.’s most beloved parks including Yellowstone, Shenandoah and Joshua Tree. Entrance fees would more than double, increasing to $70 per vehicle from $30. The poll found that:

  • Nearly seven-in-ten Americans (68%) oppose the proposed fee increase, including majorities across all political and major demographic groups
  • Sixty-four percent of Americans say they would be less likely to visit a national park if fees were increased
  • Among Americans with household incomes under $30,000 per year, who would be most impacted by the fee hike, 71% say they would be less likely to visit a national park if fees were increased
  • When it comes to funding national parks, Americans overwhelmingly believe that increasing federal funding is a better approach than increasing entrance fees (72% versus 28%, respectively)
  • An overwhelming 92% of Americans agree that access to national parks provides kids with valuable opportunities to be active outdoors and learn about the natural world

“Today’s young people are growing up inside, spending less time in nature than any generation in history, with profound consequences for their health and wellness,” said Jackie Ostfeld, Founder & Chair of Outdoors Alliance for Kids. “OAK believes every child and every family should have access and encouragement to get outdoors. This fee hike will reverse years of progress at the National Park Service to make our parks more inclusive and welcoming to kids and families of all backgrounds. If the Administration goes through with its proposal to more than double park entry fees, visiting places like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone will be off the table for many kids and families.”

This week the Outdoors Alliance for Kids submitted comments from dozens of member organizations on the proposed fee hike, urging the administration to protect access to America’s national parks and public lands for all children, youth, and families by withdrawing the proposal to increase entrance fees in 17 national parks.

“By any measure, these fee increases are significant, and the American people know it,” said Paul Sanford, Vice Chair of Outdoors Alliance for Kids. “Two-thirds of poll respondents oppose the increase. Three-quarters of respondents believe the fee increase will make the parks less accessible and will harm businesses in gateway communities. Nearly two-thirds said these increases will make it less likely they will visit the parks, which strongly suggests the projected increase in revenue will not materialize. Even if it does, the backlog won’t be eliminated for 165 years. For these reasons, we urge the Administration to withdraw its proposal to increase fees.”

The poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, surveyed a representative sample of 1,000 adults nationwide between December 13 and 17, 2017. The margin of error is +/-3.1 percentage points.

For a slide presentation of the results, click here.
For topline results, click here.

###

About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK): OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth, and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities, and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct, and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together nearly 100 businesses and organizations to address the growing divide between children, youth, and the outdoors.

Media Advisory: Telepresser – Bipartisan Poll Suggests Public Less Likely to Visit Parks with Higher Entry Fees

Media Advisory For: December 19, 2017

***MEDIA ADVISORY: WEDNESDAY TELEPRESSER***

Bipartisan Poll Suggests Public Less Likely to Visit Parks with Higher Entry Fees

Washington, DC Results of a new bipartisan poll released by the Outdoors Alliance for Kids indicate broad concerns about a proposal to dramatically raise entry fees in our national parks. A majority of Americans, no matter their party affiliation, say they want the federal government to ensure parks remain accessible to all Americans. Entry fee hikes would affect some of our most well-loved parks including Yellowstone, Shenandoah and Joshua Tree. Entrance fees would increase to $70 per vehicle, more than doubling. The telepresser will highlight key findings from the national survey, including the fact that a majority of Americans say they would be less likely to visit a national park if this proposal passed.

WHAT: Telepresser to release results and analysis of bipartisan poll on proposed National Park fee increase.

WHO: 

  • Jackie Ostfeld, Founder & Chair of Outdoors Alliance for Kids
  • Robert “Bob” Carpenter of Chesapeake Beach Consulting (R)
  • Jay Campbell of Hart Research Associates (D)
  • Paul Sanford, Vice Chair of Outdoors Alliance for Kids

WHEN: Wednesday, December 20th at 2 p.m. ET

WHERE:  By telephone, 800-791-4813; Conference ID: PARK POLLING

CONTACT: April Thomas, contact@outdoorsallianceforkids.org, 206.321.3850

###

About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK): OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth, and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities, and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct, and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together nearly 100 businesses and organizations to address the growing divide between children, youth, and the outdoors.

NEW YORK BILL CONNECTS CHILDREN WITH OUTDOORS

by Suparna Dutta, Sierra Club Outdoors intern

New York joins the growing roster of states advancing strategies to connect children and youth with the outdoors. With a unanimous vote (63-0) lawmakers from both sides of the aisle just passed legislation to address the growing divide between children and the outdoors.

State Assembly Bill A735 was just signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and directs the state commissioners of health and environmental conservation to study and develop a long term strategy to promote outdoor environmental education and recreation with a focus on outdoor play and learning opportunities, for kids in New York.

The bill was introduced in response to a growing body of research revealing that children and youth are increasingly spending time indoors. On average, the American child spends between four to seven minutes a day in unstructured outdoor play and recreation, while exposure to daily screen-time exceeds seven hours for adolescents. Bill authors point to a correlation between increasing childhood obesity rates and the decline in outdoor recreation, and acknowledge access to open space as vital for everyone, and “particularly valuable to children growing up in “urban hardscapes,” or areas where access to nature is limited.” The strategy is to be based on an analysis of the health of New York’s youth, including childhood obesity rates and economic trends related to outdoor access. It will also be developed in consultation with state health and advisory bodies. The strategy will help New York develop long-term policies that support environmental stewardship and embrace the health benefits of time in nature to improve the well-being of New York state residents.

Founding member of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, the Y played a pivotal role in advancing this important policy measure. “The YMCA’s mission stands for youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. We supported this bill from its very inception since it is congruous to the mission of the Alliance,” said Kyle Stewart, Executive Director of the Alliance of New York State YMCAs. “The development of policies that foster stewardship of the environment, an appreciation of the importance of the wise use of natural resources, and recognition of the health benefits of time spent in nature are essential to the residents of New York state.”

The Alliance of New York State YMCAs and New York’s state legislature and found inspiration for this statewide effort in the federal Healthy Kids Outdoors Act, supported by the Outdoors Alliance for Kids. If passed, the legislation would  encourage states to develop multi-year multi-sector strategies to connect children and youth to the outdoors.

The Alliance of New York State YMCAs received the 2017 OAK Leaf Award for raising awareness about the importance of open spaces for children’s health and playing a critical role in the passage of Assembly Bill 735.

This Holiday Season, Help Get iGen Outside

Guest blog post by Patrick Deavy, National Environmental Education Foundation.

This holiday season, a family hike or quick trip to a local park could offer more than a chance to escape the hustle and bustle. A new survey conducted by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) shows signs that these family outings may also be an important opportunity for parents to talk to their teens about the benefits to more outdoor time. The survey, which examines how teens across the country interact with the outdoors, finds parents, along with teachers, are their top sources for information about the environment. The survey also confirms what many parents and educators may already observe: today’s teens spend little time outdoors.

According to NEEF’s 2017 Teen Benchmark Survey, less than a quarter (23%) of teens frequently spend time with friends outside. Most teens (80%) say they prefer to spend time indoors, even though they recognize that time outdoors makes them healthier (92%) and happier (88%).

NEEF has a vision that by 2022, 300 million Americans will actively use environmental knowledge to ensure the well-being of the earth and its people. Fostering a deeper connection to the outdoors among today’s teens—who are also our future leaders—is a critical piece of this work. Parents and teachers can play an integral role in strengthening that connection, with nine in 10 teens citing them as trusted sources of environmental education.

As we work to inspire people to learn about their relationship to the environment, we hope findings from the NEEF 2017 Teen Benchmark Survey will empower parents, educators, and others who directly influence teens to increase their efforts to engage young people in more activities that get them outside and learning about their environment. Together, we are helping teens find a balance with their use of technology and getting outdoors. By forging a stronger connection between teens and the environment, we can ensure the well-being of the next generation and our world.

This holiday season, help us get #iGenOutside. Visit www.neefusa.org to learn more. Or, to access graphics and other resources to help share survey findings, access the Youth Survey Toolkit here.

Every Kid in a Park Youth Blog Series: Post #8 Tigran

Junior Ranger Tigran with Buddy Bison
Photo Credit: National Park Trust

Every Kid in a Park – Youth Blog Series, Post #8
Interview with Tigran, Buddy Bison Student Ambassador

Meet Tigran, a twelve year old* from California. Tigran serves as a Buddy Bison Student Ambassador through the National Park Trust and is a true advocate for getting other kids in the outdoors! His incredible involvement has earned him the Gold President’s Volunteer Service Award. Tigran shares with us his experience at multiple parks and the importance of getting more kids like him to become park stewards.

What is your name, age, and where are you from?

Tigran: Tigran, age 12, from Ojai, California.

What do you love about the outdoors?

Tigran: The outdoors has amazing beauty and abundant wildlife. The outdoors allows people to relax and explore amazing places that no photo can truly capture.

What is your happiest memory in the outdoors?

Tigran: My happiest outdoor memory is exploring Santa Cruz Island with my family and seeing my very first island fox. I was able to spend some time watching it and I took lots of pictures.

What is your role with National Park Trust?

Tigran: I am the first student Buddy Bison Ambassador. I write for the Buddy Bison’s Buzz newsletter and I post on Instagram and Twitter (@jrrangertigran).

As an ambassador, I encourage children to take Buddy Bison on outdoor adventures with them. I get to help out at special events and hand out Buddy Bison stuffed animals, t-shirts, and Every Kid in a Park passes.  

31203033982_a86029cd9d_k
Photo Credit: National Park Trust

What do you love the most about being a student Buddy Bison Ambassador?

Tigran: My favorite part about being an ambassador is motivating kids to get outdoors, be active and healthy, and explore our beautiful national parks.

Can you talk about one of your biggest volunteer projects you’ve helped organize or been a part of? Why did you enjoy it so much?

Tigran: My longest volunteer project was the National Park Service Centennial Challenge. The challenge was to volunteer for 201.6 hours in 2016. I started the first of the year by kicking off the Rose Parade in Pasadena. I volunteered many days at the Channel Islands National Park visitor center and worked at  many special events: coastal cleanups, native island plant sales, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Bird Festival, NPS events at the Museum of Ventura County, Junior Ranger Day, Backbone Trail dedication, Ventura County Fair’s Channel Islands National Park booth, Parade of Lights, Tomatomania, Earth Day,  BioBlitz, Kids to Parks Day, and NEEF Hands on the Land island restoration projects. I also became a youth board member of Channel Islands Park Foundation. I am proud to say that I exceeded the challenge and I was honored to receive the Gold President’s Volunteer Service Award, which is the highest honor the President awards a volunteer (other than the Lifetime Achievement Award—I’m a little young for that!).

I enjoyed the variety of events I was able to assist with but my favorite part was when I was able to combine my roles to help bring children to the park. National Park Trust and Channel Islands Park Foundation partnered to bring 4th graders to Anacapa Island in support of Every Kid in a Park to meet Dr. Sylvia Earle for the celebration of BioBlitz and Kids to Parks Day. They all had a great time and each student received their Every Kid in a Park pass and earned their junior ranger badges.

What is one of your favorite parks you’ve visited and why? Who did you go with?

Tigran: This is a very hard question because all of the national parks are unique in their own ways. But Channel Islands National Park is special to me because I earned my first junior ranger badge there when I was five. It is an amazing park because of the diversity of wildlife on land and in the sea. I first experienced the Park with my parents and now my parents and I are all volunteers for Channel Islands National Park and the Channel Islands Park Foundation.

Why do you think it’s important for kids and families to spend time outdoors?

Tigran: It’s good to spend time outdoors with your family because it builds wonderful memories and teaches important lessons and skills such as perseverance by completing long hikes, and it teaches us to be more aware of the environment and the importance of protecting our incredible parks for future generations.

Have you heard about the Every Kid in a Park program? If so, were you able to participate? Why or why not?

Tigran: Yes, I love the Every Kid in a Park program. Unfortunately, I was one year too old to participate in the program. However, I have helped promote the program on social media. Every Kid in a Park used my photograph to promote the program in Scholastic Magazine, and I am happy to say that the entire fourth grade class at my school participated in the program.

Do you think this program is important to continue for future generations?

Tigran: Yes, it’s important to continue the program because it gets kids involved with nature when they are young, yet old enough to get the full educational experience of our beautiful parks.

Is there anything you’d like to say to the people who run the program?

Tigran: I would like to say thank you for creating the program. It helps kids to have easier access to our national treasures. It gives the opportunity to participate in the junior ranger programs and become park stewards. I would not have become a Buddy Bison Student Ambassador, a National Park volunteer or a Channel Islands Park Foundation Board Member without the junior ranger program.

What advice would you give to other students who are perhaps visiting a national park for the first time or receiving their Every Kid in a Park pass?

Tigran: First of all, take your time to look around to get the most out of your visit. A great way to do that is to earn your junior ranger badge, which will help guide your activities in the park. Be sure to talk to rangers—they can often share stories that you can’t find at the visitor center. They each have such incredible knowledge of our parks. Just head outdoors and make the most of your special pass.

What would you want to be when you grow up? Is it related to the outdoors?

Tigran: My ultimate goal is to be the Director of the National Park Service. It would be an honor to direct the preservation and protection of our beautiful and unique national parks.

30980601480_d886d23570_k
Photo Credit: National Park Trust
august-2016
Photo Credit: National Park Trust, Maddie Freed

*Since the posting of this blog, Tigran has now turned 13! Happy birthday, Tigran!

Fourth Graders Float into OAK Week 2017

Parent and two kids canoeing along the Potomac River
Photo Credit: National Park Trust

All photo credits go to the National Park Trust.

Classrooms on water is a new way of learning for students across the nation. This new type of classroom allows students to learn about science, history, geography, and culture while floating along a river. This past week, Wilderness Inquiry’s Canoemobile program traveled to the nation’s capital giving students in Washington D.C. the chance to experience a unique outdoor field trip on the Potomac River.

The National Park Service advocates for “Parks as Classrooms,” and it’s no different when talking about rivers and bodies of water. Canoemobile brings the classroom to the outdoors, engaging youth in environmental stewardship and recreational opportunities. Canoemobile is a collaboration of federal, state, and local partners.

OAK members joined Wilderness Inquiry and National Park Trust for a special Canoemobile event in Washington, D.C. with partners The North Face, National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service to celebrate the Every Kid in a Park program and kick off OAK’s annual gathering.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A highlight in the event was the distribution of Every Kid in a Park passes. This interagency program grants fourth graders nationwide free entry for them and their families to more than 2,000 federally managed lands and waters nationwide for an entire year.  The goal of the Every Kid in a Park program is to inspire fourth graders everywhere to visit our federal lands and waters. The program works to ensure “every child” in the U.S. has the opportunity to visit and enjoy their federal lands and waters by the time he or she is 11 years old. Having just been renewed for its third year this past September, the passes given to these students will be valid until August 31, 2018.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Seventy fourth graders from D.C. public schools were able to take 24-foot Voyageur canoes along the Potomac river and learn about the watershed. For many of these students, although the Potomac river is just a few miles away, they have never actually been on the river to participate recreationally. With the proper instruction, the fourth graders were able to safely enjoy the Potomac River and learn about its environmental importance.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Partnering organizations led activity stations for the students. The North Face led students through a relay race activity which taught students how to properly pack a backpack and build a tent for a camping trip. With a little competition and movement, students were able to stay engaged and learn new skills about recreating in the outdoors.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As a wrap up to the morning of events, the fourth graders were asked to fill out postcards from OAK explaining why they love their Every Kid in a Park pass. This initiative is part of a larger national campaign OAK is organizing for any fourth grader in the nation. To download and mail in postcard from home, visit the OAK website.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Even WTOP, a local FM radio station, stopped by to cover the event! Read their story.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This youth event kicked off this year’s official OAK Week. Later in the afternoon, OAK formally welcomed all member organizations with a Welcome Reception & Member Awards. In the next two days, OAK continued with its Annual Member Meeting, Networking Happy Hour, Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, and finalized the week with a Congressional Awards Reception.

37908714521_787d048d65_k

Learn more about the Outdoors Alliance for Kids and ways to joining this national strategic partnership which advocates for equitable and readily available opportunities for children, youth and families to connect with the outdoors.

connecting children, youth and families with the outdoors