Tag Archives: outdoors

It’s Fresh Air Fitness Month!

Guest blog post by Marla Hollander, American Heart Association

What could be better than taking a Walk in Nature with your kids?

Thinking back on my childhood, my experience with nature as a kid was confined to the suburban neighborhood I grew up in including the neighborhood park, Grover’s Mill pond (yes, the infamous “War of the Worlds” 1938 Martian landing site) and the Jersey shore.  Not so shabby for nature connections. Climbing trees in the spring, skating on the pond in winter and swimming in the ocean all summer were all things I loved and just did. Fast forward a couple decades and I discovered that my hometown was also home to the D & R Canal state park, Sourland Mountain preserve and the Mountain Lakes Preserve, all providing incredible opportunities to get outdoors and move, yet I was unaware of their existence as a kid.  While we had the ability to access these incredible resources, my family didn’t know how or why to access them.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that children engage in 60 minutes of physical activity every day, yet a report brief from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finds that only about half of kids meet that recommendation.  Additionally, a 2011 study in the Journal of Pediatrics reported that television viewing by young children has been associated with cognitive and speech delays, aggressive behavior, decreased academic performance, and obesity. The time that young children spend watching TV or using a computer or tablet has replaced the time spent on other activities like reading and active or imaginative play – and particularly outdoor play.

We need to change this script!  We need to help our kids get active.

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My kids canoeing in Lake Needwood, Maryland. Photo credit: Marla Hollander

Providing safe places to play and be physically active throughout every child’s day is critical to heart health and keeping kids healthy. Getting outdoors with one’s family is a great way to spend time together and model healthy behaviors and one of my favorite activities!

My real passion for being an active outdoors person was not tapped until my early adulthood when friends and travel introduced me to what I call the wild – places like Crater Lake in the Oregon and Cape Tribulation in Australia. Now, an avid hiker, I’ve lived in four states with my kids and with each relocation, we look for how we can get out moving and connecting with nature as a family.  In Sarasota, we loved kayaking the protected mangroves; in San Diego it was surfing and hiking Torrey Pines State Park; in Washington, DC we spend a lot of time exploring the local Rock Creek Trail system that meanders throughout the city. Many communities have natural resources within reach – but we need to look for them, expose our kids early and often, and make them safe and accessible. In doing so we can help ensure they are getting the physical activity they need, and I can’t think of a better way to get active and connected as a family.

Throughout the month of July, the American Heart Association, the world’s leading voluntary organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke, has been challenging everyone to get outdoors and get moving. The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) supports and embraces this challenge and I am grateful to be a guest blogger for OAK connecting nature, health and kids.

Fresh Air Fitness Month is part of the association’s Healthy For Good™ movement, which inspires people everywhere to make lasting changes in their health and their lives, one small step at a time.

Marla Hollander resides in Kensington MD, is a mom of two middle school kids, and a staff member of Voices of Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to ensure all kids have access to healthy food, beverages and safe places to be physically active.  She also serves on OAK’s steering committee.

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.”

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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.

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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

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.  

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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.

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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!

Every Kid in a Park: Youth Blog Series Post #3 with the National Military Family Association

 

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Every Kid in a Park: Youth Blog Series Post #3
Guest Blog with Tiaira D. from the National Military Family Association

Tiaira D. is a young lady from North Carolina who visited a national park for the first time through National Military Family Association (NMFA) family program. At age 18, she is far from a fourth grader, but her family trip outdoors is similar of many fourth graders who experience parks for the first time using their Every Kid in a Park pass. Even more special, these trips for military families help kids connect with their parents, away from the stress and challenges of deployment. With opportunities like Operation Purple and Every Kid in a Park, families can embrace the outdoors in ways they have never imagined and hope to return to see more. Read about the trip Taira enjoyed with her family this past July.

 

What’s your name, age, and where are you from?

Tiaira: Tiaira D., age 18, from Greensboro, North Carolina

Was this your first time visiting Grand Teton National Park?

Tiaira: Yes.

Who did you do Operation Purple with?

Tiaira: I did Operation Purple with my Mom, Dad, and two sisters.

If you had the opportunity, would you have liked to visit a national park sooner? If so, why?

Tiaira: Yes, I would have loved to have visited a national park sooner just for the different perspective I got from being at one park. Being outdoors walking the trails and observing everything around me was the best, it was all too much to take in at once but I loved it.

Can you describe the park and what you saw?

Tiaira: The park was very beautiful, quiet, and clean. Walking through the trails in the park, and being able to learn about the different pine trees, flowers and rocks we saw was very interesting. I saw a very strong waterfall that had a bridge over it so while walking across on parts of it you could feel some of the water splash up. Not too far from this was a stream that went throughout part of the trail which was very pretty and cold.

What activities did you do at the park?

Tiaira: An activity we did at the park was given to us by our instructors. My family of 5 was split into 2 groups: a group of 2 and a group of 3. Each of us throughout the group had a chance at being blindfolded and guided to a tree of the unblinded person/s choice. The person blindfolded could use their five senses and do whatever was necessary for them. Once the person blindfolded felt comfortable enough we guided them back to where they started, unblindfolded them, and let them find the tree they thought they were guided too. That person after finding out if their guess was right or not being given a booklet with different trees had to find the name of it, and read the information given to their self and the group.

Another activity we did was picking a rock of our choice and walking with it, observing it until we reached a bridge with the lake under. Once there we talked about our rock and threw it into the water whenever we felt we were ready.

Where do your parents work?

Tiaira: My mom is Active Duty Military, ARMY. My dad is a truck driver.

So, were you excited to be with your family during this retreat? Why?

Tiaira: Yes, I was very excited, and ready to experience everything. In fact, I didn’t think we would have got to do and see as much as we did. The trip there, and while there was so much fun. Being able experience something this amazing as being in Wyoming was too much to take in.  Seeing the mountains that still had snow, canoeing, trail walking, trail making, and everything else we got to do was overall great! We all got to be together for the week and experience it all and more. Working together and hearing one another’s point on whatever it was about was always something to look forward to. More knowledge! Also having more time to spend as a family, being happy and not so stressed while on the trip was also exciting so I enjoyed every minute.

What is your happiest memory from visiting the Grand Teton National Park?

Tiaira: Being able to sit by the lake with the mountains behind us, with my family and our instructors while eating lunch together.

Would you like to go back or visit more parks soon? Why?

Tiaira: Yes, visiting again or going to other parks is something I may consider. If I do go to a park then I will most likely do a good mile run, and afterwards a good walk to see what it all must offer. I consider going back, and or visiting more parks soon because of the different perspective I’ve gotten from visiting the Grand Teton National Park. The different trees, rocks, the mountains, the plants and everything else that may be there, or at any park has a story as to how it may have formed, been brought or put there.

What is your favorite thing to do outdoors in general?

Tiaira: My favorite thing to do outdoors is swimming.

What advice would you give a future student who is going on a family retreat to a national park?

Tiaira: My advice to a future student who’s going on a family retreat to a national park would be to learn as much as you can while you’re there by yourself and with your family. Asking lots of questions, listening, observing, and learning about the different trees, and whatever else that may interest you can give you a whole different perspective on nature so I highly recommend it. Spending time with your family meaning talking about what you see/seen, what you’ve learned or want to learn is also something that may help you all understand, or even bring you closer since it’s a common interest.

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

Tiaira: Spending time outdoors rather than being inside can bring a whole different part of your family out. There are so many activities or things in general that could bring you together, even if it’s just cleaning a car or mowing the lawn. Finding something, anything that your family may enjoy doing outside to get fresh air, and be together is not only important but fun!

 

Tiaira has just graduated high school with the Class of 2017 and is preparing to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test so she can follow in her mom’s footsteps to join the U.S. Army.

Similar to the Every Kid in a Park pass, active military members can also receive a free annual park pass for themselves and their families to enjoy. The Free Annual U.S. Military pass is for current U.S. military members and dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard as well as Reserve and National Guard members.

The National Military Family Association is the leading nonprofit dedicated to serving the families who stand behind the uniform. Since 1969, NMFA has worked to strengthen and protect millions of families through its advocacy and programs. They provide spouse scholarships, camps for military kids, and retreats for families reconnecting after deployment and for the families of the wounded, ill, or injured. NMFA serves the families of the currently serving, veteran, retired, wounded or fallen members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Commissioned Corps of the USPHS and NOAA. To get involved or to learn more, visit www.MilitaryFamily.org.

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Photos provided National Military Family Association

EVERY KID IN A PARK – YOUTH BLOG SERIES: POST #2

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Every Kid in a Park – Youth Blog Series, Post #2
Interview with Evie E. & Louise R., former Every Kid in a Park pass users

Evie E. and Louise R. are both rising sixth-graders at Creative Minds International Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. They were both invited to speak at OAK’s Congressional Lunch Briefing on July 11, 2017 to talk about their experiences outdoors. Before the event, they were interviewed by Isabel Argoti, OAK/NPS Community Assistance Fellow, and Katie Brantley, Sierra Club Digital Storytelling Fellow. Evie and Louise’s speeches given during the briefing were recorded live.


What’s your name, age, and grade?

Evie: I’m Evie and I’m 11 going into the sixth grade.

Louise: And I’m Louise, also 11 and also going into the sixth grade.

What do you love about the outdoors and what do you like to do outside?

Evie: Outdoors is peaceful and relaxing, and you can think about stuff. And it helps things grow, which it also helps us grow. Like vegetables.

Louise: I like the feeling of being independent outdoors, where you can just free-roam and explore and discover new plants and insects and animals.

Where did you get your Every Kid in a Park pass?

Louise: We went on a school trip and they handed them out. It was the US Arboretum.

Evie: There was also another school there.

Which parks have you been to?

Evie: Assateague Island National Seashore, Rock Creek Park, and Prince William Forest Park.

Louise: C&O Canal National Historical Park, National Mall, Rock Creek Park which is really close to my house. And Prince William Forest Park.

What did you like to do there? What was your favorite part about your visit?

Evie: At Prince William, we actually went camping there with our class in cabins. And at Rock Creek, I like to go hiking.

Louise: Me, too. Sometimes with my family, we’ll go on a family hike because it’s so close to our house. And sometimes we’ll walk along the C&O Canal and hike along the rocks.

What advice do you have for a future fourth grader who is about to receive their Every Kid in a Park pass?  

Louise: Try to get your parents to have the family travel somewhere far. Also let the pass be a reminder to you to get outdoors even if it’s not a huge national park.

Evie: I have two sisters–one of them had the pass last year and the other is getting the pass this year and so I think my advice would be to look through the book or website when you first get the pass. Try to choose a park that is the farthest away from you so you can go on a long road trip and so you can find stuff that wouldn’t be in a park nearer to you, so you can learn new stuff and discover new, fun, exciting things.

 

The school trips in which Evie and Louise received their passes were sponsored field trips by the National Park Trust. The National Park Trust, a 501(c)(3) non profit, is dedicated to preserving parks today and creating park stewards for tomorrow, and is an incredible supporter of the Every Kid in a Park program. Since 2009,​ the Buddy Bison School Program and national Kids to Parks Day have engaged 3,000,000 students across the country with our nation’s parks, public lands and waters (ParkTrust.org).

 

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EKIP Postcards

This is the second in a series of blogs highlighting students who have used, or are gearing up to use, their Every Kid in a Park pass.

Nevada’s new law brings more kids outdoors

Guest blog post by Suparna Dutta, Nearby Nature intern, Sierra Club

Nevada fifth-graders! Tie up your shoe laces, put on your adventure hats, and pick up your backpacks. There is exciting news in store for you! Beginning in July, a Nevada law will encourage school children aged 9-11 to visit and play in any of Nevada’s 26 state parks for free.

Nevada’s “Kids to Parks” program was prompted by new state legislation which was signed into law by Governor Brian Sandoval in May. It is modeled after the federal Every Kid in Park program, which offers passes to fourth-graders and their families for free admission to more than 2,000 federal public lands, waters, and shores. Assembly Bill 385 made headlines when fifth-graders from western Las Vegas schools wrote letters to their legislators showing their support and appreciation for the bill. The new legislation ensures that every fifth-grader in the state has access to a pass that gives the child and anyone accompanying them free admission to any state park and recreational area for one year.

With the Every Kid in a Park pass for fourth-graders already in place, Nevada’s new pass means that school children in the state will have two continuous academic years of free entry to its national and state parks, a move applauded by parents, educators, and children themselves! This is the second of Sandoval’s initiatives this year that promotes increased access to the outdoors for Nevada’s children and families. In January, the Nevada governor directed $13.2 million in state general funds to the state park system in order to boost the state’s flagship Explore Your Nevada initiative.  

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Photo credit: Chris Rief, National Park Trust

Nevada is not the only state thinking about ways to encourage school children to get outdoors. States such as Indiana, Maryland, New York, Wyoming, Idaho, and New Mexico have been honoring the federal Every Kid in a Park pass in their state parks. Last year, Indiana State Parks declared that they would provide free admission to fourth-graders with the federal pass. Since Indiana State Parks charge park visitors a vehicle entry fee, this allowed for free entry to parks not only for the fourth-grader but also for all those accompanying the fourth grader in the same vehicle. Similarly, in Maryland, Governor Hogan announced that the Every Kid in a Park pass would be accepted by all state parks for the 2016-2017 school year. Not to be left out, New York, too, honors the federal pass both in state parks and in historic sites. In Wyoming, the fourth grade passes are being accepted by the state parks for the second year in a row. New Mexico State Parks allow free entry for fourth-graders with the federal pass and, in the past, have aimed at connecting four million fourth graders with nature through this program.

The importance of bringing children and adults closer to nature cannot be overstated. Studies have shown that for children, connecting with nature translates into enriching social experiences with families and friends. Being outdoors helps children to be creative, curious, explorative, and create great memories that they cherish as adults. Besides contributing towards positive psychological development in children, the natural world also helps them remain fit and healthy. The American Heart Association recognizes childhood obesity as the number one health concern of American children and prescribes outdoor physical activities as prevention. Surveys reveal that Americans perceive nature to be integral for their physical, spiritual, and emotional development. And spending time outdoors during childhood significantly increases the chances that children will develop a lifelong love and appreciation for the outdoors, and continue going back year after year, with or without the pass.

Nevada’s new legislation giving children and their families more opportunities to enjoy nature and the outdoors is a welcomed initiative that should be replicated by the rest of the nation. We encourage other states to follow Nevada’s lead.

OAK is seeking testimonials from children, parents, caregivers and teachers to share the impact of the Every Kid in a Park program. If your organization is planning an Every Kid in a Park event (or has already completed one), please help share the impact of the outdoor experience by encouraging youth participants to fill out the “I love my Every Kid in a Park pass because…” postcard and send it to OAK!

Photos courtesy of Chris Rief, National Park Trust