“Every Kid in a Park” kicks off to connect students with nature

The "Every Kid in a Park" initiative seeks to connect kids and families across the country with the outdoors.

Photo: Carl Zitsman (USFWS).

President Barack Obama’s “Every Kid in a Park” initiative launched Sept. 1 and featured a nature event and hike in Washington, DC on Sept. 15.

“Every Kid in a Park,” which will provide 4th grade students and their families free admission to all national parks and other federal lands for a full year, officially launched on Sept. 1. It has been followed by outdoor events across the country, including in Washington DC’s Rock Creek Park on Sept. 15. The Rock Creek Park event included a nature hike and other activities for 110 local kids, many from schools in lower-income neighborhoods.

Get your "Every Kid in a Park" pass here!

“Protected public lands like Rock Creek Park are the birthright of all Americans, but many kids and families don’t even get a chance to enjoy them,” said Paul Sanford, recreation director at The Wilderness Society. “Through programs like ‘Every Kid in a Park,’ we hope to chip away at that inequity and realize the truly democratic potential of our national parks and other wildlands.”

Great Sand Dunes National Park (Colorado). Photo: NPS, flickr.

A growing need to bring childhood outdoors again

The “Every Kid in a Park” event in Washington DC was hosted by the Department of the Interior and the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, a coalition of conservation, health and outdoor recreation groups. The Nature Center in Rock Creek Park was chosen as the site of the event because of its urban setting and easy accessibility for students in Washington, D.C., suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia.

Why getting kids outdoors matters for the future of conservation

Fourth graders playing in the park may not seem all that novel, but “Every Kid in a Park,” which was first announced by President Obama in early 2015, addresses a very real issue. In recent years, kids have been spending less time outside and more time glued to a television or other screens. This threatens to exacerbate a variety of problems like childhood obesity, stress and general alienation from nature.

Arches National Park (Utah). Credit: woodleywonderworks, flickr.

As this phenomenon worsens, more people are starting to talk about the need to help all Americans, especially at-risk kids and marginalized communities of color, connect with our shared public lands.

More: 20 fun things to do with kids in national parks

The Wilderness Society will continue to work with the White House, Congress, and local communities to break down barriers to access and connect more young Americans with their wild places. Stay tuned for more on the “Every Kid in a Park” program through 2016!

 

Wilderness Society President, Jamie Williams with 4th grade students in Rock Creek Park

Benefits of getting kids outdoors

Excited students, wearing their free park passes, learn about watersheds in Rock Creek Park 

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