“Because no matter who you are, no matter where you live, our parks, our monuments, our lands, our waters — these places are your birthright as Americans” ~ President Barack Obama, April 22, 2015
When my kids were fourth graders I remember how curious they were about the world around them. They still continue to be curious, but when you’re 10 the questions are presented in a very different and innocent way. They were just beginning to notice the world around them. Going on a hike was eye-opening. Seeing nature through their eyes transformed what was once a simple walk in the woods into something so much more complex. A broken stick became a walking stick to help them up steep inclines and down soggy trails. Identifying birds and bugs became a family game to help pass the time.
Research shows that kids ages 9 to 11 are in a time of important developmental growth as they form their own identity. They are gradually growing into independent adults and are slowly becoming involved in the world beyond their families. That world includes a love of nature and a willingness to protect it.
With today’s influx of screens and devices, children are tempted not to be as connected to the outside world as they once were. There’s no video game that can take the place of time spent outdoors. (Tweet this) The rise of obesity, asthma, and ADHD can in part be attributed to the sedentary time spent in front of a screen.
There’s been a push to bring children back into alignment with nature. With bees added to the growing endangered species list and climate change rapidly advancing, we all know that nature needs protectors in place. Nature can’t persevere on its own.
Every Kid in a Park Initiative
As a way to protect our nation’s unique outdoor spaces, President Obama created the Every Kid in a Park initiative. This program allows fourth graders nationwide to obtain a pass for free entry for them and their families to more than 2,000 federally managed lands and waters nationwide for an entire year.
Here’s how it works:
“If you are in the fourth grade (or home-school equivalent and 10 years old), you can participate in a fun online activity and receive a voucher for a free 4th Grade Annual Pass. Print out the voucher and take it with you and your family to a national park, where you can serve as an ambassador and introduce your family to the National Park System. This program, called Every Kid in a Park, begins September 1 of your fourth grade year and runs until August 31st of that year. National parks and other federal lands and waters all across America are excited to share their heritage with young people.”
If you have a fourth grader in your family their free pass (must be printed) allows admittance for all children under 16 and up to three adults for free.
A list of places you can visit with the pass is found HERE.
If there’s one gift we can give to our children and to our planet it’s the gift of nature. Creating meaningful connections with the outdoors is something our children will never forget and hopefully, will put to good use as they grow into responsible, caring and independent adults.