Every Kid in a (National) Park!

Every Kid in a Park Offers 4th Graders a National Park Free-for-All!

During the 2015-2016 school year, families of 4th graders can gain free access to all of the country’s fantastic national parks! Whether by exploring Massachusetts’ historic sites and national seashore or dreaming about mountainous parks out west, families can engage in both experiential and inspired learning about the treasures our park system has to offer.

Just because summer is quickly waning doesn’t mean that family adventures have to come to an end – and why should they, when national parks have been more accessible to families than ever before! Thanks to the Every Kid in a Park initiative, families that include a 4th grade student (or a home- or un-schooled child of the equivalent age) can visit any of the United States’ national parks for free during the 2015-2016 school year. Every Kid in a Park gives families opportunities to engage experientially in studies of the natural and cultural history of our country, and helps to promote nature-based play and learning by inspiring families to explore the outdoors.

While Massachusetts is not home to any national parks showcasing vast tracts of unique land, the state is filled with national historic sites that speak to the role the state has played in American history – particularly during the 17th and 18th centuries. Locally, the Springfield Armory offers a military history immersion experience within day-trip distance of all of western Massachusetts. In addition to historic sites, a full list of Massachusetts parks reveals natural gems such as the Cap Cod National Seashore and the Boston Harbor Islands, locations that afford visitors the opportunity to explore the state’s Atlantic coastline.

For folks searching for national parks of larger size, Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island offers beautiful scenery off the coast of Maine (as does the Roosevelt Campobello International Park, for those prepared for a longer drive). Heading west, the closest national park is Shenandoah National Park encompasses a forest-filled portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

While not all of the country’s national parks are easily accessible from Massachusetts (road-tripping to Alaskan park Denali would take roughly 75 hours of driving from the heart of the hilltowns), visiting New England’s parks can inspire families to learn about all of the country’s parks. In exploring all that US parks have to offer, families can learn about the natural and cultural history of the faraway places they’ve yet to visit, and can begin to make lists of dream adventures based on which park seems most fascinating! Planning a hypothetical vacation to a faraway national park could even include studies of road maps in order to determine a travel route and mathematical calculations to approximate cost, distance, and travel time – thus supporting the development of important skills within meaningful context.

In order to take advantage of the opportunities provided by Every Kid in a Park, families can download a pass as well as a guidebook that highlights 35 great national park adventure opportunities. In order to enter a park, a paper copy of the downloaded pass must be shown – so print it out, check out a map, and hit the road!

Looking for some theme music for your adventure? Here are two episodes of the Hilltown Family Variety Show to get you excited about our national parks:

  • Sept 6, 2014  —  National Park Episode with Guest DJ, Jeff Wolin (a.k.a. Ranger Jeff)  — Playlist/VideoPodcast
  • Jul 20/21, 2013 — National Parks Episode with Guest DJ, Jeff Wolin  (a.k.a. Ranger Jeff) — Playlist/VideoPodcast

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