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New National Park Service program: Every Kid in a Park


Kathryn
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Why fourth grade?

 

I'm not sure, but it seems to be a popular age for service programs. In CO there is a food bank that gives special commodities to families with 4th graders (and Kindergarteners), and our current local library has a book for every 4th grader program. I'm sure there is some statistic somewhere as to why that's the magical age. :) 

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Beautiful. I opened a door! Whenever we have opportunities like this I just love the Internet. So easy to provide a life-changing experience to someone for just $10. That's a week of lunches. I can eat cereal for those days. Thank you for sharing!

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Thanks for posting this!  I'm on a nature-kick right now and am scouring the internet for ideas & resources to share.  The WTM board always comes through. 

It almost looks like the program is geared toward field-trips and guided experiences rather than generic passes for families, but I can't quite tell.

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I've done enough nature trips and hiking with kids that I can see why 4th grade. That's about the age where kids usually have the skills needed to be calm, slow down, and really engage nature, but aren't to the "I'm too cool for that" yet either. Much younger and many are impulsive, which leads to scaring away animals (and many don't yet have the reading skills to use field guides or learn to use dichotomous keys), much older and you start getting some that are really into it, but also some who are eye rolling and complaining about not having cell service.

 

Even my DD's bio field mentor says he'd rather take 4th-5th grade kids as a group into the field than lower division college students, because the 4th-5th graders are enthusiastic and want to learn. The lower division college students just want to do the minimum needed to get a grade, preferably without getting hot, sweaty, or dirty.

Now, I really wish they'd open it up to 4th grade classes, and families who are going to actively take their kids into the parks and use the pass, of any age. I know we could benefit from it-but DD is officially a 5th grader.

 

 

 

 

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It would make more sense to me if it was every year, and once your kid is in fourth grade, you get your free year.

 

But if it's only for this year, why not just make it for every kid?

 

They likely had a grant which is time-bound. In the non-profit / public sphere it's extremely rare to have a grant which is not time-bound. So they might extend as many years as possible but they can't promise that now. This is a lot of money.

 

Likewise, kids in every grade would be WAY more people. They had a number they thought they could serve reliably, raise money for, and they had to figure out who to do that for. People hate it when you go by "race" (understandably), geography also seems deeply unfair. When you go by grade, if it gets expanded, then you get a whole new crop of new kids to serve. You're going to have different fourth graders in the future so when the only thing that is uncertain about the program is the number of years, ensuring that you will have different people every year is really important.

 

I understand that if your kid already is in 5th grade, this seems wrong. But in order to ensure that every child of the past has what every child of the future has, we'd have to keep from coming up with new programs! I get that these remarks are mostly tongue-in-cheek. :)

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They likely had a grant which is time-bound. In the non-profit / public sphere it's extremely rare to have a grant which is not time-bound. So they might extend as many years as possible but they can't promise that now. This is a lot of money.

 

Likewise, kids in every grade would be WAY more people. They had a number they thought they could serve reliably, raise money for, and they had to figure out who to do that for. People hate it when you go by "race" (understandably), geography also seems deeply unfair. When you go by grade, if it gets expanded, then you get a whole new crop of new kids to serve. You're going to have different fourth graders in the future so when the only thing that is uncertain about the program is the number of years, ensuring that you will have different people every year is really important.

 

I understand that if your kid already is in 5th grade, this seems wrong. But in order to ensure that every child of the past has what every child of the future has, we'd have to keep from coming up with new programs! I get that these remarks are mostly tongue-in-cheek. :)

 

My kid's in first, so really I'm just jealous. ;)

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Do elementary school kids have school ids these days?

My school district does issue school IDs from kindergarten up. It had my older boy's name, grade in school, the school year and the school name.

 

For the national and state park programs we go to, it has always been honor system when we register for their free kids programs including free fishing lessons :)

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Me, Oak Meadow, and another parent asked The National Park Service on Twitter how homeschoolers could get their free passes. They said they'd look into it for us, then tweeted these three tweets:

 

We're working w/ @usedgov's Office of Non-Public Ed to reach out to private schools & homeschooled.

ONPE has ongoing communication with all the national private school associations & hslda.

 

If you know of other homeschool-related organizations that they should contact, please let us know!

I find that vague and unsatisfying but am not sure what can be done. I worry that the passes will be distributed in classrooms, leaving homeschoolers out entirely, and I tweeted that back. We'll see. Hopefully, enough homeschoolers will speak up early enough in the process that some kind of park-based, parent-initiated system will be used instead of mailing passes to schools for distribution in classrooms. Now might be a good time to email the park service (and HSLDA!) and suggest such a thing. http://www.nps.gov/aboutus/contactinformation.htm

 

 

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Sweet! I will have a 4th grader next year. This is probably the only time that I have actually qualified for anything! Usually it's too young, too old, sorry you're homeschooling, you don't belong to that school, only this state has it....yes, I'm a little bitter.  :nopity:

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I really dislike programs like this. They seem so discriminatory to me. I had a 5th grader last year, and we had to buy our park pass. Not cheap. Sniff. I'll never have a 4th grader again.

"If I can't have it, no one should!"

 

I hope it's a rousing success and is continued for years to come. Even if it isn't, i think it's a great idea and will lead to some wonderful experiences.

 

An idea for others..... I am part of a library support group that buys an annual parks pass to give to the libraries. (State Park). Anyone in town can check it out for a day . It is very popular, especially in summer. Just wanted to share the suggestion because I am sure others here are in library booster groups too.

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I'll add another tip for those who are not aware -- it is perfectly legal for two families to share one park pass, although, of course, both families couldn't use it at the same time.  I asked the  ranger last year when we were at the Painted Desert, and he confirmed it.  That would cut the price in half for families who are not lucky enough to have a fourth grader. 

 

Number one under Annual Pass Use:

 

http://store.usgs.gov/pass/annual.html

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Sweet. This is great.

 

Still, the largest barrier for people with low income to the national park and forest lands is the time off work and lack of transportation. We pay $30 for our fed NW Forests pass and $30 for our state parks pass. That's only $5 a month. The real cost is are getting there.

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I'm confused - I was reading the annual pass link and it says that all kids under 16 always get in for free. So what does this program do? Give the family a pass? I don't see how that works.

Most places require a permit to park at trailheads and such. So it's free for the kid to be there, but not for the car and parents. I imagine they will issue free passes via the same outlets people get passes now.

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Me, Oak Meadow, and another parent asked The National Park Service on Twitter how homeschoolers could get their free passes. They said they'd look into it for us, then tweeted these three tweets:

 

We're working w/ @usedgov's Office of Non-Public Ed to reach out to private schools & homeschooled.

 

ONPE has ongoing communication with all the national private school associations & hslda.

 

If you know of other homeschool-related organizations that they should contact, please let us know!

 

I find that vague and unsatisfying but am not sure what can be done. I worry that the passes will be distributed in classrooms, leaving homeschoolers out entirely, and I tweeted that back. We'll see. Hopefully, enough homeschoolers will speak up early enough in the process that some kind of park-based, parent-initiated system will be used instead of mailing passes to schools for distribution in classrooms. Now might be a good time to email the park service (and HSLDA!) and suggest such a thing. http://www.nps.gov/aboutus/contactinformation.htm

 

Why worry? Maybe instead of suggesting and asking you could actually offer to organize it? NGOs depend massively on volunteer labor, as do the national parks. This is not some huge corporation sitting on a pile of cash they don't want to distribute equally. They are looking for the easiest distribution channel, because it's limited funds.

 

You could donate. Outreach costs money. They do it through public schools and private schools because it's a cheap channel of delivering information. You were asked to provide other cheap channels of communication. Demanding that they revise their entire policy to suit you personally is the opposite of a public program. It is why we cannot have nice things in our country: people look at a public program, ask if they are getting their fair share (you never are, the sickest, poorest, oldest always get more) and then whine until they shut the whole thing down.

 

 

 

parent-initiated system

 

The point is to make sure that children who have parents who are not supporting them, or who are working two jobs, or who do not have time (due to economic pressures) to bring them out, are able to go.

 

A parent-initiated system would target people who are ALREADY capable of getting their kids resources. Not that they shouldn't get passes. But they won't go to a parent-initiated system.

 

 

 

Still, the largest barrier for people with low income to the national park and forest lands is the time off work and lack of transportation. 

 

The program is to pay for transportation and the day trip...

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The national park by our restaurant has many free days throughout the year. Just last weekend the park was free.

There are only a small handful of days and weekends a year that the national lands which generally have a fee are free. Presidents Day weekend being one of those.

 

http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm

 

And I have to say it is a nicer experience to not have to go when it is crowded. There was a veritable hiking traffic jam where we went on Monday.

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  • 5 months later...

I don't know how they would even be able exclude homeschoolers if they wanted to. Do elementary school kids have school ids these days?

Around here we have a similar deal for the local ski places. You send a report card and they send you a pass. There is some provision for homeschoolers, I know because I looked it up out of curiosity,but I don't remember. Maybe just a letter from parents?

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  • 3 weeks later...

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