September 1 marked the launch of the Every Kid in a Park initiative. On a personal note, I'm really excited about this program. My sense of wonder is rekindled when I'm with my wife and children and see Old Faithful erupt or turtle hatchlings swim out to sea. National parks bring out the kid in all of us, and that's why I encourage kids of all ages to get out and Find Your Park.
The Every Kid in a Park campaign has received a lot of media attention—and for good reason. This new program provides free annual passes to fourth graders and their families to federally managed lands and waters. Attracting younger people to our national parks is a major objective of the National Park Service Centennial, and a free family pass for fourth graders will definitely help us reach the goal to develop the Next Generation Stewards.
Once these fourth grade students are in parks, they'll get to see all of the natural wonders. So many experiences await to inspire them:
- Gaze up at a starry, starry sky
- Snorkel in a park rich with water resources
- Climb a mountain
- Explore the underground in a cave
- Listen to a thundering herd of bison
Ideally, our fourth grade visitors will begin a lifelong relationship with national parks. But beyond that, I hope these young people experience a sense of wonder at all of the mysteries, beauty, and connections in the natural world, planting a keen desire to explore nature. After all, that's what it takes to cultivate the next generation of stewards—personal connections to our natural resources.
Here at Natural Resource Stewardship and Science, we all work very hard to protect these precious resources. In large part, the successes we've had protecting vulnerable populations, habitats, and ecosystems stem from the commitment of individuals. And often that passion begins at an early age, either through a childhood spent exploring the outdoors or perhaps just one pivotal experience. The first step is going outside, and Every Kid in a Park opens that door to thousands of young people.
— Ray Sauvajot
Associate Director, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science