If you’re hoping to catch the last of summer’s sun and fun, there’s still time to celebrate the season (while avoiding those back-to-school displays at your favorite retailers).
Teachers and parents alike will want to check out the Every Kid in a Park program from the National Park Service. Every 4thgrader in the United States receives a free parks pass just for completing an online game, and the pass gives that child a free pass into all the national parks, monuments, historic sites, and heritage trails. The pass is good September 1 of the fourth grade year and runs until August 31st of the following year (just before fifth grade). It’s not too late to get the pass if your child is entering the 5th grade because you’ll still have full use until the end of August.
There are also great resources for teachers to use in the classroom and for field trips. Teachers, parents, and students can use the website to find their nearest national park, and there are parks, monuments, historic sites, and heritage trails scattered all across the state and our boarder states. Teachers will appreciate the lesson plans and activities, while parents will love the chance to play with their kiddos in the great outdoors.
Richard Louv’s Children & Nature Networkis a worldwide effort to get kids back into nature and avoid what he refers to as “nature deficit disorder.” Cultivating a sustainability mindset in children occurs most often when the adults in their lives model environmental stewardship in big and small ways. Recycling is one activity to cultivate at home, and taking our children into natural settings is a deeper experience for families. The Children & Nature Network is made up of many different families who organize regularly scheduled hikes and play dates for families to attend, often at no cost. Check out the site to find your local events or to start your own! There are lots of groups around the world. Teachers will also appreciate the Natural Teachers Network resources.
Finally, don’t forget to check in with your local park district in these last weeks of summer. Many offer activities at little to no cost for local residents. Start your online search for local parks at your city’s website or call your local city hall.