President Obama on Thursday announced that all fourth graders and their families will get free admission to National Parks and other federal lands for a full year as a way to promote outdoor recreation and enjoyment of our most treasured public open spaces.
The initiative, called Every Kid in a Park, goes into effect at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year. It includes transportation grants for low-income kids and their families to visit the parks, as well as educational materials for teachers and parents.
The campaign mirrors the East Bay Regional Park District’s Kids Healthy Outdoor Challenge, a program started three years ago to bring East Bay third-graders to some of the District’s most interesting parks, shorelines, and open spaces. The curriculum content was created in conjunction with a group of local educators. So far, nearly 3,000 children have participated in the program, enjoying free bus rides to the parks and fun lessons that range from listening for woodpeckers to identifying coyote tracks.
Kids Healthy Outdoor Challenge also encourages kids to engage in physical activities outdoors, such as kite flying, hiking, camping, star gazing, and bike riding. As President Obama pointed out in his initiative, kids are spending increasing amounts of time using electronic media, and less and less time outdoors. The health benefits of outdoor activity are well documented: Time spent outdoors can reduce stress, improve physical health, sharpen mental skills, and provide an overall improved sense of well-being for kids as well as adults.
The Kids Healthy Outdoor Challenge program was in part inspired by the California Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights, which states that every child in the state, by the time they turn 14, should have the chance to go camping, learn to fish, ride a bike, plant a seed, learn to swim, and enjoy other outdoor activities.
To learn about the Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights see:
For more information also see: President Obama’s Every Kid in a Park initiative.
The East Bay Regional Park District is a system of beautiful public parks and trails in Alameda and Contra Costa counties east of San Francisco Bay, established in 1934. The system comprises 119,000 acres in 65 parks including over 1,250 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature learning.