Saturday, October 3, 2015

4th Graders: Get Your Free National Parks Pass This School Year

Judy Blume knew it way back in the '70s when she wrote her book "Tales of the 4th Grade Nothing:" 4th Grade is THE BEST.  It's an age of major growth for kids, as connections spark left and right.  4th graders have a huge sense of justice (just check out any recess playground at a nearby school!).  They also are very curious, eager, experimental, and fun-loving.  (To learn more about typical child development for the 4th grade stage, check out this article.)

One could argue kids at all ages are "all of the above," but there's another reason that "4th Graders Rock" this year.  They are the chosen ones.

With President Obama's proclamation and the "Every Kid in a Park" initiative, every 4th grade student nationwide is entitled to free entry in any of the 2,000+ National Parks of the United States.  This is effected for any fourth grade student from Sept 1st, 2015 to August 31st, 2016.

If that doesn't elicit a hoot and a holler, I don't know what does.

So what is it about 4th grade?  Given it's an age of connection for kids (who, can't drive, by the way), this is the perfect age to get kids and their families outdoors.  From the Every Kid in a Park website & media kit, doing this now (at this age) serves as a:
"nationwide call to action action to build the next generation of outdoor stewards of our country’s spectacular and diverse federal lands and waters. Connecting our nation’s youth to the great outdoors is even more important at a time when 80 percent of American families live in cities and most children spend more time on computers and smartphones than exploring nature. The initiative is slated to continue with each year’s group of fourth graders to inspire successive generations to become responsible stewards of our nation’s natural and cultural heritage. Every Kid in a Park invites children of all backgrounds to discover their public lands and all they offer, including opportunities to be active and spend time with friends and family. As living classrooms, these outdoor places and historic sites also provide hands-on, real-world opportunities to develop critical skills and learn about the natural world."
Likewise, here are some other reasons why 4th grade was the chosen age:
  • 4th graders in many states focus on their state history.
  • The National Park System has 4th-grade-specific programs in place.
  • 4th graders are just before the age of 11, which has been noted as the age by which the window of "outdoor connection with nature" closes.  After this age, if kids haven't connected with nature, it might be too late.  As with anything:  the earlier, the better!
So here we are at the start of October.  If you didn't realize it last month, there's still a whole 11 months to go. You can go to the Every Kid in a Park website and have your 4th grader do an activity to get a paper pass to print.  That pass will get you free entrance into the parks and exchange it for a plastic park.  The Every Kid in a Park pass not only gets your 4th grader in, but anyone else in the vehicle (no buses, please!) who is accompanying them (up to 3 adults).  The website also has an educator portal with a lesson plans/activities to download and free passes to anyone who teaches 4th grade.  Likewise, teachers can print class sets of passes, each with their own unique identification code.

To get you excited and wanting to start your own "Tales of a 4th Grade National Park Adventurer," check out this PSA for the National Park Service.  Then head over to the Every Kid in a Park Website!

Which National Park would you want to visit first, 
to share your pictures on social media with #FindYourPark?  
Please leave a comment below as to where you'd want to go!  
I'd love to hear about it!

Images from; "4th Grade Rocks" image from, video

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