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Bulletin Staff Report
Fourth graders, this one’s for you.
If you are not fortunate enough to be a fourth grader, hopefully you know one, because this is a great opportunity.
From now until August 31, 2016, all fourth graders can attend national parks for free through the Every Kid in a Park program. The program provides an opportunity for fourth grade students nationwide to experience their public lands and waters in person throughout the year.
Through the program, which began Sept. 1, all kids in the fourth grade have access to their own Every Kid in a Park pass. This pass provides free access to federal lands, including national parks, national forests and national wildlife refuges.
Fourth graders (including home-schooled students) can obtain a paper pass for free entry into all federal lands and waters by visiting the Every Kid in a Park website at www. everykidinapark.gov. Students participate in an educational activity and receive a paper pass to print and bring with them to visit public lands. At certain participating sites, fourth graders can exchange the paper pass for a durable plastic Interagency Annual 4th Grade Pass. Fourth graders must be present for free entry into parks and to exchange the paper pass for a plastic pass.
The program emphasizes the shared ownership Americans have in public lands and waters.
“Did you know that you own millions of acres of national parks, historic structures, cultural artifacts, ancient forests, snow-capped mountains, and clear blue lakes?” asks the website.
As a shared, federal administration- wide initiative, Every Kid in a Park is supported by the U.S. Department of the Interior (which includes the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“All of these places work for you,” said Eileen Davis, a volunteer in the BLM with the Department of Interior/ VISTA Americorp, in a presentation to a class of Tombaugh Elementary School fourth graders.
In many public parks children under 16 can enter for free. Ultimately, this pass is good for the three adults (or carload, depending on the park’s requirements) that the child will bring with him or her.
“You are the passholder. Your parents, or whoever brings you, is part of it, too,” Davis said. “You’re bringing your parents. You’re bringing your adults.
“You can bring three adults some place will take whoever is in the car. Each place it different … So it might be good to call ahead or do research on the internet. “ The program is limited to federal lands, and each park has different rules, so it is a good idea to call ahead. Also, the pass is only for day use, so if you are planning on staying overnight in a park with camping areas, you will still have to pay the camping fees.
Davis told students the Organ Mountain National Monument is the closest federal park, and a great place to start exploring public lands.
A slide showed Dripping Springs Recreational Area, with a lone hiker heading up toward the hills. “This hiker looks lonely, and needs some fourth graders,” Davis said. The choice of fourth graders was not arbitrary. Research shows that children between the ages of 9 and 11 are at a unique developmental stage where they begin to understand how the world around them works in more concrete ways. At this stage, they are receptive to new ideas and most likely to hold positive attitudes towards nature and the environment.
They’ll probably treat you extra special because you are extra special,” Davis told the students.
The Every Kid in a Park pass is good for the 20152016 school year, until August 31, 2016. To sign up, visit the Every Kid in a Park website at www.everykidinapark. gov.