Connecting today's youth with national parks has been an ongoing concern with the National Park Service. Working to address that concern is the National Park Foundation through its Ticket To Ride program, which provides funding for student transportation to parks.
Among the recent grant recipients was the Miami-Dade County Public School System, which received funding to bring 1,800 students to Biscayne National Park.
With support from Disney, Ticket To Ride provides financial resources for transportation, in-park educational programming, and meals that make national park field trips possible for schools across the country. Nationwide, more than $230,000 in Ticket To Ride grants are expected to make it possible for more than 30,000 students to experience their local national park this fall.
The Miami-Dade grant, received through the South Florida National Parks Trust, will allow increased participation in Biscayne Explorer, a program where students learn from hands-on activity stations that mimic park research while teaching about the park's natural resources. Furthermore, the students learn while in a national park setting amidst seagrass meadows, mangrove fringed shores and plentiful wildlife.
Biscayne's partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools is a long-standing one. Every school year hundreds of teachers supplement their classroom curriculum with ranger-led programs.
"Our biggest goal is that connections formed during Biscayne Explorer will lead to the protection of this rare treasure in the students' own backyard," says Maria Beotegui, the park's education coordinator. "A visit to Biscayne National Park's visitor center is a much-needed retreat from city life for students. Teachers and students are the first to point out the beauty and tranquility that surrounds them when they step off their buses."
In addition to Biscayne National Park and the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the Fall 2012 Ticket To Ride grantees include Boston National Historical Park, Crater Lake National Park, Fort Sumter National Monument, Yosemite National Park and 30 others.
For many students, the Ticket To Ride field trip will be their first visit to a national park. Recognizing that once in the parks, a world of experiential learning opens up, the National Park Foundation and the National Park Service are dedicated to providing this critical access to the parks. Through these field trips, young people discover their natural, cultural and historical heritage, participate in volunteer and service-learning activities, enjoy recreational opportunities and, hopefully, begin a lifelong relationship with their national parks.
For further information or to register for Biscayne Explorer, please call (305)230-1144 x 08, or visit the park's website at www.nps.gov/bisc/forteachers