National Park Foundation Grants Will Help Get Students To The Parks

Almost $500,000 is being doled out by the National Park Foundation to help 65 parks across the country underwrite the Ticket to Ride program that helps students visit parks near them.

This year's grants touch such diverse parks as Devils Postpile National Monument in California and Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Kansas. Now in its third year, the program is dispensing $474,140 this year.

“We know that one of the greatest barriers keeping America’s youth from visiting their national parks is access to transportation,” said Neil Mulholland, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation. “Through our Ticket to Ride program, we eliminate that barrier and open up a world of experiential learning in our nation’s largest classrooms – our national parks – and help inspire stewardship of these treasured places.”

“For many students, the Ticket to Ride field trip will be their first visit to a national park,” added National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Thanks to these National Park Foundation grants, young people will have the opportunity to connect with America’s natural, cultural, and historical heritage, and begin a lifelong relationship with their national parks.”

The field trips will be done in collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations, including schools, youth groups, and national park friends groups.

The 2014 Ticket to Ride grantees include:

* Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

Students will participate in one of several in-park educational programs for their first time, strengthening their understanding of and appreciation for Blue Ridge Parkway and helping them connect to the entire National Park System. Depending on their grade level, students may experience first-hand Appalachian culture through traditional tools, bartering, music, and dance; explore geology and ecosystems and discover the story of plate tectonics and the creation of Blue Ridge Mountains; learn the role the park plays in preserving ecosystems as they explore a meadow, forest, and stream.

* Brown V. Board of Education National Historic Site, Kansas

Students will rediscover Freedom's Pathway in Topeka, Kansas, by experiencing the Underground Railroad at the historic Ritchie House, learning about Bleeding Kansas and the legislative process at the Kansas State Capitol, and exploring how segregation in America was demolished at Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. From territorial conflicts over slavery to the beginning of the civil rights movement with Brown v. Board of Education, students will experience the rich history of Kansas.

* Colorado National Monument, Colorado

Although Colorado National Monument is located only a few miles from the cities of Fruita and Grand Junction, many students in the local communities have never visited the park. Nearly 2,000 students from Title I schools will visit the park to engage in meaningful, hands-on educational opportunities to study the park's geologic wonders and ecological processes.

* Devils Postpile National Monument, California

Staff from this national park and their partners will travel with 20-30 Paiute youth from their high desert home to Channel Islands National Park, an uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean. Here they will discover a national park new to each of them. They will learn about native plants, and specifically how those plants were/are used by the Chumash people. This project will also integrate multigenerational learning by engaging tribal elders, parents, grandparents, and other family members.

For the full list of park grantees, and their projects, visit the Ticket to Ride page on the National Park Foundation website.