Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area receives grant that will practically bring 4th graders to the park

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Rangers engage students on topics related to local public lands

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area recently received an Open OutDoors for Kids grant from the National Park Foundation (NPF). This grant will allow 4th grade students from Title I schools in Los Angeles and Ventura counties to virtually engage with rangers in the nation’s largest urban national park.

Since September 2021, the National Park Service has reached 9,666 students through 119 programs in conjunction with California State Parks. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, students are still getting a taste of what it’s like to visit the Santa Monica Mountains and other Los Angeles-area parks through various virtual educational programs.

“Before COVID, all programs were in-person experiences and transportation was funded by this grant,” said park superintendent David Szymanski. “I’m proud of our team for being able to pivot during the pandemic and bring the scenic outdoors to these classrooms miles away. The programs are always fully participatory. For example, students can direct the rangers transmitting from here into the mountains and ask them to turn and walk in a particular direction. They can also chat directly with the rangers, ask questions and discuss topics.

Rangers engage students on topics related to local public lands. These include animal adaptations, the balance of urban-wildlife interfaces, wildlife and plants. Through discussion-based programs, students also learn about connections to the past and present heritage of local Indigenous peoples.

Since 2011, the NPF has engaged more than one million students in educational programs connecting them to national parks across the country. The NPF’s goal is to connect another million students to parks by the end of the 2024-2025 school year.

“National parks are America’s greatest classrooms, and Open OutDoors for Kids seeks to connect as many children there as possible,” said Will Shafroth, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation. “With parks, learning is fun, memorable and hands-on. Parks open children’s eyes to the wonders and complexities of nature and history, sharing diverse perspectives that provide a broader understanding of our nation’s progress and struggles.

The NPF Open OutDoors for Kids program is made possible through private philanthropy, including support from lead youth engagement and education partner, Union Pacific Railroad, and GoGo supporting partner squeeZ. Additional funding is provided by Alicia and Peter Pond, Apple, Columbia Sportswear, Sierra, Parks Project, Humana, The Batchelor Foundation, Inc. and many other donors.

Learn more about NPF’s efforts to engage students in national parks as classrooms.

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