From sea to shining sea, our country is home to gorgeous landscapes, vibrant waterways, and historic treasures that all Americans can enjoy. But right now, young people are spending more time in front of screens than outside, and that means they are missing out on valuable opportunities to explore, learn, and play in the spectacular outdoor places that belong to all of them.
President Obama is committed to giving every kid the chance to explore America’s great outdoors and unique history. That’s why today he launched the Every Kid in a Park initiative, which calls on each of our agencies to help get all children to visit and enjoy the outdoors and inspire a new generation of Americans to experience their country’s unrivaled public lands and waters. Starting in September, every fourth-grader in the nation will receive an “Every Kid in a Park” pass that’s good for free admission to all of America’s federal lands and waters -- for them and their families -- for a full year.
Because we know that a big reason many kids don’t visit these places is that they can’t get there easily, we will also help schools and families arrange field trips and visits by providing key trip-planning tools and helping to cover transportation costs for schools with the greatest financial need. For example, the National Park Foundation -- the congressionally chartered foundation of the National Park Service -- is expanding its program to award transportation grants for kids to visit parks, lands, and waters. The President has also requested new funding in his FY 2016 Budget to support youth education programs and to support transportation for school outings to parks for students from low-income areas.
And because the great outdoors is one of our greatest classrooms, we are making sure that more kids can benefit from the wide range of educational programs and tools that already exist. For example, a number of our agencies participate in Hands on the Land, a national network connecting students, teachers, families, and volunteers with public lands and waterways. And the National Park Service is launching a revised education portal featuring more than 1,000 materials developed for K-12 teachers, including science labs, lesson plans, and field trip guides. With this kind of support, we can help our children become lifelong learners -- both inside and outside the classroom.
Along with the Every Kid in a Park Initiative, the President today announced he is designating three new national monuments to permanently protect sites unique to our Nation’s extraordinary history and natural heritage. In fact, the President has protected more acres of public lands and waters through the Antiquities Act than any other administration. Together, these actions will help us make sure young people will get to experience for themselves some of America’s greatest assets.
We hope that these efforts mean that next year, fourth-graders in Chicago will learn how activists in their city prompted the 20th century labor and civil rights movement at the Pullman National Monument, that an elementary school class in Colorado will discover the spectacular landscape of Browns Canyon National Monument, and that kids in Hawaii will learn more about the tremendous value of our civil rights at the Honouliuli National Monument. And decades from now, those children will get to share America’s heritage and wonder with their own families.
The Pullman National Monument will preserve and highlight America’s first planned industrial town, and a site that tells important stories about the social dynamics of the industrial revolution, of American opportunity and discrimination, and of the rise of labor unions and the struggle for civil rights and economic opportunity for African Americans and other minorities. Photo courtesy of Office of State Historic Sites, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
Browns Canyon National Monument in Colorado will protect a stunning section of Colorado’s upper Arkansas River Valley. Located in Chaffee County near the town of Salida, Colorado, the 21,586-acre monument features rugged granite cliffs, colorful rock outcroppings, and mountain vistas that are home to a diversity of plants and wildlife, including bighorn sheep and golden eagles. In addition to supporting a vibrant outdoor recreation economy, the designation will protect the critical watershed and honor existing water rights and uses. Photo by Bob Wick, U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management.
Honouliuli National Monument in Hawaii permanently protects a site where Japanese American citizens, resident immigrants, and prisoners of war were held captive during World War II. Located on the island of Oahu, the monument will help tell the difficult story of the internment camp’s impact on the Japanese American community and the fragility of civil rights during times of conflict. Photo by R.H. Lodge, courtesy Hawaii’s Plantation Village.
Arne Duncan is Secretary of Education.
Sally Jewell is Secretary of the Interior.
Tom Vilsack is Secretary of Agriculture.
Jo-Ellen Darcy is Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.
Kathryn Sullivan is Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at the Department of Commerce, NOAA.