While it’s back to school time, that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the opportunity to get outdoors. To encourage more children to get outdoors, fourth-graders and their families can print an Every Kid in a Park pass that grants free entry into all federal parks, forests and recreation areas for a full year.
Students, or families, can print out the pass by going to the Every Kid in a Park website at everykidinapark.gov. Teachers or adults who engage fourth-graders through a youth-serving organization also can print paper passes, and find activities and lesson plans on the website.
According to The Nature Conservancy, in a typical week, only 6 percent of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own, and kids 8-18 spend 53 hours a week using entertainment media.
The paper voucher also can be redeemed for a plastic pass at any U.S. Forest Service office. Electronic versions of the pass, which is valid through Aug. 31, 2017, will not be accepted.
If you visit a location that charges an entrance fee per person, such as the Johnston Ridge Observatory at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, the pass will admit all children under the age of 16 and up to three adults for free. If you visit a site that charges a vehicle entrance fee, such as Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks, the pass will admit all children under 16 and all adults in one passenger vehicle. The pass will not work for commercial vehicles.
The pass also is good at Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.
That pass does not cover such as parking, camping, boats and special tours.
The free pass program began last fall.
“We want to make sure that every American has the opportunity to develop a lifelong connection to our nation’s land, water and wildlife,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a release announcing the program last year.
Today, more than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and many lack easy access to safe outdoor spaces, according to a Forest Service news release.
At the same time, kids are spending more hours than ever in front of electronic screens instead of going outside. According to The Nature Conservancy, in a typical week, only 6 percent of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own, and kids 8-18 spend 53 hours a week using entertainment media.
Research shows children ages 9-11 are at the stage in their learning where they begin to understand how the world around them works in more concrete ways, according to the news release. By making the pass available to fourth-graders, the program gives every child in the country the opportunity to visit and enjoy their public lands by the time he or she is 11 years old.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640