“Save All of the Natural Things”
Schoolkids in California Share What They Love Most about National Parks
“Who do the national parks belong to?”
My colleague Kari Kiser, Pacific Regional Council Chairman Michael Malaga, and I posed this question to hundreds of Bay Area schoolchildren last month at Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California. The answers varied from “the police” to “the government” to “my parents.”
Whenever children replied, “all of us,” we showered them with high-fives and praise for getting the correct answer!
The three of us were representing NPCA alongside more than 30 other educational organizations as part of the 2014 BioBlitz, a partnership between the National Park Service and National Geographic to inventory and discover national park species and promote outdoor learning. As an activity for the children, we connected to the National Park Service’s upcoming centennial celebration by presenting them with a birthday cake drawing to color and a fill-in-the-blank message: “I want my national parks fully funded by their 100th birthday so I can _________.”
While answers ranged across the board, we were most impressed by the kids’ understanding that our national parks house incredibly rich ecosystems and are home to a wide range of animals that they want to protect. Some said that they wanted the parks to be funded for future children to enjoy. One child, apparently impacted by last year’s sequestration, filled in “use the bathroom”; his mother recalled closed restrooms at a national park visit last summer. Aspiring national park rangers were also in our midst, as some mentioned employment goals within the park system. And unsurprisingly, “play” was a common theme for people of all ages—we couldn’t agree more!
At the end of the day, we were hoarse and ready for naps, but elated from the experience (a big shout out to teachers and interpretive rangers who interact with these inquisitive, excited kids on a daily basis!). While inventory teams found more than 2,300 species within the expansive Golden Gate National Recreation Area, including 80 species new to the park, I was delighted to uncover hundreds of youthful national park supporters as well!