Santa Monica Mountains Nat’l Recreation Area Receives Grant That Will Virtually Bring 4th Graders to the Park

Rangers engage students on topics related to local public lands

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

Since September of 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 parks in the Los Angeles area through various and virtual educational programs.

“Before COVID, all programs were in-person experiences, and transportation was funded through this grant,” said David Szymanski, park superintendent. “I’m proud of our team for being able to pivot during the pandemic and bring the scenic outdoors into these classrooms miles away. The programs are still fully participatory. For instance, students can direct rangers who are transmitting from here in the mountains and ask them to turn and hike in a particular direction. They can also directly chat 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-wildland interfaces, wildlife, and plants. Through discussion-led programs, students also learn about connections to the past and present heritage of local Indigenous peoples. 

Since 2011, NPF has engaged more than one million students in educational programs connecting them with national parks across the country. NPF’s goal is to connect another one million students to parks by the end of the 2024-25 school year.

“National parks are America’s largest classrooms, and Open OutDoors for Kids seeks to connect as many kids as possible to them,” said National Park Foundation President and CEO Will Shafroth. “With parks, learning is fun, memorable, and hands-on. Parks open kids’ eyes to the wonder and complexities of nature and history, sharing diverse perspectives that offer a wider understanding of our country’s progress and struggles.”

The NPF Open OutDoors for Kids program is made possible by private philanthropy, including support from Youth Engagement and Education premier partner Union Pacific Railroad, and supporting partner GoGo 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 with national parks as classrooms.

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