Did you know that studies have shown a link between the time children spend in natural settings and increased brain activity and higher test scores? Research also reveals lower incidences of bullying, ADHD and depression in kids that play outside!
Nature is an amazing classroom and yet children today spend more time in front of a screen than outdoors. It’s a sad fact in today’s modern world, but this past February President Obama announced a new program to help change that. He called on families all over our country to explore America’s great outdoors together and to encourage them to do so, he announced The Every Kid in a Park initiative.
This program provides every fourth-grader in the nation a 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. The Every Kid in a Park pass is now available and will be good for the 2015-2016 school year until August 31, 2016.
Not in the 4th Grade? No problem.
Even if your child isn’t in the 4th grade this year there are still plenty of opportunities to explore our nation’s parks with your family. The Junior Rangers is an activity based program conducted in almost all parks, and some Junior Ranger programs are national. Interested youth complete a series of activities during a park visit, share their answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger patch and Junior Ranger certificate.
The National Park Service also offers several Free Park Days throughout the year and there are two left this year including one at the end of this month!
Closer to Home
Exploring our country’s national parks should definitely be on your to-do list but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention all the incredible opportunities your child has to explore and play outdoors right here in the Tennessee Valley.
Operation Green Team
The Land Trust of North Alabama
Alabama’s first land trust, this organization’s mission is to “protect and steward significant and vulnerable natural, scenic, and historic areas to help ensure that our cherished natural resources will be here for all to enjoy for years to come.” As such, they provide numerous opportunities to explore nature including free programs such as Tuesdays on the Trail (summer) and guided hikes (spring/fall). You can also download great trail maps from their site and if you are a member you can now request a free trail map app.
Huntsville, Madison, Madison Co. Parks
Our surrounding area is also blessed with more than 100 parks that are wonderful places to enjoy the outdoors. If you’re wondering which ones are closest to you we happen to know of a free smartphone app that can help! Not only does it list all the parks in Huntsville, Madison, and Madison County (as well as parks in Decatur, Athens, Hartselle, and more) but it lists their amenities, and if your GPS is turned on you can get a map/directions straight to any park you choose. #EasyPeasy
Jennifer is the creator and co-editor of Rocket City Mom. She is also a compulsive writer, avid reader, occasional singer and former communications wizard turned toddler wrangler. You can often spot her and her little ones cruising the kiddie hot-spots in their "Rocket Van".