Oh, fourth grade—it’s the year those massive social studies books can handed out, kids are asked to memorize that long list of state capitals and hundreds of 9 year olds will stand up in front of the class and quote Abraham Lincoln: “Four score and seven years ago…” Well, fourth grade just got more interesting. Starting in the 2015 school year, fourth graders across the country are invited visit to 200-year-old redwoods, encounter a forest of Seuss-like Joshua trees and trek across Death Valley—all without paying a cent in park admissions fees.
Photo: National Park Foundation
The Gift of Nature
Last week President Obama announced the Every Kid in Park Initiative, which will offer free admission to every single fourth grader and their families to all of America’s national parks, forests, monuments, and other federal lands and waters for a year, starting in September. The free annual pass is valued at $80, and includes admission to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including Yosemite, Yellowstone and Grand Canyon national parks.
A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that young people spend an average of more than seven hours a day looking at screens, from computers to smart phones to TV. That’s 53 hours a week—more than a full-time job, yikes! “Young people are spending more time in front of screens than outside,” the White House wrote on its website, “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.”
Photo: Joshua Tree by lucas via Flickr
Where to Go
Are you the lucky family of a fourth grader? Well, now the challenge is how to make the most of your year of unlimited park visits. Here is a list of the 10 best National Park sites in California (and here’s a full list). From the nearby Muir Woods and Point Reyes Seashore to the further afield (but worth the trip) Yosemite and Joshua Tree, these parks offer breathtaking scenery, plants and animals that will amaze visitors of any age and endless options for adventure. Get out there!
1. Muir Woods
Photo: Yosimte by AngryJulieMonday via Flickr
Photo: Point Reyes by Rajender Dayal via Flickr
6. Joshua Tree
8. Death Valley
Photo: Death Valley by David~O via Flickr
Do you have a fourth grader in the family? Are you planning to visit any National Parks? Tell us in the comments below!