The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, welcomed fourth-grade students to several of their recreation projects for a day of outdoor education and fun as part of Every Kid in a Park (EKIP), which is a White House initiative aimed at getting children to visit and enjoy America’s public lands and waters.
Pennsylvania-based Raystown and Tioga-Hammond and Cowanesque lakes both received a 2015 field trip grant from the National Park Foundation (NPF), the official charity of America’s national parks, which helped facilitate the children’s visit. As part of NPF’s Open OutDoors for Kids program, the EKIP transportation grant seeks to remove barriers to accessing America’s federal public lands and waters, with special focus on underserved or urban communities.
Raystown Lake hosted nearly 100 Southern Huntingdon School District fourth graders, May 10-11, 2016. During their visit, the students participated in a new water education program, Raystown Lake: Protecting your Future, One Drop at a Time! The program provided students an understanding of the value of water resources in their community, as well as the importance of fresh-water quality and quantity for all living things. They also explored water impacts and conservation methods, and learned about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ mission in providing water-based needs to the Raystown Lake area and surrounding communities.
Tioga-Hammond and Cowanesque Lakes hosted more than 500 fourth-grade students from various local schools, including Don Gill, Westfield, Clark Wood, and RB Walter Elementary Schools, May 16; Warren L. Miller, Liberty, and Troy Elementary Schools, May 18; and Blossburg Elementary School, May 24, 2016. Corps park rangers educated the children on local flora and fauna, and guided them through various water-safety exercises, including a life jacket relay race.
"This opportunity provides essential learning for the summer coming up,” said Jeff Manikowski, Blossburg Elementary School fourth-grade teacher. “Allowing kids to learn about the outdoors will inspire them to go outside more."
EKIP was launched in conjunction with the 100th birthday of the National Park Service in 2016, at a time when youth is spending less and less time outdoors. Today, more than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and many lack easy access to safe outdoor spaces.
“It is inspiring to see the National Park Foundation and many other partners step up to support our goal of getting fourth graders and their families into parks, public lands and waters that belong to all Americans," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. "These generous grants will ensure children across the country have an opportunity to experience the great outdoors in their community while developing a lifelong connection to our nation’s land, water and wildlife."
One hundred eighty-six transportation grants were awarded to various federal agencies throughout 2015, including the Corps National Park Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.