Youth & Family Programs Overview

The best way to care for America’s parks is to ensure that young people have access to them and understand their role in stewarding these priceless resources. Unfortunately, the rich diversity of our nation’s population is not reflected in today’s park visitor demographics, and many families, especially those in under-served communities are not comfortable visiting parks. 

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That’s why we work every day to introduce kids to parks where they can learn, play and be inspired to become America’s strongest, most diverse generation of park stewards.

Through our Youth & Family programs, National Park Trust provides fully immersive park experiences, removing common obstacles including a lack of funding for transportation and educational resources. We get kids to parks.

These transformative experiences go beyond school curriculum — park experiences bring us close to ourselves and expand who we are and could possibly be. Together, we can redefine what it means to be a park steward. We can inspire the next generation of caretakers, advocates, stargazers, climbers, paddlers, naturalists, historians, scientists, educators and dreamers.

During COVID-19, with many schools campuses across the country closed, we designed our innovative Buddy Bison Creative Learning Program to bring parks to kids.

We want everyone to experience the endless possibilities of our parks.

Buddy Bison Programs

Our Buddy Bison programs provide outdoor recreation opportunities and environmental education to elementary and middle schools in under-served communities. Through in-person and distance learning resources, National Park Trust provides experiences for students to learn from park rangers, naturalists, and other outdoor education professionals.

Kids to Parks Day

2021 marks the 11th anniversary of Kids to Parks Day, an annual day of outdoor exploration at local, state, and national parks and public lands across the country. Always hosted the third Saturday of May and organized by National Park Trust, the mission of Kids to Parks Day is to foster future outdoor enthusiasts and help with developing the next generation of park stewards by encouraging kids of all ages and their families to get outside and create their own park adventures.

Youth Leadership

The goal of the Buddy Bison Youth Leadership Program is to promote National Park Trust’s mission of preserving parks today and creating park stewards for tomorrow. Buddy Bison Youth Leaders are volunteers, grades 4 – 12, who educate children and families across the country about the benefits of our natural, cultural, and historical parks — because kids need parks and parks need kids!

PC: Friends of Katahdin Woods & Waters

Grants and Funding

National Park Trust offers numerous grant and funding opportunities throughout the year that support youth and family outdoor engagement programs.

NOW OPEN! Apply for a 2021 Kids to Parks Day School Grant.

Military Family Programs

National Park Trust works with different branches of the Armed Forces, active duty and gold star families, and veterans to help military-connected families experience parks and engage in outdoor recreation.

Resources & Activities

Looking for easy ways to connect with nature from home? We have you covered! Turn your yard, neighborhood trail, or even your windowsill into an untapped educational park experience with our wooly mascot Buddy Bison. Check out these activities and resources that will help elementary and middle school-aged kids stay engaged with the outdoors no matter where they call home.