This semester I’ve had the pleasure of interning for the Umatilla Forest Service in partnership with the Blue Mountain Land Trust. As an intern, I’ve been in charge of promoting a program called Every Kid in a Park to all of the schools that fall within the region of the Umatilla Forest Service in southeast Washington and northeast Oregon. Every Kid in a Park is a White House initiative that was launched in 2015 that aims to build a generation of outdoor stewards that will appreciate and protect our country’s diverse federal lands and waters. The program aims to do this by giving every fourth grader the opportunity to visit National Parks and public lands with their family for free, and providing teachers and community leaders with valuable educational resources to teach about topics like ecology, environmental stewardship, First Nations, and citizen science. The program is targeted at 4th graders with the idea that this is an impactful time to connect with nature and learn about the environment.
Throughout the semester, I’ve been working to find the best way to distribute information and resources about the program broadly to all 4th grade teachers in the region. Much of this has included sending large emails out to all of the 4th grade teachers (50+ teachers), simply to let them know about what resources are available to them, and specifically encouraging them to print out and distribute the National Parks and public lands free passes to their students. Luckily, my internship has included more than sending out large emails remotely from the library, and I have worked to connect to and collaborate with Walla Walla teachers and schools as well. I’ve had the opportunity to interact with principals, teachers, parents and students directly.
One of my personal goals for the semester has been to distribute as many National Park and Public Land free passes as possible. Although it has been a challenge to reach the schools in the areas of the region that are further away and that I can’t work with directly, I have had greater success distributing passes at the schools in Walla Walla. One of the ways that I have been able to give out passes and talk to parents and students in person has been through getting involved in the Science Nights that are put on by Whitman at each of the elementary schools. At Science Night I have my own table with activities, information about Every Kid in a Park, and free passes for any 4th graders or their family members that come by. This has been a wonderful opportunity to get out into the schools and talk to kids and families directly about the program, and not to mention have a lot of fun doing activities and talking about how amazing trees are with excited elementary school students. Attending Science Nights has definitely been a highlight of my internship thus far.
I’ve gained valuable experience through my successes as well as failures, as I continued to reach out to teachers and work with schools in promoting Every Kid in a Park. It has been uplifting every time I get an enthusiastic email from a teacher, talk to a 4th grade parent about what their family will do with their pass, or get support from a school that wants to instill values of environmental stewardship in their students. Overall, I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to be working with the Umatilla Forest Service and Blue Mountain Land Trust in promoting this amazing and impactful program.