Get ideas for ways to engage students in protecting our local, state, and national parks. From picking up litter to building enthusiasm, find out how your students can make a difference.
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Leave No Trace
Leave No Trace is a set of ethics for interacting with the outdoors in a thoughtful, sustainable manner. Some of the basics include planning ahead to minimize waste, taking care not to disturb plants and animals, and hiking and camping in appropriate areas. Encourage kids to practice Leave No Trace to minimize their impact on natural spaces. For more about the Leave No Trace movement, go to https://lnt.org.
Turn a day picking up litter into a fun event for families, schools, or other groups. Meet at a park, schoolyard, or other outdoor space, and divide participants into teams. Give each team large trash bags marked in a distinctive way, such as by color. Teams collect trash, and the team that fills the most bags wins. Be sure to get permission for the clean-up from the appropriate place. You can ask for donations to use as prizes, and award prizes for the most trash collected, the most unusual trash item found, and even the team showing the most “flair” while collecting litter. Find more tips for organizing a clean-up.
Adopt a Park
Contact park rangers or other park supervisors to adopt a nearby park. Once you have permission, bring kids to your adopted park on a regular schedule, such as once a month, to participate in keeping the park clean and well-maintained. Following the park supervisor’s direction, kids can pick up litter, remove invasive species, mulch, and paint.
Create an Ad Campaign
Kids can encourage others to care about and protect a national, state, or local park by convincing them to visit the park. Have kids brainstorm ways they can promote their favorite park in their school or community. Some ideas to get you started include a poster campaign, intercom or radio announcements, a newspaper ad, a podcast about the park, speaking to community groups or other classes, or holding a special event in the park with a supervisor’s permission.
Love Your Park
The first step to encourage stewardship of our parks is to teach kids why our parks are important. Encourage kids to spend time outside in a natural setting. Go for hikes, go swimming, camp, and play games in local, state, and national parks. Encourage kids to ask questions and make observations about the natural world around us.
Hold a FUNdraiser
Kids can hold a FUNdraiser to raise money for a park conservation organization, such as the National Park Foundation . Have kids research organizations before committing to donating money. Some ideas for FUNdraisers include a park-themed bingo night, a raffle, a dance, a craft fair, a car wash, or a board game tournament.
Kids can get an early start on advocating for parks and conservation by researching conservation issues facing parks at a local, state, or national level. They can write a letter to an local leader asking them to help protect our parks. They should be sure to include specific actions they want their leaders to take to protect parks.
Host a Photo Contest
Kids can encourage others to see the beauty in a local, state, or national park by holding a park photo contest. The contest can be for photos from one park or from any park within a certain distance. Kids should find a place to display the photos, advertise the contest, and seek donations for prizes. Prizes can be given in several categories, such as by age, best close-up image, best landscape image, or best image of people in a park.