Using Parks as Natural Classrooms

Sunday, February 14, 2016: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Wilson B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Jason Urroz, Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Asheville, NC
Kids and families can find science in unexpected places, but they can’t do it if they’re sitting at home on the couch. Recent studies suggest kids spend as much as 7.5 hours per day interacting with electronic media vs. only 4-7 minutes participating in unstructured outdoor play. To reverse these trends, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation partnered with the National Park Service and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation to create the Kids in Parks TRACK Trail program. Originally designed to promote healthy outdoor activity along the Blue Ridge Parkway, the program has grown into a national network of more than 130 trails in seven states and Washington, D.C., including a trail at the White House.

Each of the program’s TRACK Trails offers a series of self-guided brochures that turn an ordinary hike into a fun-filled, discovery-packed adventure that immerses kids and families in science practices and content. The brochures encourage visitors to explore nature-based topics, including trees, birds, flowers, ferns, lichen, biodiversity, and more.

Now, Kids in Parks is targeting science engagement through its newest type of TRACK Trail–Citizen Science/STEM Trails. Through a partnership with PBS Kids PLUM LANDING, SciStarter, and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the program is developing TRACK Trails that integrate citizen science projects and hands-on science activities.

During this presentation, Jason Urroz, the Director of Kids in Parks, will discuss the design, history and national expansion of the program, as well as examine the development of citizen science specific TRACK Trails. Participants will learn how to incorporate similar tactics, materials and partnerships at their sites to engage kids and families with science through exploration and outdoor adventure.