Calling all fourth graders and their families! Fourth graders can get free admission to all federal parks, lands and waters of the National Parks Service (NPS) through the Every Kid in a Park program, which is supported by the National Parks Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks. And this week, National Parks Week, is the perfect time to register and plan a trip!
Kids who are in the fourth grade (or the home-school equivalent) can get a pass online here. After playing a short game about where and what they’d most like to see, kids earn their free pass that must be printed to be used. (Electronic versions are not accepted.) At some NPS locations fourth graders can exchange the paper pass for a plastic one. Passes for kids in fourth grade during the 2017-18 school year expire on August 31, 2018.
The pass admits the fourth grader, all children under 16 and up to three adults for free at sites that charges entrance fees per person. At sites that charges vehicle entrance fees, the pass admits all children under 16 and all adults in up to one passenger vehicle. Some sites are managed by private operators, so be safe and check ahead to see if they honor the pass.
NPS Ranger Merrith Baughman, Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan, says fourth grade is a particularly wonderful time for children to explore the national parks. “It’s a fantastic age to come to the park when rangers can have fun with them and they can learn a lot, too. They’re can understand higher concepts,” she says.
“Fourth graders are very open to exploring and learning about the world around them, including the nature and history of the parks,” Baughman adds.
She also notes that while free admission is nice, admission to NPS sites is reasonable, often costing less than it would to take your family to a movie. A pass to Sleeping Bear Dunes is $20 for a week.
“Part of our job is to provide unique learning opportunities for families,” says Baughman. The free Junior Ranger program is especially popular with kids of all ages and designed to help families explore parts of parks that they may otherwise miss. When kids complete a booklet, a ranger spends some time with them going through the booklet and awarding them a badge and certificate.
There are 417 sites in the nation, which leads Baughman to say that the National Parks Service is “the biggest learning entity in the country.”
So get your free pass and go see of those sites, and our national wonders.