By Deputy Secretary Michael L. Connor
Public lands and waters are America’s living classrooms. They provide hands-on, real-world opportunities for students to develop skills and learn more about the natural world. And now, thanks to new funding, it will be easier for 4th graders to visit our nation’s outdoor spaces.
The Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation -- founded by musician Jack Johnson and his wife Kim -- is donating $25,000 to support field trips for 4th-graders across the country. Their generous contribution supports President Obama’s Every Kid in a Park program. Started last September, this initiative gives 4th-graders nationwide a free pass for them and their families to explore America’s national public lands and waters for a full year.
Connecting our nation’s youth to the great outdoors is important in an era when most children spend more time on computers and smartphones than exploring nature. Still, we know getting outdoors is difficult for some students, particularly those from underserved communities.
To help change that, the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation is working in partnership with the Department of the Interior and DonorsChoose.org, a crowdfunding platform for teachers. Teachers can apply for fieldtrip funding by posting a request at www.donorschoose.org/teachers and can learn more on their Partner Funding Opportunities page. The Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation will select teachers to receive funding to help cover transportation to a U.S. national park, forest, wildlife refuge or other national public lands and waters.
This round of funding is one more way the Johnsons are helping kids discover the great outdoors. Last November, I joined Kim and Jack Johnson at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on the North Shore of O‘ahu. There, we announced a partnership with the Johnson’s Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation to fund $100,000 worth of field trip grants, with the goal of reaching all 17,000 fourth-grade students in the state of Hawai‘i.
We handed out passes to more than 200 local 4th-graders and helped them complete fun, educational activities like planting native plants and dissecting an albatross bolus (a lump of chewed food to see what the bird ate).
Partnerships like the one with the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation are helping more 4th-graders learn while exploring the history and nature in their backyards and beyond. We look forward to continuing to work with the Johnsons and our other partners to enhance students’ appreciation and understanding of our communities and natural world.