Every Kid in a Park

December 1, 2016

We’re excited to announce that Cleveland has been designated a “focus city” for the Every Kid in a Park program this school year!This national initiative aims to give fourth graders free access to public lands and waters. Here in CVNP, the National Park Foundation has given $210,000 to bring Cleveland youth to our national park. In the coming year, the Conservancy will strive to bring 8,000 Cleveland-area students to CVNP as part of Every Kid in a Park—above and beyond the 9,000 students we serve annually.

Cleveland is one of only nine focus cities chosen throughout the country, so we are greatly honored to be part of this program. The field trip grant, part of the Foundation’s Open OutDoors for Kids program, will support transportation for fourth grade classes in the Cleveland area to visit the Cuyahoga Valley.

Come One, Come All

The Every Kid in a Park initiative began on September 1, 2015. Its vision is to give every fourth grader in the country free access to public lands and waters.

When they receive their park pass, current fourth graders and their families have free access to more than 2,000 federally managed lands and waters across the country. From national parks like the Cuyahoga Valley to national historic sites, forests, and wildlife refuges, America’s youth have an opportunity to explore the wonders of nature.

Connecting youth to the outdoors is now more important than ever, with over 80 percent of our population living in cities and kids spending more and more time looking at screens. Particularly for youth who may have never experienced the magic of the Cuyahoga Valley or similar areas, an outdoor adventure can be life-changing.

Kids in the Cuyahoga Valley

Here in CVNP, the Conservancy has partnered with the National Park Service to bring fourth graders from the Cleveland-Akron area to the park.

“Every Kid in a Park is a tremendous opportunity to introduce children to the outdoors, especially those who live in urban areas and may rarely travel outside the city,” said Deb Yandala, CEO of the Conservancy. “It’s a chance for everyone to experience something new.”

During the 2015-2016 school year, the Conservancy’s Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center (CVEEC) welcomed 1,300 fourth graders to the park for Every Kid in a Park programs.

From Cleveland Metropolitan School District, students attended Low Bridge, Everybody Down at the Canal Exploration Center, where they learned about the history and importance of the Ohio & Erie Canal. They helped operate a working lock, explored interpretive exhibits, and took a short hike on the Towpath Trail. They also talked about the canal’s impact on the country’s trade, travel, and daily life.

“Many of the Hispanic and African American students add rich layers of discussion when we visit the exhibits about immigration and travel,” said one of the programs instructors. “Trying on clothes from the past is also a huge hit!”

Similarly, Akron Public Schools students attended the Rockin’ at the Run day program from the CVEEC. During the program, they hiked trails in the park to learn about the geology of the valley, including different types of bedrock, geologic time scales, and microclimates. They also learned how rocks were created, reaching millions of years back in time, and talked about how humans have influenced the landscape.

Beyond the academic aspect of both programs, children get a chance to experience their national park firsthand. They hold ancient rocks in their hands, see a working lock in action, and stretch their legs on trails that early settlers once walked. By creating a physical connection with the national park—perhaps for the first time—they can begin to understand its value.

After each program, students receive their official Every Kid in a Park pass. Although access to CVNP is already free, they can now visit any other national parks or public lands/waters without paying for admission.

The Next Generation of National Park Stewards

In the coming year, the Conservancy will aim to bring 8,000 Cleveland-area students to CVNP as part of Every Kid in a Park. Many of these students may have never visited a national park.

By introducing children to outdoor adventures at a young age, the Conservancy and our national park aim to spark a lifelong love for wild places—and their history and preservation.

“Now that they know so much about the park, they can return with family and friends and show itoff themselves,” said a CVEEC instructor. “They’re empowered to show their new knowledge, and excited to use their park passes to explore more.”

Being in the park gives children a chance to step away from their phones and social media apps. They see, touch, hear, taste, and smell the real world: its animals, trees, and stones. They form a connection to a physical place.

We’re grateful to all of the donors, volunteers, and advocates who are helping create the next generation of national park stewards.


In Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Every Kid in a Park initiative is possible only because of outside funding. Thank you to all of the donors who so generously contributed to cover program fees, transportation, and other expenses for Cleveland and Akron students during the program’s initial year in 2015-2016:

  • The Abington Foundation
  • Akron General Medical Center
  • The Andrews Foundation
  • ArcelorMittal
  • Cleveland Clinic
  • Kelvin & Eleanor Smith Foundation
  • National Park Foundation

Learn more about Every Kid in a Park in CVNP >