Inspiring Local Youth
Zion National Park has a long tradition of inspiring and working with local and national elementary schools to develop learning in young children. For many, Zion National Park is synonymous with “sanctuary” and “refuge.” The park staff hope to continue inspiring future generations to feel the same way about the park.
The park‘s goal is to promote a deeper connection to nature among the younger generation and to inspire them to enjoy and take better care of public lands when they are older. To accomplish this, the park hosts 40 full-day field trips for underserved fourth graders in Washington, Iron, and Kane counties in southern Utah. These students come from Title I schools, where at least 40 percent of the student population live in federally-defined low-income households. This program provides the opportunity for many students who would otherwise not visit the park to have their first Zion experience. Polling during previous field trips shows that approximately half of the students participating in these experiences have never visited Zion despite the park being right in their backyard.
During these full-day field trips, rangers focus on park stewardship and educating principles like leave-no-trace that encourage responsible recreation in the outdoors. Rangers also work to integrate elements of social and emotional learning into these guided experiences by introducing the concept of nature and the outdoors as a place for reflection and inspiration. Rangers educate visitors on the value that Zion and its fellow National Park Service sites have for stress reduction and resiliency building. This proactive social-emotional learning aligns with the Utah State Board of Education goals of implementing techniques to help students cope with the pandemic and other future challenges. Local schools, in line with the park, have identified social-emotional learning as a top priority.
Your contributions will help ensure that these formative, foundational forays into nature can continue to inspire participants to become better public lands stewards as they assume leadership roles in the future.