New Year’s Resolution from National Park Service Director Mary A. Bomar
As Director of the National Park Service, I have spoken across the country of our children being “seduced by the dark side of video games.” That may sound harsh—but it reflects the grim reality that too many kids spend too much time in front of the television, and too little time in healthy outdoor recreation
Across the country, teachers bemoan a lack of knowledge about our nation’s history. As I often point out in my speeches. “More people know Homer Simpson’s hometown than Abraham Lincoln’s.” (Yes, they are both from the town of Springfield.)
As we become an increasingly sedentary society, it is important to set aside time to get up and get moving. A walk through a national park with your child promotes family bonding, a healthy lifestyle, and countless opportunities for discovery.
National parks are the real deal—and places where kids can be hands on. Lat year, we enrolled 565,000 new Junior Rangers after they completed activities at a national park. Just about every national park offers this free program that guides children through site-specific activities. We engaged kids and their families with “bioblitzes,” a quick inventory of all living things in an area. Throughout the country, kids can borrow “discovery backpacks,” visit “exploration stations,” attend ranger programs, or participate in living history demonstrations. We introduced hundreds of thousands to urban archeology at places like Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, and told the story of Africans enslaved just a block away from Independence Hall.
We are not against technology—if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! As a visitor, you can hear the Gettysburg Address on your cell phone while visiting the Lincoln Memorial, and hear about President Harry Truman while strolling through his neighborhood in Independence Missouri.
All across the country, park rangers are turning into podcasters. Hundreds of brief audio and video programs are up on park websites, giving visitors a new national park experience. People can learn about park resources, take a guided tour, get help planning trips, and, best of all, meet actual rangers.
We have a website for children at www.nps.gov/kidszone with online games that are both fun AND educational. There are activities about wild animals, caves, soldiers, working dogs, archeology, and much more. Children can create their own ranger station, view webcams, and sample the Junior Ranger program.
I always say that national parks are special places that unite all of us as American. But they can also enlighten, comfort and keep us healthy as well. So do your kids a favor and visit one of the 391 national park sites across this country. Help them discover their America—without a joystick in their hands!