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Where has Buddy Bison been? Guess this park. Photo courtesy of Frank Lee Ruggles

Exploring parks in the winter can show you a whole new side to nature and our landscapes. Animals can be more active searching for food, it will be cooler (sometimes really cold) and views open up with reduced tree cover. The National Park Service is helping us get outside by making all national parks free today for Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday. Did you know he has his own memorial in Washington, D.C.?

I also want to help you get outside so check out our Kids to Parks Day National School Contest below and enter your class by March 2nd. What are you waiting for? Enter today!

“Explore outdoors, the parks are yours!”

Your friend,

Buddy Bison

Fredonia Elementary, AZ in Zion National Park.

Our Kids to Parks Day National School Contest is officially open!

I know what you’re thinking: it’s only January and summer seems so far away. Well, wouldn’t it be amazing if you and your classmates had a fun park trip to look forward to this spring? Kids to Parks Day is May 16th and students and teachers across the country have the opportunity to apply for our Kids to Parks Day National School Contest through Monday, March 2nd. The contest is open to all schools across the country grades preK through 12 and students can win park scholarships up to $1,000. Click here for application details. Priority will be given to schools from under-served communities.

Last year, 43 schools were awarded scholarships. Read what Marcie Adame, a health and PE instructor at the Kimberlin Academy of Excellence in Garland, TX, had to say last year about their scholarship:

“We are very appreciative of the connections that we created between our students and their environment, their park, and their community. Thank you for helping us inspire a new generation to appreciate and be stewards of the world around them, but especially, the ones in their own backyard.”

Buddy Bison’s Photography Corner

One of the best ways to remember the fun times we have while exploring America's national parks is with photographs. By taking snapshots of your adventures, you can share the experience with your friends and family after you return back home. Here's what our Artist Ambassador Frank Lee Ruggles says about the "The Photographer's Circle". 

There is a challenge to shooting in the national parks: They are almost TOO beautiful! When photographers get to a particularly amazing spot in a national park, they often just stop and use their cameras from that very spot. It's easy to get distracted by a really beautiful scene, only to get home and realize that every photo has a big trash can or power lines in the background. You have to get used to moving around.

To really capture the best images, use "The Photographer's Circle". This Circle is a simple principle: just take a few moments to walk around your subject and look at it from many angles; you'll find one that stands out as the "best" shot. Chances are it's not exactly where you were standing when you first decided you wanted to take a photo of the scene. Sometimes you walk around the outside of your subject (a tree perhaps) to find the best angle; sometimes you walk inside the circle. The most important thing is to explore many different angles instead of just choosing the first spot. Not only will you bring home better photos...but better memories too, as you will have explored the park in a way that few ever get a chance to do. 
Figure A Figure B

Hickman Arch in Capitol Reef National Park, UT is a stunning sight when you come around the curve in the trail to see the arch for the first time. Common sense says to stop and take a photo from THAT VERY SPOT (See Figure A above), but in this case, the image from the other side of the arch is a much better way to tell the story of Hickman Arch (Figure B). If you look close, in the middle of the arch is a cliff that looks a little like the U.S. Capitol Building. 

I'll see you next month. Frank


Reflecting on the Past, Looking to the Future

As you look forward to 2015 and reflect on 2014, take a minute and think about all the amazing people you met and beautiful places you visited last year. Check out my video above to see where we’ve been together this past year. And send us your photos from this year to! Don't forget to mark your calendar for the 5th annual Kids to Parks Day on Saturday, May 16th.

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