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Can you guess this park? Photo courtesy of Chris Rief Photography.

600,000 participants! That’s the number of kids and families that got outdoors on Kids to Parks Day 2015. This year's event on Saturday, May 16 was a tremendous success thanks to our oodles of collaborators across the country. Click here to see the buzz about the day including the tweets and blog from First Lady Michelle Obama and the Let's Move! office. Then watch our fun 90-second video that summarizes the day. 

Thank you to all our participants! Remember to keep the fun park adventures going this summer after school is out. June is Great Outdoors Month; find new events this month for more ways to enjoy your parks. Plan a fun park trip with your dad or granddad for Father's Day on Sunday, June 21.

Finally, in the spirit of the the First Lady's #GimmeFive initiative, check out the five stories below to see where Buddy Bison has been - it's been a super busy spring! Then tell me what parks YOU are visiting this summer at

Your friend,

Buddy Bison

Students from KIPP SPARK and Fairmount Elementary at Military Park (Newark, NJ).

Newark Kids Kick Off Kids to Parks Day

If you happened to be walking around the streets of downtown Newark on Friday, May 15, then you may have seen me with 200 new friends. We celebrated our Kids to Parks Day national kick-off event at Military Park thanks to a generous sponsorship from Prudential Financial. More than 200 third-graders from KIPP SPARK and Fairmount Elementary arrived with huge smiles in anticipation of the many fun and educational activities planned for the day – and of course to meet me, Buddy Bison! The activities were hosted by Newark Yoga Movement, the New Jersey Historical Society, Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Thomas Edison National Historical Site, Greater Newark Conservancy, Essex County Environmental Center, and the City of Newark, Division of Recreation.

Thank you to all of our Prudential Financial volunteers, the Military Park Partnership, and program partners for making this a truly memorable day for the students. Click here for photos from the event and also watch our kick-off video.

Students from EW Stokes Public Charter School celebrate with climbing icon Tommy Caldwell (far left) and DOI Secretary Sally Jewell (next to Tommy).

Rocking Out with Secretary Sally Jewell and Tommy Caldwell

Last week, 25 third-grade students from Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School, Washington, DC, traveled to Carderock Recreation Area at C&O Canal National Historical Park, Potomac, MD, on the Potomac River. They joined me for an exciting morning of rock climbing and nature hiking. However, I don’t know much about rock climbing – being a bison and all – so we needed some expert help. Boy did we get help! We were assisted by two VIPs - climbing legend Tommy Caldwell and Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Click here to read about Tommy's incredible historic climb in Yosemite National Park earlier this year.

After the students got off the bus, Secretary Jewell and Tommy immediately greeted them and got everyone excited for the rock climbing challenge - for most of the students, this was their first time climbing. Secretary Jewell even brought her own climbing equipment, belayed (secured a climber at the end of a rope) and cheered students on as they conquered the steep rock faces. How cool is that! Over the course of two hours, many students worked their way up the most difficult section and then descended back down to very impressed spectators. I even joined a few students on their climbs (clipped to their harnesses) and the views were amazing! Click here to see photos from the day.

Thank you to the Department of the Interior, REI, C&O Canal NHP, City Kids Wilderness Project, and C&O Canal Trust for helping create such a memorable adventure! 

Students from M. Agnes Jones Elementary walk next to Sweetwater Creek (Lithia Springs, GA).

A “Sweet” Trip to Georgia

This spring I traveled to Georgia to work with our new Atlanta Buddy Bison students: 100 third graders from M. Agnes Jones Elementary. Thanks to our new partnership with Georgia-Pacific Foundation, the students explored Sweetwater Creek State Park and learned all about its unique historical and ecological components.
For nearly every student this was their first time visiting the park, and what a time they had! Thanks to the superb leadership of Rangers Marcellus Clark and Don Johnson, the students hiked down to Sweetwater Creek where they identified local plants, observed various geologic features and learned about the many different animals that live in the park. The calm, meandering creek soon became raging rapids as we neared the end of the trail and reached the ruins of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company mill from the Civil War era. Back in the visitor center, we even saw live snakes, fish and turtles up close!
We were joined by Atlanta’s NPR Station: 90.1 WABE. Listen to the clip here and watch this video that summarizes the day here. If that's not enough, check here for more photos. We can’t wait to continue working with M. Agnes Jones Elementary next year!  

Ranger Kip leads students from Jose de Diego Community Academy through the dunes (Porter, IN).

Beaches, Bogs and Botanic Gardens

Thanks to our multi-year partnership with Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, 5th grade students from Jose de Diego Community Academy in Chicago, IL, are once again participating in the Buddy Bison School Program.  
This spring, students visited the Chicago Botanic Garden and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, IN. At the Chicago Botanic Garden, they learned about the many resources needed for plant growth, how to create a vegetable garden, and they even designed their own composting units! Click here for photos from the day.

At Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, students spent the day with NPS Ranger Kip Walton learning about the park’s numerous ecosystems. We started the day hiking down to the beach where we saw the Chicago skyline and gradually worked our way inland through the dunes and into pine forest habitat. The students were fascinated by the changing scenery, plants, and animals as the hike progressed and we hadn’t even seen the bog yet!

After lunch, Ranger Kip led us on a special tour of Pinhook Bog, where students experienced this rare habitat up close; bogs are a type of wetland characterized by sphagnum moss, clay soil and acidic water - not the most comfortable place on a warm summer day for a bison. As we walked into the bog it was almost like hiking on a giant sponge! The students also tested the water's acidity and looked for bog-dwelling insects. Click here for more photos from the day. I'm already looking forward to next year!

Tigran passes on his first Jr. Ranger vest to Blaise as he introduces him to his challenge and Buddy Bison. Photo Credit: Vahagn Nahabedian

Tigran's National Park and Buddy Bison Challenge

Who's up for a challenge? Our first student Buddy Bison Ambassador, 4th-grader Tigran Nahabedian from Ojai, CA, has created Tigran's National Park and Buddy Bison Challenge, which is open to all kids and adults. Tigran's challenge will help support our Kids to Parks Day National School Contest, which provides park scholarships for Title 1 students, and the Centennial celebration of the National Park Service. According to Tigran, "the purpose of my challenge is to raise awareness for the National Park Trust, to help underserved children, and to help the National Park Service." 

Read about Tigran's five-step challenge here and pledge to participate today! If you would like to have me, Buddy Bison, as your trusty traveling companion, you can purchase Buddy here. Every purchase will help send a child in need to a park. As a bonus, you'll get to travel around with me wherever you go, and I'm always up for an adventure! Thank you, Tigran, for your outstanding work as our first student Buddy Bison Ambassador. Stay tuned for more updates from Tigran and his park ambassador work.

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