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Can you guess this park? Photo courtesy of Frank Lee Ruggles Photography.

Are you having a good summer? I hope you are getting to parks with friends and family. This month is the 30th anniversary of Park and Recreation Month and the National Recreation and Park Association is challenging everyone to "get gnarly and rock Park and Recreation Month 80s-style!"  So ask your family to get out their Koosh balls, parachute pants and neon clothes. I know I will! Look for me, Buddy Bison, on social media this week.

Parents and Teachers: Here is some great news! Our Buddy Bison School Program and Kids to Parks Day National School Contest were selected by the National Park Service (NPS) as a Centennial Challenge Project. What does that mean? Well, in preparation for the 100th anniversary of the NPS in 2016, NPS will match every dollar that we raise up to $450,000. The grand total of $900,000 will be used by me, National Park Trust, and NPS to get thousands of under-served kids to national parks through our Buddy Bison School Program and Kids to Parks Day National School Contest. What a great way to celebrate the Centennial of NPS in 2016 – more kids in more parks! You can help by donating here. For more information contact

Students from Washington Grove Elementary in Gaithersburg, MD, enjoy their CamelBak water bottles during their park trip to Black HIlls Regional Park (Boyds, MD).

Kids Helping Other Kids Get to Parks

I’ve met some amazing students at parks across the country. And this summer I will be featuring many of them in my newsletter. The third graders from the Bullis School in Potomac, MD, are quite special. These students were selected last March as one of 51 winners of our annual Kids to Parks Day National School Contest. However, their contest entry wasn’t for their class; instead, they applied and won a park scholarship for a Title I school in their county -- Washington Grove Elementary in Gaithersburg, MD.

Third-grade teacher, Carolyn Cohen, and her students at the Bullis School have been involved in the Buddy Bison School Program since 2009 and explore numerous parks each year in the Washington, D.C. area. In fact, because of her dedication to bringing learning outdoors, Carolyn was the first recipient of our national teacher award for outstanding environmental stewardship, The Buddy. This year, her class decided to provide a park experience for students that lack resources to celebrate Kids to Parks Day.

As a result, 48 third graders from Washington Grove Elementary traveled to Black Hills Regional Park, where they worked with naturalists and learned about plant and animal habitats. The students took a pontoon tour of the lake, observing beaver dams, fish and a variety of bird species. Their teacher Judy Cobian stated, “our students had a wonderful trip and had the opportunity to experience new things and see firsthand what we have been learning about in our classroom.”

A huge Buddy Bison thanks to the Bullis School students. And our thanks to CamelBak for providing terrific water bottles for the students to use during the trip and everyday. Click here to see more photos from the day.

Beacon Heights Elementary students with Senator Rob Portman (OH), recipient of the Bruce F. Vento Public Service Award.

Three Rising Stars Honor Senator Rob Portman (OH)

Last month, three 5th-grade Buddy Bison students, Hugo Claros, James Stephens, and Kimberly Taylor, from Beacon Heights Elementary in Riverdale, MD, joined NPT as we honored Senator Rob Portman (OH) with the Bruce F. Vento Public Service Award in Washington, D.C. One by one they congratulated the Senator for his outstanding decades of service in support of our parks and public lands and shared personal stories about their park experiences and the importance of park stewardship.

They all "hit it out of the park" with their polished public speaking skills and inspirational speeches! I even saw several folks in the audience tearing up as Hugo, James and Kimberly shared their reflections. Then, they presented Senator Portman with his own Buddy Bison and T-shirt and were all smiles when the Senator proudly slipped on his shirt and clipped Buddy Bison to his belt! Click here to see photos from the event.

Stephen Biller and his fifth graders celebrate a successful park cleanup (left). Stephen accepts 'The Buddy' National Teacher Award.

And The Buddy goes to…      

In June at an all-school assembly, we surprised Stephen Biller, fifth-grade science teacher at Beacon Heights Elementary in Riverdale, MD, with The Buddy, our national teacher award for outstanding environmental stewardship. Thanks to Stephen’s tremendous leadership and passion for our parks, 65 students have taken learning outdoors on eight different occasions in just this past year! They even adopted a local park where they completed several major clean-up projects.

As Stephen stated, "the Buddy Bison program has played a major role in facilitating the adoption of Glenridge Recreation Center by my school...I know that this environmental stewardship will inspire students to be lifelong protectors of our parks. I am a better and more passionate educator because of this partnership...But most importantly, this program has allowed my students to see more of their world. Beacon Heights Elementary School is a Title 1 school and many of our parents do not have the money to send their children on field trips. The Buddy Bison program removes those hurdles."

Congratulations Stephen!  A huge Buddy Bison thanks to Pepco for their generous sponsorship of Beacon Heights each year!

Boise-Eliot/Humboldt students enjoy hiking with Buddy Bison at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge (Portland, OR).

Buddy Bison’s Traveling Herd

I’ve been busy traveling around the country to different parks with our Buddy Bison students. In the spirit of Let's Move's #Gimmefive, here is a snapshot of five of our schools before they dismissed for the year. Our thanks to our wonderful sponsors of these Buddy Bison schools!

Boise-Eliot/Humboldt School (Portland, OR) Fifth-grade students visited Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. The students participated in a 2-hour naturalist-led hike, learned about habitat components and even stopped by the educational tadpole pond on the trail. Our huge thanks to Prudential Financial for bringing BEH into the Buddy Bison School Program this year!
Washington School for Girls (Washington, D.C.) Last month, the 7th grade hiked and explored the Patuxent River at Jug Bay Natural Area; the 4th grade visited the nearly 400 year-old bonsai collections and youth gardens at the U.S. National Arboretum; and the 6th grade learned about raptors and local wildlife at Watkins Regional Park. Thank you Mike and Carol Steed for your sponsorship of WSG each year!
Washington Jesuit Academy (Washington, D.C.) The 6-8th grades spent the day in West Virginia learning about team building using the high ropes course at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center. The 5th grade went on a guided hike to learn about the plants and animals at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. The 6th grade did a river cleanup and learned about raptor biology at the Earth Conservation Corp’s Pumphouse in Washington D.C. "Hooves-off" to the Clark Charitable Foundation for their renewed sponsorship of WJA!
Beacon Heights Elementary (Riverdale, MD)
Fifth-grade students traveled to Jug Bay Natural Area to learn about plants, animals, and river ecology and then used their park stewardship skills at their adopted park, Glenridge Recreation Center, by filling and removing huge bags of trash. We capped off the year visiting the C&O Canal National Historical Park to learn about river lock engineering and local plants and animals -- and they even removed graffiti from the boardwalk! Thank you Pepco for your support each year of this school!   
Saint Ignatius Loyola Academy (Baltimore, MD) Eighth graders took their annual trip to the National Mall in Washington D.C., where they saw the city from the top of the Washington Monument and explored other national memorials as a part of their school unit on the U.S. government. Thank you to the Rocksprings Foundation for supporting these enthusiastic boys once again this year!

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. Photo courtesy of Frank Lee Ruggles Photography.

Buddy Bison’s Photography Corner: Photo Recon

As we all know, one of the best ways to capture the fun times we have while exploring America's parks is through photographs. Here's what NPT's Artist Ambassador Frank Lee Ruggles says about “Photo Recon”:

"'ve arrived at Bryce Canyon National what? You can spend 50% of your vacation time figuring out where to go to get the best shots, or you can do a "photo recon" using your favorite online search engine. You'll see where other photographers have discovered well-known spots in addition to lesser known off-the-beaten-path places for those rarer photographic gems. Take a list and map with you when you hit the parks, and you'll spend more time shooting and less time walking around in circles."

Thank you, Frank! Before my next park trip this summer, I’ll spend some time researching cool photographic spots first. Try this tip, then email me your photos and stories to You may see your photos in my next newsletter.

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