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Send a Kid to a Park

Can you guess this park? Hint: Hurry up and visit before they're all gone. Find out the answer next month. Photo courtesy of Wayne Hill. Answer from last month: Saguaro National Park.

The Centennial is finally here! It's time to celebrate 100 years of the National Park Service and their commitment to our national parks – and prepare for the next 100 years! We’re starting strong this year, with many things to be excited about including our Kids to Parks Day National School Contest, Instagram Park Photo Contest, and the 16 fee-free days for National Parks, which includes Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 18!

How do you plan to celebrate our parks in 2016? Take me, Buddy Bison, on your adventures and let's create new memories together. Follow my adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Use the hashtags #BuddyBison or #WheresBuddyBisonBeen on your park travels.

Your friend,

Buddy Bison

Students from Jackson Heights Elementary enjoy their park trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park in Mineral, CA.

Our Kids to Parks Day School Contest is Open!

I can hardly contain my excitement! Our Kids to Parks Day National School Contest is officially open! This nationwide contest, open to all PreK through 12th-graders in under-served schools, is a great way to fund your Kids to Parks Day celebration in May (Kids to Parks Day is Saturday, May 21st). With your teacher’s help, you and your classmates can enter the contest to receive up to $1,000 to fund your trip to a local, state, or national park.

The National Park Service has also geared up to help with the Kids to Parks Day National School Contest. In fact, the 2016 contest has been selected as an NPS Centennial Challenge Project. Last year, we provided 50 schools with 50 grants; this year, NPS will match our funding. This will allow us to award grants to 100 schools! 100 schools to celebrate 100 years of the National Park Service! To learn more about how you can help support our fundraising efforts, contact Dan Quinn at, or donate here.

Haven’t begun your classroom’s application, yet? Don’t worry! There’s still plenty of time. The contest closes on Friday, March 4th, 2016. Winning classrooms will be announced on March 25th on our website.

Tigran Nahabedian is all smiles and gives a thumbs up as he leads off the Rose Parade with me, Buddy Bison. Photo courtesy of Suz Lipman.

Tigran and Buddy Bison Lead the Rose Parade!

Did you see a familiar face kicking off the annual Rose Parade on New Year's Day morning? Tigran Nahabedian, National Park Trust's first student Buddy Bison Ambassador, was selected to participate in the opening float of the Rose Parade, and he brought me, Buddy Bison, along for the incredible experience! The theme of this year’s Rose Parade was Find Your Adventure and the Rose Parade partnered with the National Park Service to celebrate the NPS Centennial and #FindYourPark.

Tigran was also asked by Channel Islands National Park Ranger Dave Begun to help build a virtual float for the parade and of course he said YES! Can you find Buddy Bison on the float that was built by Tigran, his classmates, and teachers? Read Tigran's narrative below:

I knew that Buddy and I couldn’t do it alone so I asked my school (Ojai Valley School) if they would help. My friend Mrs. Campbell has been my art teacher since I was a Pre-K student and she was happy to help. Many of the students at my school didn’t know much about the Channel Islands so I decided to introduce them to the Junior Ranger program. Ranger Lizzy came to my school to swear in 180 new Junior Rangers after we completed the Junior Ranger booklets. We each got one of the super cool new Centennial badges, which we put on the float. Previously, I had set a goal to help make all my classmates Junior Rangers, so I was super pleased to see every student at my school become a Junior Ranger! You should go to a National Park and get your own Centennial badge too!

We had so much fun building the float and learned so much about the park. The float depicts the adventures waiting for you at the Channel Islands and the natural beauty and resources on the islands and under the sea. The float highlights the partners and programs that help children bridge the Channel to the park including the National Park Trust and Kids to Parks Day. You can help bring under-served children to Channel Islands National Park by donating to the National Park Trust today at

What a creative project! Thank you Tigran!


Looking Back at 2015, Forward to 2016

Last year we accomplished so much! Check out our year-end video that recaps some of our amazing experiences from 2015. Last year, 50 schools were awarded grants through our Kids to Parks Day National School Contest, providing 3,277 Title I students from 28 states with meaningful park experiences. Our Buddy Bison School Program provided a multitude of outdoor experiences in parks – national, state, and local parks, wildlife refuges, historic landmarks, and battlefields – for Title I schools (grades PreK-12). I’m excited for what’s to come in 2016: new schools, new parks, and new experiences to share together! Would you like to learn more about how to get involved? Contact Collin Knauss at

Buddy Bison students and teachers from Washington School for Girls are all smiles at the National Christmas Tree Lighting at President's Park in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Cailin Heard.

A Brighter Christmas for Buddy Bison Students

No matter what holiday you celebrate, December is a time for family and friends to come together. This year, like every year since President Calvin Coolidge, President Barack Obama and his family celebrated the Christmas season by lighting the National Christmas Tree in President’s Park. I was there, too, along with fourth-grade students from Washington School for Girls in Washington, D.C. and Beacon Heights Elementary in Riverdale, MD.

Thanks to the Coleman Company (@ColemanUSA) for providing ten VIP tickets for this event. Seeing President Obama and his family, listening to performances by a variety of musicians from a spectrum of genres, and watching the beautiful tree light up – what an unforgettable memory for these students to cherish! Here's what the fourth graders from Washington School for Girls said about the experience:

Our seats were so amazing! We loved being so close to the First Lady, the President, the First Family, Ms. Piggy, and all the special artists! Michelle Obama even waved to us!

A huge thanks also to Pepco (@PepcoConnect) for sponsoring the Buddy Bison School Program at Beacon Heights Elementary and to Mike and Carol Steed for their sponsorship of Washington School for Girls each year.

Learning to fly fish at Grebe Lake in Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy of @heronwheels.

Enter our Instagram Photo Contest

Look who recently learned how to fly fish? I joined my friend Stacey (@heronwheels) for a fly-fishing lesson at Grebe Lake in Yellowstone National Park this fall. I met Stacey at Old Faithful in 2011 and have traveled with her ever since. There are so many amazing outdoor activities to do – and I want to discover them with you!

And don't forget that our Instagram Park Photo Contest is up and running. The contest is open through Friday, January 15, 2016. Individuals can submit multiple entries, however the photo must be an original and new photo and the caption must contain the location and contest tags. Instagram your photo and tag us using @nationalparktrust and #NatParkTrust. Read the official rules for more information. You could win a Buddy Bison prize package!

Fifth and sixth graders from Fossil Charter School at Crater Lake National Park, OR. Crater Lake National Park typically charges fees, but will be fee-free 16 times this year.

16 Fee-Free Days in 2016

Did you know that there are 409 national park units that are managed by the National Park Service? These parks, which include natural spaces, historical buildings, and interactive museums, are open to everyone; however, 127 national parks typically charge entrance fees. 

This year there are 16 special days when all parks are fee-free. Mark your calendars and plan your trip today!

January 18: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
April 16 - 24: National Park Week
August 25 - 28: National Park Service Birthday
September 24: National Public Lands Day
November 11: Veterans Day

Are you a fourth-grade student? Then you don’t need to wait for a fee-free day! Our national parks are free for you every day this school year thanks to President Obama’s Every Kid in a Park initiative. Visit and download your free park voucher today.

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