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Constitution Gardens, Washington D.C.; photo courtesy of Chris Rief Photography.

Spring is finally in the air and that means warmer weather is right around the corner! I can’t wait to go on my first spring hike and take in all the sights, sounds and smells.  The daffodils are breaking ground, so it is only a matter of time before the true beauty of spring unfolds.

Congratulations to our 51 schools who were selected as winners of our Kids to Parks Day National School Contest! This also means that Kids to Parks Day is coming up soon. Join our contest winners and hundreds of thousands of kids around the country on Saturday, May 16 for this national day of outdoor play by visiting a local, state or national park in your community! You can pledge to participate here for a chance to win our grand prize, a Nikon COOLPIX L830 camera, to help capture your park adventures.

You don't have to wait until May to get outside. Celebrate National Park Week and enjoy free admission to our national parks on Saturday, April 18 and Sunday, April 19.

Your friend,

Buddy Bison

Drum Roll Please…Kids to Parks Day National School Contest Winners

I am thrilled to announce the winners of this year’s Kids to Parks Day National School Contest! It was very hard to make our selections because we received an incredible number of wonderful, unique and interesting contest entries. A huge Buddy Bison thanks to the students and teachers for their hard work in assembling their proposals – and we loved the videos, letters, and artwork received too!

Congratulations to the 51 schools and 3,300 students that will be exploring parks this May for Kids to Parks Day in grades Pre-K through 12! It was a pleasure reading about the fantastic stewardship project ideas – from building a rain garden, to water testing, to tree-planting projects. We can’t wait to see all the pictures from the day.

Thank you to our early sponsors: First Solar, Guest Services, Booz Allen Hamilton and M&T Bank for their generous support for Kids to Parks Day.

Here is a full list of our winners.

Moss Point Buddy Bison students at Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge.

Look Who’s on TV!

I recently travelled to Mississippi to work with our newest Buddy Bison students: 160 second graders from Moss Point Kreole Primary. Thanks to our partnership with Mississippi Power and Southern Company, over the course of three days, students visited the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge and learned about the endangered Mississippi Sandhill Crane as well as the diminishing wet pine savanna habitat.

With wonderful help from Ranger Melissa Perez and her volunteers, the students learned to identify various animals that live on the refuge and also about techniques scientists use to track animals, including radio telemetry. We even had some of the students put on the radio tracker and pretend to be a Sandhill Crane; fortunately we found them pretty quickly!  Students also had the chance to hike on the nature trail to enjoy the beautiful landscape up close, learn about the crucial role of fire in this habitat, and identify different plants and wildlife.

During the last day of the trip, a local news station, WXXV25, joined us at the refuge. Watch the clip here or above. A huge thanks to our friends at Mississippi Power and Southern Company for sponsoring this school and three other schools in Mississippi (Newton Elementary, Forest Elementary and Escatawpa Elementary).

The “golden hour” in the Blue Ridge Mountains, VA; photo courtesy of Frank Lee Ruggles.

Buddy Bison’s Photography Corner

As we all know, one of the best ways to remember the fun times we have while exploring America's parks is with photographs. Here's what our Artist Ambassador Frank Lee Ruggles says about capturing the best light:

"While serving as an official National Park Service photographer, I was fortunate to be assigned to more than 100 different national park units across our beautiful country. In my travels, I've hiked across lava flows and climbed glaciers, I've stood atop Mt. Rushmore and waded the swamps of the Everglades. I've literally seen it all.  All along the way, I captured thousands of images and learned a lot of things about photography in the parks.

The prettiest light is when the sun is low in the sky. Whether it's a sunrise or sunset, when the sun is near the horizon, the low angle of light best shows off the deep texture of the earth.  Photographers call the half hour before and after sunrise and sunset the 'golden hour'. Mid-day light seems rather 'flat' by comparison." 

Thank you Frank for this great photography tip. He will continue sharing his vast knowledge of photography with us in each issue of Buzz, so be sure to check back every month.

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