WILTON, Conn. – Next year fourth grade students and their families will get a chance to explore national parks like Weir Farm on the Wilton-Ridgefield border through the National Park Foundation’s A Kid In Every Park program.
The program will launch in the 2015-16 school year and will allow fourth-graders access to all national parks, national forests and national wildlife refuges, free of charge. The initiative is part of the National Park Foundation’s Open Outdoors for Kids program, which helps children learn about history, culture and science in the great outdoors.
Weir Farm does not have a fee to enter, but Park Superintendent Linda Cook said that the initiative is a chance to welcome more fourth-graders into the park.
“It will be really interesting as we promote this campaign to reach out to fourth-graders and really engage them in the site and the local history. Fourth-graders are at that great age where they’re studying history and the things around them, and we’re always finding ways to make sure the park fits into what the schools are doing,” Cook said.
Children like to go on pond walks and explore the fields of Weir Farm, she said, but they also enjoy going inside and seeing the home of Impressionist painter J. Alden Weir, who once owned the property. She said that they exhibit a sense of suspense and excitement as they explore the house and see what an artist’s home is like and how people lived in the early 20th century.
“By targeting fourth-graders, it’s really looking at different ways to engage kids today in the fact that they are going to be stewards of these amazing historic places,” Cook said.
“Until recently, many people only thought of the National Park Service as big Western parks where you went on vacation if you were lucky,” she said.
But the National Park system includes more than 400 parks, many of them located near cities and suburbs where life has grown up around them.
“It’s a good opportunity to remind people that you can experience the connection to a national park often very close to your own home. You don’t have to travel 1,000 miles and learn to camp in order to go to some of these places that capture the American imagination.”
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