Posted by: Kirsten | Thursday, 18 October 2007

Nat’l Park Service and Groundwork USA Getting Kids off the Couch

Hi everyone — posting from my hotel in Europe today.  One more day of work then I’m off to visit a National Park for a full day of hiking and picture taking.  Below is a press release that just came out today from the National Park Service.  In it, you’ll notice the mention of using technology to get kids interested in their National Parks and the outdoors in general. 

If you support these efforts, please write to the points of contact at the bottom of the post and let them know how you feel.  I will personally be writing to share my concerns with these plans.  My opinion — the outdoors should be about everything EXCEPT technology.  I think dependence on technology to interest our kids in the great outdoors will not foster a long-term commitment to saving the environment or even appreciating what’s out there, but rather could have unintended consequences over the long term.  I take my kids into the woods to get AWAY from the X-Box, the Gameboy, the television, and the Ipod.  A real sense of curiosity isn’t primed by “push” technology, but rather from within.

Anyway, those are my thoughts.  Please read on and consider sharing your thoughts here or with the folks listed at the bottom. If we don’t participate in the public process, we won’t always be pleased with the results.  Have a great weekend, and get out there before it gets “too cold”…!

— Jon

Groundwork USA

NPS & Groundwork USA Getting Kids off the Couch, Engaged in their Communities, and In Touch with the Natural World

Groundwork USA: Changing Places, Changing Lives, Changing Communities
National Assembly & Youth Summit set for October 18-21, El Paso, Texas

EL PASO, OCTOBER 18, 2007 —- This year, the National Park Service is kicking off a major campaign to mark the centennial anniversary of America’s National Parks.  But while the global community is focused on saving the environment, America’s National Parks are facing significant challenges for the next century.  100 years after the founding of the National Park Service, visitation is down and many facilities are in need of major investment. Changing demographics and funding constraints require a fresh approach that preserves the historic and natural resources of the National Park System while actively re-engaging the public, particularly minority and underserved youth.  The National Park Service views the Centennial as a “tremendous opportunity to reach and inspire new and diverse populations.

Environmental Leadership for the Next Generation

To meet this challenge, National Park Service has teamed up with Groundwork USA, a national network of non-profit organizations working in local communities to support environmental change, neighborhood revitalization, and community health.  Together, Groundwork USA and the National Park Service have developed an innovative approach to engaging youth as environmental leaders in their own communities. 

This past summer, NPS and Groundwork USA jointly launched a new initiative called the Green Team partnership designed to reconnect urban youth with the outdoors through a summer of service and exploration.  Green Team groups from across the nation participated in landscape restoration projects, overnight camping and hiking trips to National Parks, and leadership training activities.  Representatives of these programs will be on hand for the Youth Summit in El Paso this Saturday.

One NPS Centennial Challenge: Reaching Youth

In  his May 2007 Report to the President, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne described the challenge facing his agency: America’s children are increasingly disconnected  from the outdoors.

Urban  sprawl  has  affected  the woods and fields where many of today’s parents  and  grandparents  played  as  children.  Modern technology and virtual  experiences  compete  with  authentic  learning  adventures and personal  exploration  of our nation’s nature and history.  The challenge facing  the  National Park Service is to conserve what is timeless while keeping pace with the modern needs of Americans…

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that American children spend 6.5 hours a day using electronic media.  Surveys also show that 70 percent of mothers played outside every day as children, compared to 31 percent of their children.  The challenge is even greater for inner-city kids, who often lack the access to parks and natural areas that are common to suburban and rural areas.  NPS and Groundwork USA believe that getting kids off the couch, into the great outdoors, and invested in environmental protection starts at home — and this approach is already producing impressive results.

The National Assembly and Youth Summit will build on this experience, bringing together approximately 15 non-profit youth organizations, including youth representatives, from communities throughout the United States as well as more than thirty NPS staff and partners. The intention for the event is to learn from youth and youth organization coordinators about “best practices” for recruiting, engaging, retaining, and encouraging youth to get involved and stay involved in conservation and outdoor recreation as a lifestyle. Participants will also be visiting two great National Parks, Chamizal and White Sands.  Youth representatives, NPS staff, and Groundwork USA staff will be available for interviews and photos during the event.

Major support for Groundwork USA and the Green Team program comes from the Ford Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program (RTCA).

The National Park Service Centennial Initiative website is located at and the Groundwork USA website is located at

For more information please contact:

   Steven R. Silver, Executive Director, Groundwork El Paso
   GWUSA National Assembly & Youth Workshop Coordinator
   Cell: (915) 274-7476
   Office: (915) 313 3731

   Doug Evans
   National Park Service, Groundwork USA Program Manager
   Office: 617-223-5124
   Rick Magder, Executive Director, Groundwork Yonkers
   Board President, Groundwork USA
   Office: 914-375-2151



  1. Hi Jon,

    I just wanted to clarify that the focus of the Green Team initiative is to get urban and non-urban youth outside, doing service and into the National Parks. We would never want to replace these critical experiences solely with online interactions. In terms of the Green Team initiative, we are keeping up with technological advances (or at least attempting to!), by encouraging our young participants to interact with their counterparts across the country via online networking sites, which we set up and administer. Sorry for any confusion you may have gotten from the article! We do not want to replace the outdoors with computers, although there are some supplemental interactive computer programs that the National Park Service is trying out.

    Have a great day!

    Jennifer Lawrence

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