NPS Every Kid in a Park program teaches DC students about Anacostia River

Visiting with rangers along the Anacostia, the lesson for D.C. children is focused on pollution. (Photo, ABC7)

For the second year, the National Park Service is giving all 4th graders and their families free access to any of the country's 413 national parks. It’s called the Every Kid In A Park initiative.

Here in Washington, the program is focused on educating youth about the Anacostia River.

The initiative has financial support from several companies and non-profits. By giving fourth graders free access to parks, it aims to teach them about wildlife and fish and teach them the history of each park.

“The Native Americans had villages along the [Anacostia River]. And African American Union soldiers trained here during the Civil War,” said NPS Ranger Vince Vaise. “And then, they're like, now I live here and they see themselves part of that great story arc that is Washington, D.C., that is Anacostia Park.”

Visiting with rangers along the Anacostia, the lesson for D.C. children is focused on pollution.

The goal is to inspire them to become stewards of our national parks, especially parks in their own backyard.

“I heard one kid earlier today, ‘Hey, don't drop that [trash]. That's bad.’ Then we teach them why it's bad,” Vaise said.

These students visiting the park on Wednesday go to school at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Academy, just a couple blocks up Pennsylvania Avenue.

“It's a lot of cool stuff here and stuff I ahven't learned before so I like it,” said 10-year old Kayla Smith.

For the majority of the St. Xavier students, this was their first visit to Anacostia Park or any national park. Organizers hope it will be the first of many visits to come.

“You don't always have to be in front of a television or iPad or phone to have fun. You can have fun with nature and the things around you,” said Irma Kittrell, their teacher.

“To see the smiles on their faces, the questions they ask, gave me hope and I'm really glad I'm involved with it today,” said NPS volunteer ambassador Beverly Price.

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