Park uses NPF grant to reach Spanish speaking students and visitors

A dozen Spanish-speaking San Juan Island children learned more about the national park in their backyard and about national parks nationwide thanks to a $15,000 grant from the National Park Foundation and a partnership with the San Juan Island Library.

San Juan Island National Historical Park was one of 34 national parks across the country selected to receive a 2013 America’s Best Idea grant from the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks. Inspired by the critically acclaimed Ken Burns’ documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea”, the America’s Best Idea program funds park activities designed to connect diverse populations throughout the United States with their national parks in innovative and meaningful ways.

The park is using a portion of the funds to pilot a new program in partnership with the library through which park rangers and library staff and volunteers provide outreach to Spanish-speaking audiences on the island.

The first program kicked off Thursday, September 5 and will continue to be offered in conjunction with the library’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program from 6:30 to 7: 15 p.m. on Thursday evenings through October 3.

Themes vary each week and include: an overview of America’s National Parks, the basics about why San Juan Island National Historical Park was created and how it preserves, unimpaired, cultural and natural features for future generations; the park’s cultural history from the first peoples to the joint military occupation and beyond; and the plants and animals in the park. As a finale, on the final evening each child will complete a Junior Ranger activity book and be awarded a badge and a patch.

The park is also creating Spanish-language pages on its website, creating a Spanish-language version of its popular Junior Ranger activity booklet, as well as Spanish language versions of education programs.

“One of the great things about our national parks is that every American can relate to these treasured places if given the chance to experience them,” said Jonathan B. Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service. “It’s our mission to engage visitors from all backgrounds in the diverse stories that we tell in our national parks. Thanks to the support of the National Park Foundation, we can propel that outreach, and engage new audiences that would otherwise never have the opportunity to experience a national park."

"The America’s Best Idea program gives people – particularly youth – incredible opportunities to connect to our national parks through unique and innovative ways,” said Neil Mulholland, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation. “From experiences that center on history, the environment and even adventure, we are able to capture the imagination of a new generation of park-goers in ways that benefit their lives and the future of the parks."

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San Juan Island National Historical Park Education Specialist Raena Parsons works with children at the San Juan Island Library. Photo contributed by National Parks

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