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4 Inspiring Ways to Celebrate National Public Lands Day

by Nina Stoller-Lindsey

Every year on the fourth Saturday in September, we celebrate National Public Lands Day, the nation's largest, single-day volunteer effort for our public lands. Since 1994,  hundreds of thousands of Americans have spent the day engaged in direct service of public green spaces, from local parks to national ones. 

Organized by our partners at National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF.org). National Public Lands Day is a wonderful opportunity to help kids learn about the importance of public green spaces and express gratitude for the ones that are part of their day-to-day lives.  Similarly, it’s an important moment to help kids deepen their connection to nature, which research shows may inspire them to become the environmentalists of tomorrow

Though this year’s celebration may look a little bit different due to COVID-19 safety measures, there are still plenty of fun ways to participate with your family. Check out the following ideas for this Saturday, September 26.

Attend an NEEF event virtually or in-person. This year’s lineup also includes virtual events created to help us explore iconic parks, national forests, marine estuaries, and other public lands sites. And where local regulations allow, National Public Lands Day will be continuing in-person events (with increased safety measures in accordance with the CDC). You can find a virtual an or in-person event near your family using the NPLD event locator, which groups events by themes like educational activities, volunteer opportunities and health and wellness.

Visit a national park — for free! The National Parks Service has also made National Public Lands Day a Fee-Free Day day for its 418 parks.  Admission to green spaces managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Defense, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and US Forest Servic will be free too. 

Say “Thank You, Parks.” Inviting kids to create “Thank You” cards for our parks workers is a favorite Tinkergarten tradition. You can create cards big and small using markes, crayons, colored pencils, our Un-recipe for Paint activity, which welcomes turn natural objects (flowers, earth, berries, spices) into paint. Be sure to snap a pic of your kiddos’ masterpiece and share it on Instagram tagging @tinkergarten and using the hashtag #NationalPublicLandsDay. That way, we can see them and celebrate right along with you. (You’ll find a more detailed activity guide here.)

Learn about and celebrate the Native history of our public lands. Start by using an app like native-land.ca to find out which people lived, or currently live, on your favorite public lands. Search for “native people from {city, state or region}” or “indigenous people from {city, state or region}. Then, look for historically accurate accounts of how those people thrived, being aware of the limitations of the perspective of whomever has created them. 

This is a wonderful way to both acknowledge and learn the stories and history of the land we live on. Educating ourselves, and our children, on the full history of outdoor spaces is an important part of our mission to make the outdoors truly inclusive of and accessible to all.

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