Children in Nature Multicultural Program

Latino students examine wildlife pelts & use telemetry equipment
during "Pura Vida en Grand Teton National Park" program

April 12, 2010
In collaboration with Teton Science Schools, Grand Teton National Park recently launched a new multicultural program designed to connect local Latino students with nature. Through weeklong bi-lingual courses, participants will get an opportunity to discover, explore and learn about the park. The first sessions of the Children in Nature Multicultural Engagement Program—called, Pura Vida en Grand Teton National Park—took place during the two-week spring break for Teton County schools. Additional summer sessions are planned for June and August.

The Children in Nature Multicultural Engagement Program at Grand Teton received funding from a generous matching grant provided by the National Park Foundation (NPF) and Grand Teton National Park Foundation (GTNPF) through a target project called America’s Best Idea Grants.

Six middle school and nine high school students were enrolled during the spring break courses. At the start of each weeklong session, students watched a short video titled, This is America—a condensed overview of Ken Burns’ documentary film, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. Students then spent the remainder of the week exploring Grand Teton, meeting park staff, learning about park resources and operations, and becoming acquainted with the many occupations and duties required to run the park. Students participated in various activities from discovering how to snowshoe and dress appropriately for winter conditions, to learning about wildlife and taking a behind the scenes tour of the park administration building and the operational facilities located throughout the headquarters area. They also participated in a role-playing exercise where they learned how citizens may provide ideas and comments to help park officials with decisions and issues related to Grand Teton’s cultural and natural resources management. Each week ended with a picnic celebration in which students’ parents and park staff participated. These first sessions were instrumental in introducing students and their parents to the many features of Grand Teton and the value of experiencing the park’s wildlife and beauty.

The Pura Vida en Grand Teton National Park summer programs are scheduled for June 14-18, August 2-6 and August 16-20. These programs will bring together approximately ten middle school and three high school students who will serve as mentors. Activities will be similar to the spring break sessions, with students meeting park staff, exploring the park through various outdoor recreational experiences, and completing a resource-related project. Prior to each week, youth mentors will meet with Teton Science Schools’ staff to ensure that they have the skills and support they need to feel confident in mentoring younger students.

Ken Burns’ documentary on national parks served as a catalyst for the Children in Nature Multicultural Engagement Program. The landmark film inspired the NPF to establish an America’s Best Idea Grants program. Through matching grants, the NPF seeks to reach traditionally underserved groups and empower them to create strong, lasting bonds of stewardship with our treasured lands—continuing a tradition of diverse Americans working together to preserve and enhance the legacy of national parks. Grand Teton’s Pura Vida program was specifically created to reach out to the Latino population in the park’s gateway communities, introduce Latinos to Grand Teton’s resources and recreational opportunities, and provide leadership development and mentoring opportunities to middle school and high school students.

For those interested in registering for a summer program session, please contact Teton Science Schools Registrar Judy Herman at 307.734.5659. For more information on the Children in Nature Multicultural Engagement Program, or other park educational outreach efforts, please contact Susanne McDonald at 307.739.3656.