More young people were able to make lasting memories in the world’s first national park this past year, thanks to a drastic increase in youth program participation at Yellowstone Forever. Over 1,500 students benefited from a Yellowstone Forever Youth & College program from March 2017 to March 2018—a 90% increase from the previous year. The number of contact hours and participant days also went up, despite many students engaging in shorter programs.
According to Robert Petty, Yellowstone Forever’s director of education, the sky is the limit when it comes to connecting young people to the wonders of the park. “Our youth program is relatively new—it began just over five years ago,” he explains. “The trajectory of growth for the program is wide open.”
Yellowstone Forever’s Youth & College programs are designed to provide rich learning experiences that engage young people with the natural and cultural history of the world’s first national park. Groups stay at conveniently located field campuses and participate in hands-on activities and discussions meant to inspire students to become active stewards of not just Yellowstone, but of all wild places.
Staff are laying the groundwork to continue to increase youth program participation in the years ahead, both in the park and remotely. Yellowstone Forever instructors plan to bring the Yellowstone experience to students who may not have the means to travel to the park through a state-of-the-art digital education program. Inside park boundaries, Yellowstone Forever and the National Park Service are teaming up to provide a comprehensive educational experience for visitors, thanks to a new educational collaboration.
“By 2022, we want our youth programs to be equal to our adult programs in terms of participants served,” Petty says. “In truth, I believe we will reach far more than that.”
This is great news both for the experience of these young people and for future preservation in Yellowstone National Park. “These children are tomorrow’s stewards,” Petty says. “They are the inheritors not just of our public lands including our national parks, they are also inheritors of the responsibility to care for them.”
Yellowstone Forever and Yellowstone National Park currently offer youth programs for a wide range of ages, interests, and educational goals. To learn more, visit the Yellowstone Forever Institute Youth & College page.