SPRINGDALE – Due to a generous grant from the National Park Foundation and Zion National Park Foundation, Zion National Park will host 50 fifth grade students from Rainbow Dreams Academy in Las Vegas for their first camping experience in September.
The first group of 25 completed their stay Sept. 18-20 and another 25 students will visit the park this week. This pilot program, the “Concrete to Canyons Project,” aims to connect inner-city youth with the concept of national parks and wilderness protection through immersion in a three-day, two-night experience at Zion.
“The students are so excited to visit the main scenic canyon and complete short hikes in designated wilderness,” the park’s educational coordinator, Barb Graves, said. “They will be in the heart of Zion, an experience that may connect them to nature for life.”
Prior to the visits, park staff traveled to Rainbow Dreams Academy to introduce curriculum-based wilderness concepts and discuss expectations and packing with the participating students and their parents. Following their trip to Zion, the students will visit Lake Mead National Recreational Area and participate in a service learning project. They will also be sharing their experiences through several guided multimedia presentations. Their creations will be used in a school-wide presentation and made available through the Zion’s social media and website.
Along with the support of the grant providers and Rainbow Dreams Academy, Lake Mead donated tents and sleeping pads, Southern Utah University donated sleeping bags and the Zion Adventure Company provided field trip vans and walking sticks for the students at a discounted price to help make the project a reality.
Zion and project partners plan to expand Concrete to Canyons to other grade levels, schools and groups in future years, increasing the number of urban youth and families that are introduced to national parks and wilderness.