Mission accomplished

Historic San Antonio national park lands grant to expand educational programming

Historic San Antonio national park lands grant to expand programming

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
With the funding, the San Antonio park hopes to reach more kids. Photo by Stuart Seeger

A San Antonio site that’s on a mission to preserve history and culture is getting a significant chunk of change to help connect kids to meaningful learning experiences and expand its educational offerings.

The National Park Foundation recently announced San Antonio Missions National Historical Park — the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas — is among 92 recipients of $2.3 million in Open OutDoors for Kids grants that aim to connect young learners with parks across the country.

While the specific amount granted to San Antonio Missions National Historical Park wasn’t released, the finding will make a notable impact for the park.

In partnership with nonprofit Expeditions in Education, the park plans to “drastically expand” its educational offerings by bringing on four seasonal education park rangers, who will engage thousands of students in classrooms and through distance learning, and help enlighten them about the park, which preserves four of the five Spanish frontier missions in San Antonio.

Open OutDoors for Kids, part of the NPF’s Youth Engagement and Education initiative, aspires to make educational experiences in parks more accessible to all, with a specific focus on engaging children who live in communities that may lack the resources to offer such learning experiences.

“National parks are America’s largest classrooms, and Open OutDoors for Kids seeks to connect as many kids as possible to them,” says Will Shafroth, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation. “With parks, learning is fun, memorable, and hands-on. Parks open kids’ eyes to the wonder and complexities of nature and history, sharing diverse perspectives that offer a wider understanding of our country’s progress and struggles.”

This school year, the NPF is partnering with the National Park Service, Expeditions in Education, and the National Park Trust to support in-person and virtual educational experiences throughout the country, with the NPF investing millions of dollars in its Open OutDoors for Kids program in fiscal year 2022.

The plan appears to be working, as the NPF has engaged more than a million students in educational programs that connect them with national parks since 2011, and hopes to connect another 1 million students to parks by the end of the 2024-2025 school year.  

The only other Texas park to receive an NPF grant as part of the Open OutDoors for Kids funding is Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in the town of Stonewall, which plans to use the funds to enhance its in-person and virtual education programs that highlight the natural and human histories of the Hill Country.