History Habits: National Parks Passports for Kids

History Habits is a series designed to offer activities to parents to encourage their children’s love and enjoyment of history. The goal is to provide parents with tools they can use to stimulate your children’s active involvement in the history that surrounds them every day.

Next time you go exploring either locally or across the country, do not forget your Passport. That is your Passports to Your National Parks and, most importantly for parents, do not forget to bring along your Kids’ Passport to Your National Parks Companion. Passports are a way to &#8220record&#8221 your visits to National Parks, Monuments, Recreation Areas, etc. National Park visitors centers and book stores usually have passport stations where you can stamp your books with their location stamp. (Many sites in New York actually have more than one stamp.) The cancellations, similar to those received on an international passport, record the name of the park and the date you visited.

“It is always a delight for me to see families with children come to Martin Van Buren National Historic Site and the first thing they ask for is the stamp for their NPS passports” explains Park Superintendent Dan Dattilio. “Once they get that important task done they
go out and enjoy the park.”

As a parent of two preschoolers, I have seen these passports engage my children by creating a fun learning experience. What I really appreciate is the Kids’ Passport to Your National Parks Companion is an owner manual to the National Parks for children. This companion allows children (guided by parents) to develop a connection with history and the natural world. I hopeful someday my children will appreciate having this record and that is will spark great memories.

These passports provides background information on the National Park Service (NPS) and encourages children to use all of their senses to explore parks. There is plenty of space to record observations, sketch plants and animals, list accomplishments, track visits, and even collect park ranger autographs. The collecting of autographs has created a dialogue between my children and the Park Rangers. It is great fun to see the children engaged in learning and it is my hope that this is the first step in creating stewards for history and National Park sites.

Passports are easy to obtain. You don’t even need a birth certificate or photo. Most NPS visitors centers sell the spiral-bound 6 x 3.5 inch passports and a special Kids’ Passport to Your National Parks Companion for $13.95. For further information call Eastern National 1 (877) NAT-PARK or go to www.eparks.com.

One suggestion for parents to extend the learning is to bring extra index cards and collect each cancellation stamps on its own index card. This allows for scrap booking the stamp with photos from the site to create a memory book.

If you want to dig deeper into NPS cancellation stamps, think of joining the National Parks Travelers Club. This is a nonprofit, hobbyist organization that have an entire list of where NPS stamps and non-NPS stamps (lighthouses, National Registry homes, State Parks, etc) are located. It is free to join the discussion boards for information on National Park travel or for $10 a year one has access to the entire stamp database, as well as Google Earth maps to each location.

Cancellation sites in New York include:

African Burial Ground NM—New York City

Castle Clinton NM—New York City

Eleanor Roosevelt NHS—Hyde Park

Ellis Island—New York City, N.J./N.Y.

Erie Canalway NHC—Waterford, Buffalo,Rome, Stillwater, Seneca Falls, AKWAABA, Amherst Museum, Burden IronWorks, Camillus Erie Canal Park, Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum, Day Peckinpaugh, Erie Canal Discovery Center, Erie Canal Museum, Erie Canalway Visitor Center, Historic Palmyra Museums, Mabee Farm HS, Mary Jemison, Port of Newark Canal Park, RiverSpark VC, Rochester Museum & Science Center, Sam Patch, Sch’dy CHS History Museum, Schoharie Crossing SHS, Seneca Museum of Industry & Waterways, Spencerport Depot & Canal Museum, UGR History Project

Federal Hall N MEM—New York City

Fire Island NS—Wilderness, Watch Hill, Lighthouse, Sailors Haven, William Floyd Estate, Patchogue, Long Island

Fort Stanwix NM—Rome

Gateway NRA—Jamaica Bay- Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn- Wildlife Refuge District, Queens- Breezy Point, Fort Tilden, Ft. Wadsworth- Miller Field, Staten Island- Great Kills Park, Staten Island

General Grant N MEM—New York City

Governors Island NM—New York City

Hamilton Grange NM–New York City

Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt NHS–Hyde Park

Lower East Side Tenement Museum NHS— New York City

Manhattan Sites–Federal Hall, St. Paul’s Church NHS Mount Vernon, General Grant New York City

Martin Van Buren NHS—Kinderhook

North Country National Scenic Trail

Sagamore Hill NHS—Oyster Bay, Sagamore Hill Nature Trail, Roosevelt Museum at Old Orchard,

Saint Paul’s Church NHS–Mount Vernon

Saratoga NHP—Stillwater

Statue of Liberty NM—New York City

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace NHS—New York City

Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural NHS—Buffalo

Thomas Cole NHS—Catskill

Upper Delaware SRR—Narrowsburg, Zane Grey Museum

Vanderbilt Mansion NHS—Hyde Park,

Women’s Rights NHP—Seneca Falls, M’Clintock House

Sean Kelleher. Kelleher is the Historian for the Town of Saratoga and Village of Victory in the Upper Hudson Valley. As an educator, he was a New Hampshire Council for the Social Studies Executive Board member and the Director of the New Hampshire Teacher Training Institute for Character and Citizenship Education.

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