Newly Expanded WebRangers Program Brings Children Closer to Their National Parks

Partnership Forms to Pique Children’s Interest in America’s Natural and Cultural Heritage

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 /PRNewswire/ — The National Park Service (NPS) today launched an expanded version of its WebRangers website with a fresh new look. Enhancement of the site was made possible in part by the National Park Foundation (NPF) with generous support from the Best Buy Children’s Foundation. The site, www.nps.gov/webrangers/ is designed to give all children access to the National Park System, even if they are not able to visit a park. Online, children can solve mysteries, play games and live the stories of their national parks. As they complete activities and earn rewards, they learn more about America’s natural and cultural heritage. The site is launched on Founder’s Day, the 89th Anniversary of the National Park Service.

“Our goal for WebRangers was to design a program that was accessible, educational and fun — one that would provide opportunities for children to make emotional and intellectual connections to their National Parks,” said Fran Mainella, Director of the National Park Service. “We think parents, teachers and most of all children will be very happy with the result!”

The new site is the result of a relationship between the National Park Service, National Park Foundation and Best Buy Children’s Foundation, and designed for children ages 6 and up. Participants chose from nine “tours” and complete as many as 45 activities along the way to earn the title “WebRanger.” In order to make the site accessible to as many children as possible, a number of activities are offered in Spanish and in text only versions.

Children from across the country worked with the NPS and d’Vinci Interactive of Hagerstown MD to determine the activities and features that would make WebRangers more interesting to them. One group of children that reviewed the site was part of the University of Maryland’s Human Computer Interface Lab. Data and assistance from the media research firm Grunwald Associates helped the NPS team focus on kid-friendly strategies.

“Through WebRangers, innovative and interactive technology helps kids learn about the culture and history of our national parks in a way that is fun and interesting to them — that knowledge and desire to learn is invaluable,” said Brad Anderson, vice chairman and chief executive officer, Best Buy.

Since its initial launch in April 2003, WebRangers has averaged 3,500 to 4,000 page accesses per day, and received nearly 1.5 million hits in its first year. Interestingly, the site is accessed more on weekends, showing that children often visit the site on their own time. With the newly expanded site, more activities, and a greatly improved user experience, visitation is expected to double or triple within the first few months.

“We wanted to help the Park Service represent the full range of cultural and natural diversity present in the National Park System and our nation as a whole,” said President and CEO of the National Park Foundation Vin Cipolla. “The diversity of the parks included in WebRangers helps children connect with all aspects of American history and culture, while building patriotism and civic responsibility.”

About the National Park Foundation

The National Park Foundation (www.nationalparks.org), chartered by Congress in 1967, is the official non-profit partner of America’s national parks. The National Park Foundation strengthens the enduring connection between the American people and their national parks by raising private funds, making strategic grants, creating innovative partnerships and increasing public awareness. Over the past seven years alone, the Foundation has contributed more than $135 million in total grants and program support to national parks across the country.

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