This year the National Park Service celebrates its centennial -- 100 years of preserving some of the country's most beautiful and unique lands for all of us to enjoy. The NPS wants to make sure that the service and parks are around for many more centuries so this year they are launching different programs to get more people interested and involved in the parks, particularly young people.
In partnership with American Express and Games for Change, an organization that creates games with a social impact, the NPS has released a game in iTunes called Save the Park to help inspire more kids and young people to visit and help the national parks. The app is free, but with each download in 2016 American Express will donate $1.00 to the National Park Foundation up to $50,000. American Express has also committed $5 million towards helping the Department of the Interior reach its goal of increasing community volunteers in national parks and on public lands to one million annually by 2017.
The game lets users play as four characters on a quest to save the parks by accomplishing volunteer tasks. The game takes place in three different national parks and encourages park conservation and gives examples of real volunteer opportunities in the parks system. As users carry out their role as a virtual volunteer, the app offers facts about some of the parks in the system to educate them about the importance of these public spaces.
The game was designed to be as fun as any other game kids like to play with races, hidden objects and more to keep it fast-paced and interesting while they learn about being a volunteer. Users see their progress in the different ways they made a positive impact in the park.
“Volunteering is one of the best ways to get up, get out and find your park,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “With more than 400 parks across the country that protect and preserve America’s landscapes, culture and history, we can’t do it alone, and volunteers serve important roles in many of our national parks."
The best way to inspire our kids to protect these special parks is to take them there -- you can find a list of parks near you here -- but the app could be an additional way to get them to realize that they can take an active role in helping the parks and it's an easy way to direct some needed money to the NPS. You can find the app in the iTunes app store. There's no plan for an Android version at this time.