Yellow Bus Program
The Florida State Parks Foundation, in partnership with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Florida Park Service (FPS), coordinates the Yellow Buses in the Parks Project, which provides opportunities for classes to experience state parks near them.
“Florida State Parks are a tremendous resource for our community and children,” said Paula Russo, past-president of the foundation. “We believe taking children off campus on field trips allows them to get a broader view of their community. It helps give them a sense of place and at the same time helps with their educational goals.”
Three years ago, foundation members came up with the idea for the project. They observed that schools were doing fewer field trips to the parks, and realized children were losing educational opportunities.
“The state parks provide so many terrific educational experiences, from environmental to historical to cultural,” said Russo. “Kids aren’t going to experience them unless you get them to the park.”
The Yellow Buses in The Parks project provides grants to schools to cover transportation costs to the park. The project also ensures parks have the necessary materials to provide educational programs, such as binoculars so the children can observe native bird and butterflies, or hand lenses so they can explore ground cover. Russo estimates that in the last three years the program has reached over 75,000 children through the transportation and equipment grants.
Every field trip is not only a learning experiences: Children make memories they will have for a lifetime. The trips instill a passion for the protection and preservation of the state’s natural and cultural resources.
“It was fun watching the students ask questions of the ranger who was dressed in period costume,” said Russo, who attended one of the field trips at Dudley Farm Historic State Park. “They were having fun while learning about Florida’s history.”
Teachers are excited about the opportunity as well.
“Our students were thoroughly engaged, and the variety of exposure to structures, chores, games and traditions was captivating for our students. This is a field trip worth taking every year,” said Karen Talham, whose fourth-grade class from Joseph Williams Elementary in Gainesville visited Dudley Farm Historic State Park.
The foundation is looking forward to future field trips. The project is funded through partnerships and donations from community supporters.
“These field trips contribute to the education and growth of our children,” said Russo. “Yellow Buses in the Parks is a team effort that requires caring and dedicated teachers, park rangers, volunteers and generous people willing to help finance the program.”