SNP Trust supports Shenandoah National Park’s Education Programming, providing a broad range of recreational, educational, and service-learning experiences in Shenandoah National Park for youth and young adults.

The goal of Play, Learn, Serve is to provide meaningful national park experiences for audiences of all ages that instill a love and appreciation for Shenandoah National Park (and national parks in general!). This program funds in-park field trips, summer youth camps, and virtual learning programs, along with professional development opportunities for educators for young people ho may not otherwise have a chance to visit the park.

Play, Learn, Serve directly supports these five components: 

  1. Curriculum-based in-park school field trips- Provides formal educational programming for schools to bring educational groups to the park. Annually serves approximately 5000 students from schools surrounding the park.
  2. Curriculum-based in-school programs- Provides formal educational programming at local schools for 4th and 5th grade classes. Annually serves approximately 2000 students at schools surrounding the park.
  3. Summer Youth Engagement- Provides youth engagement and service-learning programs for youth organizations such as Groundwork, Big Brother/Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs, and volunteer youth groups. Annually serves approximately 1000 youth during the summer months.
  4. Professional Development for Educators- Provides workshops and professional development programs for formal and non-formal educators and park staff including Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program. Annually serves 50-100 educators and 1-2 Teacher-Rangers.
  5. Distance Learning- Provides opportunities to develop and implement internet-based distance learning programs including live webcasts and interactive, multimedia virtual field trips, videos, and student activities.


Step Up to the Great Outdoors

Our partnerships with Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, & YMCAs of Virginia sparked the creation of a three-part initiative that introduces under-served children to Shenandoah National Park–starting by bringing Park Rangers to their neighborhoods and culminating in an overnight camping trip in the national park.

Step #1 involved Park Rangers traveling to the children’s schools and neighborhoods to bring park artifacts, like deer antlers and bear fur. Step #2 was a day trip to Shenandoah National Park. With their Park Rangers, the children hiked, played and ate a picnic lunch. For many, it was their first visit to a national park. Step #3 was an overnight camping trip in Shenandoah. The kids learned to pitch tents, cook on a camp stove, and hike to new summits. Each camper received their own sleeping bag as a memento of the experience and incentive to spend more time under the stars.

The camps are structured as a three-way partnership: Shenandoah National Park provides the venue and the Park Rangers to conduct the programming; organizations working with under-served youth recruit campers and serve as chaperones; and the Trust provides the funding.  The Trust’s goals for these campers are to:

  • Engage in new experiences that push them beyond their comfort zone, in a safe and supportive environment
  • Learn teamwork
  • Set goals and achieve success
  • Foster a desire to serve/volunteer
  • Get exercise
  • Connect with nature
  • Develop a sense of ownership/stewardship of Shenandoah National Park

Based on the success of these camps, the Trust is now building the park’s capacity to partner with additional organizations, especially those who serve disadvantaged youth in the park’s gateway communities.  Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) and Boys and Girls Club (BGC) have strong reputations and the children they serve live less than 30 minutes from Shenandoah National Park. 

“I never thought I would enjoy sleeping outside or working outside in the summer. It was hot and sweaty, but it was the best time I ever had.” 

“Being in the woods lightened my spirit and made me happy. It increased my confidence. I did things I didn’t think I could do before. I won’t say I CAN’T anymore!” 



Shenandoah National Park is a preeminent outdoor classroom. With our Ticket-to-Ride program, teachers are provided, at no cost, pre-field trip curricula and post-trip materials. In the park, they can choose to do a self-guided program or be led by a Park Ranger. All educational curricula comply with federal and state (Virginia) standards of learning.

In the face of shrinking school budgets, field trip funding is often the first “extra” to be cut, leaving thousands of children—many of whom live very close to Shenandoah National Park—without any means to experience their “backyard” national park.

Let’s not let transportation costs be a barrier to these remarkable opportunities. You help us defray school bus costs by funding Ticket-to-Ride and get 5,000 students to their national park.


Groundwork RVA

SNPT partnered with Groundwork from Richmond, VA to offer youth from around the country immersive summer camp experiences while serving in Shenandoah National Park.

Notes from the Field

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