One Year without Parks in Focus One Year with Parks in Focus
If I was at home, I would be on the couch watching TV and eating chips.
–PIF participant, age 11

I've been here before, but we never got out of the car.
–PIF participant, age 12

Eating is my hobby. Was my hobby, I mean.
–PIF participant, age 12
70,000 outside hours logged collectively

31,000 photos snapped

30 parks visited

27 poems, 12 short stories, and 3 songs crafted


Parks in Focus is changing quickly; shifting in 2011 from an immersion-trip model to a much longer and more impactful community-centered model that creates extended opportunities for middle-school youth to get outside, explore the natural world through the lens of a camera, and share their experiences with family, friends, and their communities.

As always, digital cameras and the art of photography are used as tools, both to help establish the connection between youth and nature and to provide a medium in which each youth's connection can live on beyond a single activity, outing, or trip.

In 2011, Parks in Focus reached more youth at a deeper level than ever before, provided extended and advanced programming at multiple levels, and engaged new community, state, and national partners.

Arizona Highlights

  • Tucson Community Initiative; year-round program for 70 underserved middle-schoolers (Spring and Fall, 2011)
    • 334 hours of programming
    • 3,000 photos taken
    • 50 Clubhouse visits w/lessons, photo workshops, activities + guest educators (from New ARTiculations Dance Theater, Arizona Project Wet, Insect Discovery @ U of A, National Phenology Network, Pima County DEQ, Saguaro National Park)
    • 24 Saturday field trips to Tucson sites (Agua Caliente Park, Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, Biosphere 2, Catalina State Park, Saguaro National Park, Sweetwater Wetlands, University of Arizona)
    • 1 camp-in and family gathering at the Boys & Girls Club to introduce campout concepts
    • 2 weekend campouts (Mt Lemmon and Texas Canyon)

  • Two 5-day, 4-night camping trips for 24 underserved middle-schoolers and eight adult leaders to Flagstaff and Grand Canyon (Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Marshall Lake/Coconino National Forest, Sunset Crater National Monument)
    • 240 hours of intensive programming with one-on-one mentoring
    • 3,000 photos taken

  • 6-day, 5-night advanced camping trip for 12 underserved middle-schoolers and 6 adult leaders to Grand Canyon NP
    • 144 hours of intensive programming with one-on-one mentoring and introductions to art/outdoor careers
    • 2,000 photos taken

  • Photography exhibit and community event at Children's Museum Tucson
    • 130 youth, families and community members attended; youth led the group in a song they wrote

California Highlights

  • 4-day, 3-night camping trip to Yosemite National Park for 12 underserved middle-schoolers from East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park and 6 adult leaders
    • 100 hours of programming
    • 4,500 photos taken
    • Pre-trip introductory sessions and post-trip celebration and family gathering
    • Challenge hike up the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls; tour of the Ansel Adams gallery with photo hike guided by professional photographer; and half-day community service project w/Yosemite Leadership Program interns

  • 2-day, 1-night whirl-wind camping trip in San Francisco Bay Area for 19 middle-schoolers and 12 adult leaders from 4 East Bay communities (Oakland, Concord, Hayward, Richmond)
    • 48 hours of programming
    • 5,000 photos taken
    • Guided photo-exploration of Mount Tamalpais State Park, Muir Beach, Muir Woods National Monument, Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historic Park, Anthony Chabot Regional Park, and Jack London Aquatic Center
    • Educational lessons facilitated by National, State, and Regional Park Service staff

  • Leadership training facilitated by Udall Foundation for National Park Service rangers, East Bay Regional Park District naturalists, and several East Bay community youth leaders

  • $8,500 grant award from Yosemite Conservancy for 2012 program (in partnership with Yosemite National Park)

  • Community outreach and partner development through four trips to the Bay Area by Udall Foundation staff; meetings with 10 potential partners and collaborators

  • New partnership with Bay Area Wilderness Training; PIF:CA Coordinator trained by BAWT to lead backcountry trips for youth

Michigan Highlights

  • 6-day, 5-night advanced camping trip to Isle Royale National Park for 9 Parks in Focus:MI alums ages 13-17 and 6 adult leaders
    • 144 hours of programming
    • 6,000 photos taken
    • Canoed and did sunset photography in Tobin Harbor; hiked to Lookout Louise while searching for moose scat and tracks; visited the headquarters of the Isle Royale wolf–moose study; and explored Suzy's Cave
    • Hosted a public photo slideshow at the Rock Harbor Auditorium

  • 5-day, 4-night camping trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore for 12 underserved middle-schoolers and 8 adult leaders
    • 120 hours of programming
    • 5,000 photos taken
    • Hiked a segment of the North Country Trail and cooled off in Lake Superior; visited Seney National Wildlife Refuge; took a sunset cruise; and then did a 7-mile paddle down the Au Train River

  • Pilot summer program in Flint, MI, for 10 underserved middle-schoolers
    • 80 hours of programming
    • 2,500 photos taken
    • 3 day trips to Flint parks; 1 overnight camp-in at the Boys & Girls Club; 1 weekend camp-out at Bay City State Recreation Area; 1 fall outing

  • Quarterly alumni outings (open to all past participants)
    • Snowshoeing, winter and fall photography outings, and public service projects
    • Joined West Michigan Chapter of the North Country Trail Association to celebrate National Public Lands Day

  • Friends, family, and community events featuring kid's photos and contest winners
    • 3 friends and family photo slideshow events; 5 community outreach presentations
    • Participation in UM Flint's annual "PARKing Day"
    • Participants won 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in the youth category in Seney NWR's annual amateur photo contest