Officials at Mesa Verde National Park are hoping to involve more local schools in visits to the park.
The park received an $8,000 “Ticket To Ride” grant from the National Park Foundation that reimburses schools for costs for field trips to the park for third- to eighth-grade students. Disney also supports the grant program.
About 600 students from Cortez, Dolores and Mancos are scheduled to visit the park as part of the program before through May, when the funding ends, said Mesa Verde education coordinator Jill Blumenthal. Kemper, Lewis-Arriola, Manaugh and Mesa elementary schools have scheduled trips, as well as Children’s Kiva Montessori School. Mancos Middle and Elementary school also have been involved with the program, she said.
There’s still funding available for schools that haven’t already scheduled trips, Blumenthal said. This is the first year the park has been awarded the grant, and Blumenthal said she hopes more area schools become consistent Mesa Verde visitors.
“I find it hard to accept that there are students who are out in the schoolyard and can see Mesa Verde but have never been there,” she said. “A school trip gives them that opportunity to visit a park that’s literally in their backyard.”
Schools in other areas, such as Durango, visit the park more regularly than some Montezuma County schools, Blumenthal said.
Most of the grant goes toward transportation costs, she said, and some of the money funds seasonal support staff.
If local schools don’t take advantage of the funding, Blumenthal said the park may reach out to other schools, such as tribal districts. But the grant money doesn’t go as far with groups that have to travel from a school far away, she said.
Depending on the response from local districts, park officials may pursue a separate grant to bring tribal schools to the park, Blumenthal said.
Since it’s the first year the park has been awarded the grant, it could take a few years for the program to take hold, she said. It might be late in the year for schools to think about scheduling a field trip, she added.
Most of the field trips already scheduled feature tours of Balcony House, Blumenthal said. Tour reservations for that part of the park are filling up fast, but schools can still visit the park and set their own itineraries if they don’t get the chance to visit Balcony House, she said.
The “Ticket To Ride” program aims to bring 100,000 students nationwide to the parks each year. Grants are awarded with the goal of bringing students to national parks who might not otherwise have a means of transportation to them.
Since some area districts have many students that fit that category, Blumenthal said the grant program made sense for Mesa Verde.
“To me this seemed like a common sense connection to connect those dots and get kids up to the park,” Blumenthal said.
Educators interested in scheduling a trip to the park can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Mesa Verde’s education office at 970-529-5079.