Visit a Florida State Park and Enter to Win a Scholarship!
Pen and paper. Peanut butter and jelly. Kids and the great outdoors. Some things are just naturally meant to go together!
Florida Prepaid and Florida State Parks are a winning combination, too, because we both love it when families learn. It’s why we have come together to sponsor the Exploring Education Scholarship Program, in which ten Florida children will receive a 1-year Florida University Plan college scholarship. Twenty-five runners-up will receive an outdoor adventure Junior Ranger gift pack. Kids ages newborn through eighth grade are eligible.
We’re all excited to see kids spend more time in nature. Katie Moses is the park manager at Lovers Key State Park, the second-most visited state park in Florida. She loves to watch kids hit the beach, hike or rent kayaks or canoes at her park near Fort Myers Beach.
“A lot of times when you’re kayaking you can see the manatees and dolphins in the canal,” she said. “My favorite are the roseate spoonbills, especially at low tide in winter.”
Moses said families visiting the park between February 15 and March 25 will get a bookmark at the guard gate with information on how to enter to win a college scholarship. Kids can also participate in the Junior Ranger program (in park or virtually), where they complete activities to learn about parks and connect to the natural and cultural wonders of Florida.
Studies show that children who play outside are more likely as young adults to cherish and protect nature.
“What’s really fun about our Junior Ranger program is you can make it unique to you,” Moses said. “Let’s say you have a really young kid that might not have the reading skills. You can read it to them and work through it with them. Or kids who are little bit older might want to do it all on their own. I’m in my 40s, and every park I go to I do the ranger program! It’s intriguing to adults, too.”
Kids who bring in their completed form can recite the Junior Ranger pledge with a park ranger and get a patch and membership card. (A video pledge and additional educational resources are available online.) There is also a passport kids can have stamped. “The more you do, the more you get,” Moses said.
With 175 award-winning state parks, there are a wide variety of experiences near you. Consider these for a trip:
- Koreshan State Park, home to 11 immaculately restored and nationally registered historic buildings built in the late 1800s. “It’s really fascinating to step back into history and see what Florida was like before we had all this technology and crazy busy roads,” Moses said.
- Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs State Park. Walk the elevated boardwalk to see captive wildlife that are unable to survive in the wild, then head to the underwater observatory to see manatees and fish.
- Silver Springs State Park. “You don’t even have to swim,” Moses said. “Glass bottom boats take you out into the springs and you can just look down into this crystal-clear water.”
- Florida Caverns State Park. Located in Marianna in Florida’s Panhandle, Florida Caverns offers visitors a rarity in the state — a chance to explore stunning, otherworldly caves.
“The most important thing is to get out in nature, get outside,” Moses said. “A lot of state parks are large in size, but they’re set up for friendly visitor experiences. We have incredible staff and volunteers that are so happy to answer any questions. We know the park really well, so if you’re looking for specific things, we’re able to direct you.”