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Why I Want Kids to Go Play in the Parks

As U.S. secretary of the interior, Sally Jewell heads an agency responsible for managing energy and water resources on public lands and trust commitments to Native Americans.

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As U.S. secretary of the interior, Sally Jewell, 58, heads an agency responsible for managing energy and water resources on public lands and trust commitments to Native Americans. But perhaps the part of the job closest to her heart—she grew up in the Pacific Northwest and is an avid outdoorswoman—is acting as steward of America's national parks.

What's the biggest challenge for parks?

We need to make national parks relevant to new generations, to connect to people who have less time for a road trip or weekend campout with kids. We don't have enough people with parks on the radar as a place they want to go.

So how do you get kids into national parks?

We've started a four-part youth initiative: play, learn, serve, work. First is play. Let kids go to the park, ex- plore, satisfy the curiosity that all kids have. When you nurture that curiosity, they build a comfort with being outside. Then comes learn. My favorite classroom is the one with no walls, whether it's natural national parks or historic national parks like battlefields or the places that tell the stories of civil rights. Then serve. When young people volunteer time to make a park better, they see what happens when people leave garbage or when invasive species take over, and they recognize what's at stake. They never look at that place the same again. And finally work. We want to put kids to work in youth corps, like the Civilian Conservation Corps did. The CCC connected millions of young men in the 1930s to public lands, and that connection never left them.

Will technology play a part in the parks?

Integrating technology into the parks experience is critical, even basics like being able to locate where you are on your smartphone so you can find out about that place. With technology you can keep park information up-to-date.

Sally Jewell feels that everyone should explore our national parks. What motivates you to get outside? Let us know—and also tell us who you'd like to see in 3 Questions—in the comments below.