This grant was originally approved for 2020, but the program was unable to take place, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding for Parks in Focus was approved again for 2021.

Project goal: Help middle school students connect with public lands and learn about nature through photography.

Why this work matters: Through its “Yosemite in Focus” program, Parks in Focus® gives middle school students from the San Francisco Bay Area the chance to have outdoor experiences that might otherwise be inaccessible.

Parks in Focus partners with Bay Area youth organizations to serve students who have limited access to nature. After going on introductory outings to local parks, the students head to Yosemite for a five-day summer camping trip. For many participants, a Parks in Focus trip is their first time hiking, camping or visiting a national park.

Throughout the trips, the students use digital cameras as a tool to learn about the natural world, whether zooming in on colorful insects and speckled granite, turning the lens up to capture a towering pine, or framing a sunset shot of Sierra peaks from Sentinel Dome. They also meet with rangers and photographers, and complete service projects, such as planting pollinator-friendly flowers in Valley meadows. Afterward, students have the chance to see their work displayed on gallery walls, through special exhibits at The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Valley and at venues in the Bay Area.

How your support helps: Your gifts provide free programming for middle schoolers from three Bay Area youth organizations to connect with meaningful outdoor experiences, learn about environmental stewardship and develop an appreciation for public lands. The Parks in Focus team will also create and share a new “Yosemite in Focus” activity book, and they will offer trainings to park staff and volunteers, to help extend the proven curriculum beyond the summer expeditions. 

Partnering with Yosemite National Park, Udall Foundation, Western National Parks Association, The Ansel Adams Gallery, Real Options for City Kids, Sequoia YMCA, and Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula.

Bret Muter

Parks in Focus® Program Manager, Udall Foundation

Project Notes

"Parks in Focus® connects middle school youth from underserved communities to nature and our national parks through photography and outdoor learning."