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The Joys of Being a Junior Ranger

The Joys of Being a Junior Ranger

Every summer, our family develops a new passion. One year, it was geocaching. One year, it was watching “American Ninja Warrior.” This year, our passion involves visiting some of the sites of the National Park Service. During the visit, our children collect a Junior Ranger booklet for the Visitor’s Center and work on earning their Junior Ranger badges. It has been a great joy to visit some of our nation’s national parks and monuments and learn so much about the parks through the Junior Ranger program.

New Rangers at Capulin Volcano
Our Junior Rangers

Our son loves nature and animals. As I was researching about the Rocky Mountain National Park before a visit last year, I stumbled upon the Junior Ranger program. Each park has its own booklet and badge (or patch) for children. And since each park is unique in what it offers, each Junior Ranger book offers something new for our children to learn or explore.

Sometimes the kids will have to identify animals they saw or heard at the park. Other times, they will have to illustrate a feature of the park. Still other times, they might write about the historical significance of a park. It’s always different. And each park requires a different amount of activities to be completed based on a child’s age.

At Agate Fossil Beds NM
It’s a tradition for us to take our picture in front of the NPS sign at each site we visit.

Once they have completed their booklet, our kids take the work to a Park Ranger who will review it and then award them a Junior Ranger badge. At some parks, our kids have been awarded the badge after raising their right hand and completing a pledge to protect and preserve the parks natural features. I think my kids love this feature, and feel a little bit of a let down if they simply receive a badge without saying the pledge. And since the kids are so excited to earn badges at each park, we decided to buy each of them a Junior Ranger vest to wear with their badges.

My kids and me at the Mesa Verde Visitor’s Center.

If you have school age children, I would highly encourage you to investigate the Junior Ranger program and a park or two to your summer adventures. You can find out more about the Junior Ranger program at www.nps.gov. Select any park and look under the kids and youth tab to discover the Junior Ranger program for that park. You also can read more about the NPS Every Kid in a Park program that gives a free yearly pass to Fourth Grade students here.

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