Why We Love Junior Ranger Programs (And Think You Will Too)

I discovered last fall that I'm a little bit skeptical of our federal government.  I honestly had no idea until B & P were finishing their first National Parks Junior Ranger program and the park ranger handed them a very nice, high quality patch to commemorate their day of learning.  With all the talk of debt ceilings and excessive borrowing and financial cut-backs we hear about in the news, I was caught a little bit off-guard at the quality of a program we'd participated in for free.  We couldn't wait to visit our next park and get started on another one!

Junior Ranger programs

That first Junior Ranger program we did was at the Capulin Volcano National Monument in northeastern New Mexico.  I'll share more about that visit in the near future, but today want to tell you the two reasons we've fallen in love with the Junior Ranger programs.

1.  I already mentioned it, they're GOOD QUALITY learning programs.  I'm sure that would be important to anyone, but as a homeschool parent I tend to be a little critical of children's educational resources.  Too many times they're full of cartoon characters or pop culture references and not a lot of learning takes place in what's left of the blank space on a page.  

Junior Ranger ProgramTo become a Junior Ranger, kids have to complete worksheets and tasks.  Both the programs we've done so far have had an option for younger and older kids.  Usually the younger kids are required to complete 3-4 pages/tasks, while the older kids maybe have to complete 5-7.  At Capulin Volcano pages included learning about how a volcano works, the geology of northern New Mexico, the flora and fauna of the area, and more.  A lot of them involve reading signs throughout the park and finding the information.  At that park they could receive an extra reward for completing the entire hike around the rim of the volcano.

Seriously, what can be better than seeing kids out in nature actively and excitedly learning about their surroundings?

Lake Mead, Junior Ranger Program
Working on their Junior Ranger at Lake Mead

2.  The Junior Ranger programs make kids feel special.  During our trip to Lake Mead last month, we stopped into the visitor's center to pick up our Junior Ranger books.  The retired volunteer park ranger almost jumped out of his skin with enthusiasm.  Both times we've done the program the rangers have given full attention to our boys while they explained the program and the requirements and got them excited for a day of learning.  

Why does it seem like adults don't do that anymore...make time for kids?  Such a spirit-lifting experience for me to have someone else telling my kids how cool science and the outdoors can be! That volunteer ranger answered every single one of their questions and quizzed them and made sure they had not taken it lightly.  B & P just ate it up!  

So what happens when kids have completed their activities and worksheets?  The ranger administers the Junior Park Ranger pledge.  Each kid repeats something like this, 

"As a Junior Ranger, I promise to teach others about what I learned today, 
explore other parks and historic sites, 
and help preserve and protect these places so future generations can enjoy them."

Then they receive their badge and their patches and go on their merry little way...


Do you have Junior Rangers at home?
Which park programs have been your favorite?

More information:
Junior Ranger programs are available at
200+ national parks.

The program is free to participate-just ask a ranger at the park visitor center for information.

Many of the booklets and other information are available online
and are great resources for homeschool unit studies.

Your local state parks may have junior ranger programs as well.  
Ask the next time you're there!