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!

Comments

  1. We have a junior rangers program here and I really want my boys to participate but they're still too young. For sure it's something on my list. Hopping they'll like it as much as your boys!

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  2. What an amazing way to get kids involved in enjoying nature and learning to respect the world around them. The landscapes at Lake Mead look amazing, I wish we had landscapes like that in Ireland, everything here is just green. I'd love for my son to take part in a junior ranger programme :)

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  3. What an amazing program! It's rare to see many kids taking time to learn about our national parks, let alone teach others about what they learned. I love how they get to be outdoors and become familiar with the local area, animals, and so on. Even with our country's debt, I'm glad they have something like this for the kids. Thank you for sharing, now I must visit our local park and see if they too also have a junior ranger program.

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  4. What an amazing program! You certainly don't hear a lot of kids taking time to learn about our national parks and then promise to teach others about what they learned. I love how they get to be outdoors and become familiar with the local area, animals, and so on. Even with our country's debt, I'm glad they have something like this for the kids. Thank you for sharing, now I must visit our local park and see if they too also have a junior ranger program.

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  5. What a great program. I wish we had more parks like this here in Georgia so kids can get from behind the computers and explore this would be a great program. My son has allergies so he won't be able to do it but I know some kids that would benefit from this.

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  6. Such beautiful smiles and happy faces with their much deserved badges. I'm so glad you shared this program with us. I didn't know about it. This is a great message. Did you know that you can get free parking passes to most national parks from your local library?

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  7. This is a great endorsement of the program! We looked into visiting Yellowstone a few years back and showed our kids the Junior Ranger program. Although we didn't end up doing it, I had thought it would have been a great experience.

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  8. Stacie @ Divine LifestyleApril 24, 2015 at 11:24 AM

    I think the Junior Ranger program is such a great idea. This is a really immersive way for kids to learn about the world around them and the importance of keeping it safe.

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  9. Exactly! The programs cover every aspect of wilderness, conservation, pollution, careers. It's a great opportunity for kids to gain an appreciation of what is available to them and what it takes to maintain it.

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  10. It's too bad you didn't, I bet the Yellowstone program is amazing. Next time, at least stop and pick up the booklet. Even if you don't do it while you're at the park, it's a great resource for them to look at while you're driving or when you get back home!

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  11. I had completely forgotten about the library passes! I know we can get state park passes at ours, but they're usually reserved half a year ahead. I'll have to see if we have the national pass at ours!

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  12. There weren't any national parks in Iowa where I grew up, either. But definitely check your state parks! For your son, don't give up. For example, the Statue of Liberty is a National Monument and has a program. There have to be other ones like that. You've inspired me to start thinking about a post of non-park National Parks and Monuments. Also, there is an online web ranger program. You can get more information here... http://www.nps.gov/webrangers/

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  13. I hope they do have a program! I know, the pledge kind of makes me chuckle every time, but it's a good thing. Our last ranger even gave them a mini-lecture about making sure they go to college and pay attention to the sciences so maybe they can be grown-up rangers one day.

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  14. I grew up in the middle of the United States where everything is green, as well. Moving to the west has been such a change and I definitely miss the lushness every once in awhile. I'm curious if your parks would have a similar program?

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  15. I'm sure they'll love it! Which park are you close to?

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  16. I haven't checked the parks yet. They were at our local grocery store helping pack groceries for some extra funds and I was talking to the guy. My oldest really seemed interested so we'll see! :D

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  17. Wow! I never knew about this program. I am probably going to start homeschooling, and this would be so neat to go and visit these different places. I looked up my state, and there are a few places--not close, but maybe still doable. Thanks for the information.

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  18. First of all your boys are adorable. They look like they had an amazing time. I'm glad that the program was a high quality learning experience. You don't find many high quality things for free today. I wish there was a program close to use that my kiddos could try (gotta love city living lol).

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  19. Best luck with homeschooling! We absolutely love it, partly because it opens up our schedule and we can learn by doing great activities like the Junior Ranger programs.

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  20. Oh, thanks, Kira! They pretty much have a great time no matter what we tell them to do, which is a good thing. Do you have any state or national parks within driving distance (for a Saturday or weekend?) Check at your library, a lot of times they'll have season passes you can check out and at least get out and have fun in the parks!

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