Have you ever wondered how to get your kids entertained while traveling? How about learning about history while on vacation? This is where the National Park Junior Ranger program comes in handy.
One of our goals while traveling with our kids is to get them to continue learning. Of course as a kid, on vacation, learning is the last thing they want to do. So we had to find a way for them to learn and yet still have fun. We were fortunate to learn about the Junior Ranger Program, and it has helped accomplish this,
Continue reading to learn all about this great, free, program. All though it is for kids ages 5-13 anyone can do it. It is a great way to learn about the parks, our environment, and our history.
The National Park Junior Ranger Program | Explore, Learn, and Protect
The Junior Ranger Program is an activity-based program found at many of the National Parks 423 sites. This program is as simple as visiting a park, completing an activity book, sharing answers with a Park Ranger, and receiving a unique badge.
It’s moto “Explore, Learn, and Protect” sums up what you can expect from the program. Each activity will help you explore the park, teach you all about the park, and show how you can help protect our National Parks.
Step 1: Complete the Activities Book
Each site has different requirements to earn the Junior Ranger title. The first step is to stop at the visitor’s center to receive the activity book. Many can also be downloaded prior to arriving.
Each program is different. Some require you to take a short hike or go on a ranger-lead program in the park. Others require you to share what they’ve learned with others, or pick up litter. All of these activities incorporate an educational component to the park. So while you are exploring the park, you’re also learning about it in a more hands-on way. This is a no-brainer if you’re traveling with kids, and wish to keep them engaged!
Each activity book also has different requirements depending on the age of the participant.
Step 2: Meet With A Park Ranger
Once you’ve completed the required amount of activities for the age group you then return to the visitor center. Here you can turn in your booklet to a Park Ranger to review.
You will have to turn your book in at one of the designated visitor’s centers in the park. There is also the option of mailing it in for review by a Park Ranger at a later date.
Oftentimes the Park Ranger will ask a few questions related to the activities, and what was learned about the park.
Take the National Park Junior Ranger Program Oath and Receive Your Badge
After completing all the activities you will be asked by the Park Ranger to take the Junior Ranger Oath. After completing the Oath, and joining the Jr Ranger Program family, you will receive your unique badge. These are great souvenirs because each badge is specific to the site.
The Junior Ranger Program Oath
I am proud to be a National Park Service Junior Ranger. I promise to appreciate, respect, and protect all national park places. I also promise to continue learning about the landscape, plants, animals, and history of these special places. I will share what I learn with my friends and family.
Fourth Graders Can See America’s Natural Wonders and Historic Sites for Free.
The Jr Ranger program was the reason we fell in love with the National Park System. Bryce’s fourth-grade teacher had mentioned it to him prior to our first cross-country trip. With this pass, we had decided to head west to the Grand Canyon National Park.
All that your child needs to do is visit the Every Kid Outdoors website, complete the online program, and print out their personalized voucher. It’s that simple. You then get access to all the National Park Sites, and more, at no cost.
If you don’t have a fourth grader you can still get a pass for a fee. The America the Beautiful Pass is a great way to see all the NPS has to offer. It cost $80 and gives you access to all the NPS sites. In addition, this pass is free to all military members, and their dependents.
Our Jr Ranger Program Experience
We have completed over 25 different Junior Ranger programs. Each one of these has helped create special memories from the many different Parks we have visited.
The most memorable Jr Ranger experience was during our visit to Bryce Canyon National Park. Here our Ranger Led program was interrupted by a sudden thunderstorm, and hail.
For the Grand Canyon program, we went stargazing with a Park Ranger. We were extremely fortunate that this occurred on a clear night. We were able to see the milky way stretch across the night sky over the Grand Canyon. There are no words to describe this awesome sight. All because we were completing a Jr. Ranger Program activity.
It is because of the Junior Ranger Program, and Bryce’s fourth-grade teacher, that we have traveled thousands of miles visiting National Park Sites. However, if you are unable to travel there are other options.
Keeping kids engaged while traveling can be a challenge at times. Of course, no kid wants to “learn” while on vacation. Fortunately, the National Park System has created a program to help with both of these challenges.
There are 423 National Park sites all throughout the Country. Almost all of them offer the Junior Ranger program. This is a great way to keep kids engaged, and interested while traveling. The best part is that it is free, and allows kids to keep learning.
Of course, it is not just for “kids”. The Park Service allows people of all ages to complete the activities, take the oath, and join the Junior Ranger family.