When the kids were pretty young, we happened upon the Junior Ranger program at one of our National Parks. We felt like we struck gold! We found that in each National Park, the kids are invited to attend a short educational program, Ranger Walk or video and complete “Ranger Booklets” which ask them about key aspects of the park. Questions ranged from asking about their observations of nature to the park’s human and archeological historical significance. In the end, they met with a Park Ranger to share what they’ve learned and were “sworn in” as official Junior Rangers.
This was such a hit on our first big vacation, that we have sought out National Parks and the Junior Ranger program on almost every vacation since then.
We have enjoyed exploring our natural treasures like Yosemite, Muir Redwoods, Wind Cave and the Badlands, as well as historic landmarks like Yorktown, Alcatraz, Lincoln’s Boyhood Home and cities abundant with historic points of interest like Boston and Washington DC. Being part of the Junior Ranger program has, I feel, given the kids a sense of responsibility for our National Parks while broadening their understanding of and appreciation for the many treasures our nation offers (and that they, as the next generation, must protect).
So far, our favorite Junior Ranger programs have been:
- Gettysburg (my son loves to re-enact Picketts Charge in the sandbox)
- Point Reyes National Seashore (we saw pupping elephant seals AND whales plus got to stand on the San Andreas Fault!)
- Yosemite (need I say more?)
Have you done the Junior Ranger program? What are your favorite National Parks to explore with your Junior Rangers?