One of our favorite family activities when we travel is to participate in the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger program.There are currently more than 200 Junior Ranger Programs in the National Park Service. You can see a complete list of participating Junior Ranger parks here.
The goal of these programs is to give kids and families the chance to explore and learn about their national parks – and discover how they can help protect them today and in the future.
What is the Junior Ranger program?
The specific requirements of earning the Junior Ranger badge vary from park to park. In general, kids are asked to complete a series of activities during their park visit, share their answers with a park ranger, get sworn in as Junior Rangers and receive an official Junior Ranger badge or patch and certificate.
Most programs are geared toward the 6 and up crowd, but some parks also have programs for younger kids. Some Junior Ranger programs are free; others require a small fee.
How can kids participate in a Junior Ranger program?
To participate, your kids will need a Junior Ranger program booklet for the park you are planning to visit. Depending on the park, you may be able to download and print a copy prior to your visit. If not, you can pick one up in a park Visitor Center when you arrive.
Once you pick up your Junior Ranger program booklet, take a look at what’s required for your child. Activities usually differ by age. Then decide whether you will dedicate a few hours to completing the program right then or spread your tasks out over your stay at the park. Make sure to have a pencil and eraser on hand to complete the activities!
Why we love the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger Program:
- Completing the tasks is like going on a treasure hunt in a National Park;
- There are a wide variety of activities to choose from, like puzzles, drawing & getting to know about native plants & animals;
- Activities can be completed over the course of your stay or in a single day;
- It’s a great way to learn a ton about a park with your family;
- The badges & patches are super cool to collect!
We especially like that kids are able to choose which activities they want to complete, allowing them to pursue their own interests and work at their own pace. And completing the Junior Ranger program allows children and their families to learn about things they might otherwise miss.
And if you can’t make it out to a national park, you might want to check out the National Park Service’s WebRangers program online.
Great post, Carla! Thanks for sharing!
Carla Gull says
Thanks for sharing! Here is our experience in Shenandoah National Park, along with tips! http://insideoutsidemichiana.blogspot.com/2014/06/junior-ranger-program-at-shenadoah.html
Those sound extra fun!
The Junior Ranger program is great! We especially like the "special" ones, like the Winter Junior Ranger at Yellowstone (you get to measure snow temps) and the Night Junior Ranger at Rocky Mountain NP (identify constellations).
I was curious about the web ranger program! It sounds like a great option, too. We're lucky to have such a great service to help connect kids & families to nature in our national parks. I'm glad we finally tried it!
Dawn Suzette says
The Jr. Ranger Program is so great. My kiddos have completed it at three parks since we have been back in the states and LOVE it! (They did a similar program with Parks Canada.) My oldest has even done the online web ranger program and had a patch sent to her from the Nat. Park Service. She was so excited. <br />So happy your boys had fun with it. It really is a wonderful way to learn about the
Great to hear you're exploring the National Park System. Hope you have a wonderful visit at the Arch! 🙂
Angie @ The Risky Kids says
We're just beginning to realize what a treasure our National Parks System is. Thanks for the info on the Junior Ranger Program. We're headed to St. Louis to visit the Arch this weekend and will check it out!