NATIONAL PARK JUNIOR RANGER PROGRAMS

by | May 23, 2024 | National Park Trip Planner

RV trips are very popular with families, especially those with children.  It’s a great way to unwind, unplug and reconnect as a family.  You can bond over board games & cook meals as a family.  

RV trips are one of the best ways to give your little ones a taste of the outdoors and even show them some of the things they’ve only read about in school.  The Junior Ranger Program can help you show them all the wonders of nature.  

Did you know that the National Park System is comprised of over 400 parks including National Monuments, National Historic Sites, National Battlefield and more.

So what is the Junior Ranger Program?

Yosemite National Park was the first to start the Junior Ranger Program back in the early 1930s.  Since then it has spread to almost all 423 national park sites.  

The National Park Service Junior Ranger Program is an activity-based program where interested  youth can complete a series of activities during a park visit, share the answers with a park ranger and receive an official Junior Ranger patch or certificate.  Junior Rangers are typically between ages 5-13.  Becoming a Junior Ranger is a mark of distinction. These special badges are issued and cannot be purchased or otherwise obtained except through the dedication of the child and the support of his or her parents or guardians.

What if you don’t have a child within the age limits for the Junior Ranger Program?  We do know that you can learn so much more about the parks when you complete these books, so we actually do recommend it even for the grown ups!  Sorry folks, no Junior Ranger Badge though.

What is the Junior Ranger Program Motto?  “Explore, Learn, and Protect”!

This is the motto of Junior Rangers around the world who are working hard to make a difference.

What are some of the activities in the Junior Ranger Program?

While activities can vary, most parks will have your child find and identify plants, geology & animals.  Sometimes there are fun games like National Park Bingo.  Even thoughtful questions such as how we can help preserve our parks.  Crosswords, scavenger hunts and even poetry writing can be part of earning a badge.

What will my child learn from the Junior Ranger Program?

Almost all parks have one activity that teaches kids how they can be a good steward of our National Parks and the importance of helping to protect and preserve these special places.  The program includes interactive lessons, historical reenactments, science projects, culture & geology, oaths and badges. Learn about the plants, park animals, and even the night sky. Each park has its own unique curriculum.

What parks offer a Junior Ranger Program?

Nearly every National Park in the system offers this program.  To discover if the park you are visiting offers the program, please visit this website https://www.nps.gov/kids/parks-with-junior-ranger-programs.htm

What kind of badges can be earned?

A Junior Ranger badge can be earned by completing an activity booklet (usually as many activities as you are years old), exploring the park museum, attending a presentation or given by a Park Ranger, or watching the park movie.  

Some parks also offer Specialty Badges.  For example, select parks now offer a Junior Civil War Historian Badge for participants to complete three activities – either junior ranger books at 3 parks or junior ranger books at 2 parks and 1 online activity.  Other Specialty Badges include Junior Paleontologist Program (offered at over 200 parks) & Junior Ranger Night Explorers (download the booklet here https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nightskies/juniorrangernight.htm – this can even be done at home!).

Receiving the Junior Ranger Badge: My kids couldn’t wait to complete their booklets and show them to the Park Ranger.  They were so excited to stand in front of the Park Ranger, raise their right hand and repeat the pledge:

“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.”

After making their oaths and receiving their Badges, my kids couldn’t wait to show everyone they met their new badges.  I was always grateful that the people my kids stopped to proudly show off their badges took a moment to congratulate them on a job well done.

The newest obsession is the Passport Stamp Program at National Parks. https://humansoutside.com/2018/04/junior-ranger-national-park-passport-stamps/. It isn’t a new program but it is not as widely known as the Junior Ranger Program.

The National Park Service features passports where you and your children can document your travels. You may be asking your self why should I do this…to me it’s like the time when we all went crazy collecting the quarters, one from each state or how excited my kids got when Customs stamped their passports.  This gives you a record of all your visits, how many you went to and perhaps will keep your children excited each time you mention visiting the next national park. 

How does the Passport Stamp Program work:

  • You can purchase these passports at any Park Visitor Center or online at America’s National Parks
  • You collect cancellations (or stamps) in the Visitor Center at each participating national park, national monument, etc. to document your visit. 
  • The Park will stamp your passport with the name of the park, the date you visited and the location.

Junior Ranger Programs and the Passport Stamps are a wonderful way for parents and children to learn, explore and enjoy our National Parks.  Contact RV Adventure USA today to inquire about how we can plan a memorable family RV adventure trip for you.

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