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Why We Love the National Park Jr. Ranger Program

Do you have plans to visit a national park or national monument this year?  If so, don’t overlook the Junior Ranger programs offered at more than 200 of these locations!  Kids can learn about nature, history, science — and earn some very cool patches!

What is the Junior Ranger program?

The U.S. National Park Service offers kids the opportunity to learn about science, nature and history when they visit a national park or monument, or when they visit the online National Park website.  Kids of all ages can participate (the most popular ages are kids 6 – 12) – and many times, there are programs available for adults too!

Each individual park with a Junior Ranger program lists the age requirements, along with how to obtain a booklet and receive your badge.

To earn a badge, here’s what you need to do:

1.  Kids should print or pick up a booklet for the location they will visit.  The booklet has fun games, activities and great ways to learn more about the national park. 

2.  Depending on their age, kids will complete some of the activities (younger kids complete less activities than older kids).  Some require you to visit a specific place, or read some online information, or give your ideas.

3.  Once complete, a park ranger will review your answers, sign your booklet and award you a badge or patch!  Some parks also give out certificates.

Simple, easy, highly fun & educational – what more could you want?  Oh yeah, did we mention that most of them are FREE!

The program is great for families visiting the National Parks, scout troops working on badges, educators who need teaching ideas for their nature/science/history curricula – really, just about anyone will enjoy and benefit from it.

Why We Love It

The Junior Ranger program gets kids engaged in their visit to the national parks.  It gives them a fun way to explore some of the unique features and cool areas that are in our National Parks.  And, kids can earn a badge or patch.  The patch or badge is unique for each junior ranger program. 

Some of the programs don’t even require a visit to a specific park.  For example, the Lewis and Clark Historic Trail Junior Ranger program is for people from ages 7 – 111! (yep, adults too).  It gives you an online list of questions to research (along with web links on where to find the answers) and some additional questions to think about.  When complete, you can mail in your completed booklet for a badge. 

Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas also has a similar program – you don’t have to visit the park to earn the badge.  Their booklet is a great education tool for learning about both Hot Springs and the water cycle.

But, if you have the opportunity, ALWAYS try to visit the park – they’re great fun!  And they also have FREE entry on the following days in 2012:

  • June 9th – Get Outdoors Day
  • Sept. 29th – Nat’l Public Lands Day
  • November 10th – 12th – Veterans Day wknd

Start this when they’re young and by the time the kids finish high school, you will have a nice collection of National Park badges along with an impressive amount of acquired knowledge about our country.

Where Can My Kids Participate?

There are more than 250 National Parks & Monuments that participate in the Junior Ranger program. 

For kids that won’t be visiting a park or monument any time soon, they can also become a Junior Ranger online and earn rewards by rewards by participating in the WebRangers program.