Jr Ranger

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Vance received his Jr. Ranger badge today at Acadia National Park. We’ve lost count of how many he’s earned, as we try to take advantage of the program wherever we find it. Almost every National Park, and many of the various other facilities run by the Park Service (National Historic Sites, Battlefields, etc) have Jr. Ranger programs. Some State Parks even offer programs.

If you have kids, it’s a great program to take advantage of. Typically each site will have a Jr. Ranger booklet available in the park Visitors Center. Some are free, but usually it costs around $3. The usual program will require the aspiring Jr. Ranger to attend a couple of Ranger led programs, and also to complete several activity worksheets in the book.

Jr. Ranger Badges Earned:

New England Trip

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt National Historic Site and Library
  • Acadia National Park
  • Salem Maritime Historic Site
  • Boston National Historic Park
  • Minutemen National Historical Park
  • Adams National Historic Park
  • Cape Cod National Seashore
  • New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park
  • Ellis Island National Monument
  • Statue of Liberty National Monument
  • General Grant National Memorial
  • Jr. Naturalist - Wellesley Island State Park, NY

Western U.S. Trip

  • Little Rock Central High National Historic Site
  • Hot Springs National Park
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park
  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park
  • White Sands National Monument
  • New Mexico State Parks
  • Bandelier National Monument
  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Arches National Park
  • Capital Reef National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Zion National Park
  • Zion National Park "Explorer"
  • Zion Kolob Canyons National Park
  • Grand Canyon National Park (Scorpion Level)
  • Grand Canyon "Discovery"
  • Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Muir Woods National Monument
  • Point Reyes National Seashore
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Lewis and Clark National and State Parks - Presidential Level
  • Olympic National Park
  • Mt. Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Mt. Rainier National Park
  • Glacier National Park
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
  • Devils Tower National Monument
  • Wind Cave National Park
  • Mt Rushmore National Memorial
  • Badlands National Park
  • Jewel Cave National Monument
  • Crazy Horse Memorial "Jr Scout"
  • Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
  • Homestead National Monument of America
  • Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site
  • Harry S Truman National Historic Site

Other Locations

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Martin Luther King National Historic Site
  • Crater Lake National Park
  • Redwood National and State Parks
  • National Mall and Memorial Parks
  • Mammoth Cave National Park
  • Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site
  • Carl Sandburg National Historic Site
  • Kennesaw National Battlefield Park
Some parks are easier than others. I felt Acadia’s was straightforward, and Vance had no difficulty with the assignments. A few parks have been downright hard, balanced by several that were almost trivially easy. For the most part, however, the programs are well tailored to the park in question. For example, at the F.D.R. Library and Historic Site, the program was setup in terms of becoming a member of the Jr. Secret Service – you were asked to follow maps, notice details about buildings, how you would react in certain situations, inteview people, etc.... Most of the ‘typical’ National Parks focus on environmental threats – acid rain, human traffic, etc…as well as plant and wildlife.

We really like the programs because it gives Vance a reason to become invested in each National Park, rather than just looking out the window from the car. He has to work at the assignments – such as finding particular displays in a nature museum, picking up trash in the park, and doing scavenger hunts. He has fun, usually requiring several days of effort on his part, but nothing that is overwhelming. He takes a sense of pride in the accomplishment.

The Rangers also play up the program. Before and after Ranger led programs, they usually make it point to ask if anyone is working on Jr. Ranger activities. Many parks make a little production out of awarding the badge, usually making an announcement over the intercom at the Visitors Center (Vance always gets a kick out of this).

Today at Acadia, the Ranger actually came out and did a lengthy interview with Vance, asking him in detail about the various activities he did, and about his answers to the questions on the worksheets. It wasn’t a grilling, but more a back and forth educational discussion. With us living so close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Vance is very comfortable being around Rangers, so he carried on quite the discussion with Ranger Emily. She spent probably close to 30 mins with him today, letting him wear her hat all the while. They discussed everything from tide pools, to the locations of breeding pairs of Peregrine Falcons. This is the first park where the Ranger has done more than just check over the book, and while I’m sure it is time consuming for Ranger Emily, it was simply wonderful and very educational for Vance.

The award itself varies between parks - Acadia has a very nice patch with a Peregrine Falcon on it (Vance really liked this one, as he loves Peregrine Falcons). Other parks award plastic badges, some patches.

Somewhat ironically, he only finished the requirements for Jr. Ranger at the Smokies just before we left on this trip. We had gotten the booklet quite awhile ago (the Smokies book is rather elaborate as these booklets go), but for one reason or another we never really got focused on getting it done. Fortunately, Vance followed thru so we wouldn’t have to explain why we had badges from everywhere except practically in our backyard! He was awarded the badge by one of our favorite rangers in the Smokies - Ranger Jay Moose.

Vance: I have gotten many Jr. Ranger badges over the past few years. The first national park I visited as a baby was Yosemite. My big brother Miles came with us and was the age I am now. Yosemite Falls is a beautiful waterfall. Some of the many national parks I’ve been to are St. Johns in the Caribbean, Crater Lakes and Redwood out west and Acadia in the east. My family and I live very close to the most visited park in the country, the Great Smoky Mountains.

You have to do a few ranger programs and a few book activities to become a Jr. Ranger. Most of the activities are easy. Mostly the rangers will teach you about natural history in the park.

My latest badge was at Acadia National Park. The rangers name was Ranger Emily. Since I love Peregrine Falcons, she gave me a Peregrine Falcon patch. Peregrine Falcons are on the endangered species list.

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