We recently backpacked into the Grand Canyon and while we were there we took advantage of some quiet time to fill in a Junior Ranger Program booklet from Phantom Ranch. Even though these are designed for children 5-12 years of age, most parks will allow anyone of any age to participate. They are pretty fun and a great way to learn.
We have completed several of the Junior Ranger Program booklets and it is surprising how hard some of the questions are. That makes it fun for kids of any age, and great for parents to work on with their children.
Each national park unit that offers a Junior Ranger program takes a slightly different approach but typical things you will find in a Junior Ranger booklet are:
- word search and crossword puzzles
- scramble words and connect the dots
- questions about what you saw, smelled or learned at the park
- pages where you can draw something you saw
- multiple choice questions and fill in the blanks
- matching games where you need to connect the right title to a picture
- creative activities, like design your own flag or logo for this park
The folks who design these programs do a really great job!
Some Junior Ranger Programs can be downloaded and filled in at home, but many require you to look at informational signs, watch the movie, look for things at the visitor center, “ask a ranger” or participate in ranger-led programs.
Normally you will go to the national park unit, pick up the Junior Ranger Program booklet, and then, once you have filled in all of the answers take the book back to a ranger for them to check your work. Then they will recite the Junior Ranger Pledge with you and give you a badge or patch. (Don’t forget, 5th Graders can bring their families to national park units for free!)
While most Junior Ranger Programs are specific to a national park unit, some programs are national in scope, or focused on specific aspects of the national park. For example, Olympic National Park offers an “Ocean Steward” patch, Katmai National Park offers a Junior Ranger “Angler” program and there is a special “Phantom Rattler” badge, only available at the bottom of the Grand Canyon National Park at Phantom Ranch.
Many of these general programs are available online – great for learning without leaving your home! Use the resources they provide and then take the quiz online.
Junior Ranger badges may be pins or sew on patches – that’s really up to the park unit. Part of the fun is earning the badge and then displaying them proudly! When you do the program online, or if you don’t get a chance to give the book to a ranger at the park, you can mail in your booklet and they will mail you your badge.
Junior Ranger Pledge
The Junior Ranger pledge is an important way to demonstrate your respect and understanding of the value the national park service brings. It may be slightly different at each park, but most incorporate a promise to preserve and protect our parks, and to share what you learned with others. Here are a few examples:
“As a Junior Ranger, I promise to teach others about what I learned today, explore other parks and historic sites, and help preserve and protect these places so future generations can enjoy them.”
“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.”
“As a Junior Ranger, I promise to protect, preserve, and respect the desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park. While at home, I will learn about the natural world and I will share what I learn with my friends and family. I will teach others how to enjoy national parks responsibly.”
What a great way to teach kids – young and old – to appreciate and value our national park units; such a wonderful resource for all.
Need Help Planning Your Visits?
If you would like to explore this or other National Park Units, but need a bit help in the planning, please give us a call at (480) 609-3978. We are happy to offer customized trip planning.