I had heard about the Junior Ranger Program, and I knew it would be a fun way for Jane to learn and experience the National Parks we visit.
We had our first chance at Everglades National Park, and I’m so glad I inquired about it.
Jane loved it!
Here’s the deal.
At any National Park, you can ask at any visitors center for a Junior Ranger guide book. They have several options depending on the child’s age. Jane, having just turned 4, is even a little young for the youngest booklet, but she enjoyed it and completed it on her own.
It helped that we started this exercise in Florida, since Jane is pretty familiar with the flora and fauna before we arrived at the park. Thanks Grammy for all the knowledge!
So, the child completes the booklet while they’re at the park, checking of animals and plants that they have seen, matching different animals to their food source, spotting the animals that don’t belong in the Everglades and crossing them off, etc.
Once the kid has completed and signed the book, a park ranger reviews the book with them, testing them on the knowledge.
I’m not kidding.
The reviews might be a little more relaxed at other parks, but Ranger Sara went through every page of Jane’s book with her and quizzed her on it, making sure mom didn’t really do the science fair project.
When the ranger asked Jane what she drew on the blank page in which she was supposed to draw a picture of an animal from the Everglades, Jane said “A snowman.”
Way wrong answer.
However, Jane could also point to a little bird she drew in the corner. This got her through the quiz.
Jane then had to recite the Junior Ranger pledge with the park Ranger, and the Ranger awarded her with a park badge. The badge is either a pin or a patch depending on the park.
It would be cool in a completely nerdy way to do this with Jane at all the parks we visit, and then I’ll frame her collection of pins and badges when we’re done.