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Make Your Child a Junior Ranger

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Junior Ranger holding his parent's hands
A Junior Ranger all set to explore his park

You are with your kids, camping at a beautiful National Park, abundant with flora, fauna and wildlife, but you just can't seem to get them interested in their surroundings. Sounds familiar? Try the National Parks Foundation's Junior Rangers Program which recruits your kids to help "Explore, Learn, Protect" the environment.

Many State and National Parks conduct the Junior Rangers Program for children between seven to eleven years of age. Upon their arrival, kids are given a booklet filled with games and fun activities they can participate in, around the park. It also shares interesting facts and information about their park. Kids get to answer questions related to their surroundings and the National Park Service. For the talkative ones, they even get a chance to interview the Park Rangers!

By presenting information to kids in a fun and interactive manner, the Junior Rangers Program enhances their understanding and appreciation of the bounties of nature and their National Park, encouraging them to help protect and preserve them.

At the end of their visit, kids can go to the visitor center to show their completed booklet to the Ranger. They are then sworn in as Junior Rangers and receive an official Junior Rangers certificate and badge or patch. This ceremony instills a sense of achievement, pride and responsibility in your little one, not to mention provides a perfect photo opportunity for proud parents!

Junior Ranger logo
Junior Rangers logo & motto

Can't get to a park that easily? The National Parks Service also reaches out to today's web-savvy children through the WebRangers program, an online extension of the Junior Rangers program. Your kids can sign up online, and chose their own ranger station. They get to select activities, solve mysteries, play games, do puzzles and track their progress online, as well as receive awards. As WebRangers, even urban kids can grow increasingly aware of their eco consciousness, whilst playing educational games to their heart's delight!

For the aspiring J.K.Rowling, the National Park Foundation also runs a Junior Ranger essay contest. This will begin on February 1, 2010. The contest invites your kids to talk about why the parks are important to them - a great way to get your kids to think about National Parks, and reinforce the importance of preserving our land. Last year's first place winner won $1,000 gift card and the opportunity to direct a $5,000 grant to the national park of her choice - she chose Yosemite. Encourage your kids to get involved and stretch their wings.

So the next time you are out camping, try enrolling your kids in the parks' Junior Rangers Program. It's a great way to encourage your kids to think about their environment, in a more holistic and sustainable way.

There are over 290 Junior Rangers Programs in the National Park Service. Ask at the local park ranger station or visit The RangerZONE to find a park near you.

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