Family Fun Idea: Junior Ranger Programs

By Guest Blogger Aprille Donaldson, author of the blog Beautiful In His Time

Our family has enjoyed hiking as a pastime since before our children were born. In fact, our first hike as a family with children was when our son was 22 months old. Then when our son was 2 1/2 when we moved here to the Triad. One of the many things that we love about living in this area is the access we have to all of the amazing state parks that North Carolina has. Our children (now 2 and 7) have grown up on the trails of Hanging Rock, Pilot Mountain, Stone Mountain, and others within a few hours driving distance from Winston Salem.

   

   

Then in 2016, I found out about the NC State Parks Junior Ranger program for kids. Here is how they describe the program on their web site:

“Explore, learn and help out your state parks! Junior Rangers is a fun way for children to explore with their family, scouts troop or youth group. Activities are geared for children ages 6-12.

Natural Resource Protection. Junior Rangers help park rangers take care of the park’s natural resources. Plants, wildlife and clean water are important natural resources.

Environmental Education. Junior Rangers teach their family and friends what they learn about the park and how to take care of it.

Responsible Recreation. Junior Rangers have fun at state parks! They follow park rules to stay safe and so the natural resources are here for the future.

A different Junior Ranger patch is awarded at each park.” 

As our son was already talking about being a “real ranger” when he grew up, we knew this would be a perfect fit for him!

Where the NC State Parks Junior Ranger program differs from other organizations is that no commitment is required. Your child can become a Junior Ranger and earn a badge for as many parks as he or she desires. The child can do this independently, by completing a booklet of activities for each park, along with a service project helping an actual ranger.

Click the link below to learn how these brothers became the first to earn badges at EVERY North Carolina state park in 2013:

Young brothers, grandparents complete Junior Ranger quest

The NC State Parks holds Junior Ranger “events” statewide at the different state parks. These events vary year to year. The NC State Park Junior Ranger Program also has a quarterly newsletter and their very own “Ask a Ranger” podcast!

Our family was honored to attend the 2016 Junior Ranger event at Hanging Rock State Park, which was a special event held to commemorate the 100th birthday of the NC State Parks.

The children gathered with the rangers under a picnic pavilion. Free bananas were available to the children. The group was then split into smaller groups, each assigned to a ranger who acted as a tour guide. At our first station, we learned about trees and leaves.

   

At the second stations, we explored different nature items that had been planted on the trail for the children to find (such as a snake skin and an old, empty bees nest). At the third station, we learned about the history of the North Carolina State Parks, and the children jumped through an obstacle course where the rocks represented some featured parks.

We created some nature art, and then we listened to a ranger talk about some of the history behind certain landmarks of the park. Finally, we were able to participate in a service project, where we held fill in newly-built steps at the park.

Children who stayed for the entire event were able to receive a certificate and a badge. They were sworn in as official Junior Rangers for Hanging Rock State Park. The children also received a wall poster of Hanging Rock.

Official NC Junior Ranger vests were not provided, but can be purchased on the NC State Parks website.

Upcoming 2018 Junior Ranger Events

~ Junior Ranger Boot Camp, June 17, 2018 at Lake James State Park

~ Junior Ranger Day at Fort Macon State Park throughout June, July, and August

~ Dune Ranger events at Jockey’s Ridge State Park: June 12, June 16, July 21,

~ Junior Ranger Day, September 8, 2018 at Grandfather Mountain

~ Take A Child Outside Junior Ranger Program at Hammocks Beach State Park, September 2018

~ Junior Ranger Jamboree, October 6-7, 2018 at Mechants Millpond State Park – details to be released in the summer newsletter

Honorable Mentions (State and National Park events not directly related to the NC Junior Ranger Program):

~ Kids to Parks Day, May 19, 2018 at Haw River State Park. “Kids to Parks Day – celebrated annually on the third Saturday of May – is a national day of play that connects kids and families with their local, state, and national parks.”

~ Read with a Ranger 2018 events at Morrow Mountain State Park: Events on May 27, June 2, & July 21

~ Kids in Parks Day, July 7, 2018 at Morrow Mountain State Park

National Parks Service Junior Rangers Programs  are available at National Park Service Sites Cape Lookout, Cape Hatteras, Wright Brothers National MemorialCarl Sandburg Home, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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2 thoughts on “Family Fun Idea: Junior Ranger Programs

  1. Sarah

    Thanks for writing this blog post! We’ve participated in the National Park Jr. Ranger program for years, but never knew about the State Park program. We plan to visit Carolina Beach State Park over Memorial Day because of your post. Thank you!

    Reply

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