By Contributor Jacquie Fisher, KC Edventures
The Junior Ranger programs in our National Parks are a wonderful way to introduce kids to hand-on science opportunities. Science and nature activities are offered to kids and families are more than 200 of our National Parks and Monuments.
We love the Junior Ranger programs and have attended quite a few over the years. Kids as young as 4 years old can get involved in the programs. Activity booklets are available at the park ranger’s stations or online. To become a Junior Ranger, a child just needs to complete the activities listed for their age group. Many Junior Ranger programs can be completed in one or two visits to the park and some activities can be done at home (or in the car if you’re traveling).
Fun activities such as animal observations, nature exploration and ranger workshops are available. If you have a child who is interested in a specific area of science, attending one of the Junior Ranger programs is the perfect way to extend their interest and learning.
Many of the National Parks will offer ranger-led astronomy programs during the summer months. Seeing the sky from a National Park is an outstanding experience as there is little man-made light in the parks. Families will be amazed at how many stars can be viewed on a clear evening. For many Junior Ranger programs, attending a stargazing event will help kids to earn their badge.
A few of the parks have very extensive astronomy offerings:
Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)
Joshua Tree National Park (California)
Badlands National Park (South Dakota)
Many children love to read about dinosaurs and fossils. In fact, some even dream about growing up to become paleontologists. Our National Parks can help with that dream — the parks offer Junior Paleontologist Programs that can be completed at locations across the country. Currently, more than 200 parks and sites help to preserve fossils. Some of the more fossil-rich parks include:
Badlands National Park (South Dakota)
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument (Colorado)
Fossil Butte National Monument (Wyoming)
Dinosaur National Monument (Colorado/Utah)
If you have children who are interested in ocean life, they will enjoy activities that focus on learning and protecting our marine life and coastlines. Visit some of the following National Parks for Junior Ranger activities that emphasis marine science:
Canaveral National Seashore (Florida)
Mississippi National River & Recreation Area (Minnesota)
Olympic National Park (Washington)
Cape Hatteras National Seashore (North Carolina)
Volcanoes & Geysers
In addition to protecting our wildlife and natural areas, Junior Ranger programs are also very focused on educating kids about natural formations. There are very few places where visitors can walk on a volcano or watch a geyser erupt. Ranger talks and activities at these National Parks will introduce your family to the underground workings of our Earth:
Yellowstone National Park (Idaho, Wyoming, Montana)
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii)
Capulin Volcano National Monument (New Mexico)
Lassen Volcanic National Park (California)
Speleology is the study of caves and the National Park system is host to some of the most beautiful and longest caves in the world. If you’re child is interested in these amazing underground passageways, a visit to one of the following parks to explore an amazing underground world!
Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)
Oregon Cave National Monument (Oregon)
Jewel Cave National Monument (South Dakota)
Yes, rocks! What kid doesn’t love to do some rock-hounding. Some of the parks have Junior Geologist programs available for kids who want to learn about rock layers, erosion and all those cool colorful stones!
Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
Capital Reef Nationa Park (Utah)
North Cascades National Park (Washington)
In addition to discipline specific Junior Ranger programs, you can also find a Young Scientist program at Yellowstone National Park.
And if you aren’t able to visit one of our beautiful parks, kids can also learn about science and nature right in their own home. Visit the National Parks Webrangers online program for fun activities that teach children about nature and animals.
Jacquie Fisher is the found of Edventures with Kids where she shares unique ideas for keeping kids creative & curious. She believes that kids are more likely to enjoy learning when they are offered hands-on activities and the opportunity to explore new places. ‘Edventures’ are fun ideas that encourage families to try new activities, get outdoors, travel to new locations and connect kids with great books. You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.