Junior Ranger Program: Education through Exploration!

travel with kids

Want to know something that makes this mama feel more rewarded than Pavlov’s dog after the bell rang?  Well, folks, if you haven’t heard about the Junior Ranger Program yet- today is your lucky day!  I mean it.  I may not be your typical geek, but I will geek out all day over this topic.  I’m excited just thinking about it.  It’s not normal.

Have you ever told your child that learning is fun? I bet you felt bad saying that when they came home exhausted after a long day at school with a backpack  jammed full of chapter books, math packets, reading logs and vocabulary words to study.  I don’t remember school feeling as taxing as it does these days.

Hats off to teachers everywhere who bend over backwards every.single.day to make learning fun and exciting.  That said, the classroom can not substitute the hands on, boots on the ground experience you get from getting out there.

Whether your kids are in public school, homeschool or private school — road schooling can become an exciting way of life.  You don’t have to live in a different place each week and travel the country like we did.  You can make a difference just by committing to get out there together and do something interesting and educational as a family.

Chances are you don’t have to travel too far to find a state or national park either.

One way you can help your kiddos engage in and enjoy the process of learning again is by having them become Junior Rangers.  The cool thing is that they may not even notice that they are soaking up knowledge.  The program integrates learning with activities about art, nature, science, culture, etc. in fun and educational environments-  With very little effort on the part of the parent- and it’s FREE!

Genius, I tell you.

We discovered the program while we were on the road full-time with our tribe.

What You Need to Know About The Junior Ranger Program….Besides That it’s AWESOME:

  • The Junior Ranger program is available at nearly every National Park in the USA! You likely have one just around the corner, check here for all participating locations!
  • Many of these Parks include films, activities, games, or treasure hunts that serve to get the kids engaged and motivate them to learn something useful in the most pleasant way possible.
  • Each child receives a program book and completes the activities(based on age) either when they are onsite or long after you have left.  Simply put, your child can do the “work” at his own pace.
  • After reaching certain levels and completing specific activities your child will receive badges and certificates.  And who doesn’t love that?!
  • Some activities are even online!
  • To give you a better idea of this program, here is an example of the programs in Harpers Ferry, WV; Delaware Water Gap, NJ; and the Blue Ridge Parkway, VA which are all along the Appalachian Trail. These parks allow you download and print the activity guides right here.  Then complete fun activities like finding out who the trails are named after, explore places to see where different animals live, and fun word searches. Complete these activities at your own time and then you can officially become a Jr. Ranger of the Appalachian Trail!
  • Some parks offer specialty programs, badges, and patches like:
  1. Junior War Historian Program
  2. Junior Paleontologist Program
  3. Santa Fé National Historic Trail Junior Ranger Program
  4. Organ Pipe Cactus Junior Ranger and Desert Ranger
  5. Junior Ranger Night Explorers
  • Some National Parks also offer Junior Ranger Camps.  There are opportunities beyond that for older children to continue their learning experience if they just can’t get enough!

As a mom, I have to say, I just love this program.  When we were Roadschooling full time it was a lifesaver.  I’m thankful that the park system has come up with a clever way of helping us educate our kids with fun hands on activities they can see, feel, and do. These activities can bring the family together, they are cheap and fun, and can be completed at your child’s own pace!

All you really have to do is show up!  I hope you and your future Junior Ranger have an awesome time on your next adventure!  If you are interested in this resource for your family, make sure to read my follow up post when I share how to get the most out of the Junior Ranger Program!

Have you had experience with the Junior Ranger Program?  Make sure to leave me a comment, I’d love to hear what you thought!

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road

About Emily Oak

I am a Mother, a Lover, a Traveler, Entrepreneur and Blogger. I crave adventure, appreciate good leather, find old weathered wood beautiful, prefer french pressed coffee, and feel alive running in the rain (albeit at a snails pace)! I believe in living passionately, loving extravagantly, taking risks, forgiving often, and living for the audience of One. I am an introvert but you wouldn’t know that if you met me. I LOVE people.