Be a Part of Something Bigger with the Junior Ranger Program
This year there are two big anniversaries, the National Parks Service turns 100 and lucky for us Mount Rushmore turns 75. So, this means there is a big push for everyone to #FindYourPark. So, what are you waiting for? Are you trying to figure out if the kids would be interested? Maybe you’re not sure you want to bring them along? Well, one of the coolest things the National Parks offer is a little secret not many people know about and it’s just for the kids! It’s the Junior Ranger Program! We were fortunate enough to discover the Junior Ranger Program on a trip through Montana a couple of years ago, but almost all National Parks offer this free program!
Recently, we had family in town and headed to Mount Rushmore. It is a huge favorite of ours because of the ice cream! The kids were looking for something different to do, so I suggested they get their Junior Ranger badges. For our older girls it’s their fifth badge and the third for our five-year-old and our 15-year-old niece, who was with us, got her very first Junior Ranger badge!
The program makes it exciting for kids to run around and learn, then to turn around and teach you or whoever's with them. They learn history, science, sometimes math! What a great way to foster a love of learning and encouragement of the National Parks and the outdoors. I think one of the things we can continue to do with our kids is to get them out there, help them explore, and help them understand the world around them.
Benjamin Franklin said, "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." The Junior Ranger Program is one that involves children and allows them to learn about the world around them and it’s not just for those interested history and science. As history and science nerds, something like this is exceptionally interesting, but even for those slightly interested, it’s cool.
How do your kids get their Junior Ranger Badges? It’s very simple. Upon entering the park, head to the nearest information center and ask to speak to a park ranger. The park ranger will give you a packet, explain how to fill it out, then you and your family go exploring! Try to follow the book and see what kind of things they can learn. It’s crazy what you can learn when you least expect it.
Once the packet is complete, take it back to the ranger station. The ranger will check their work, have the child sign a declaration that they did it, and the ranger signs and dates it. Then your child will do the swearing in oath; to uphold the integrity of the National Parks and that they will do their very best to protect the National Parks. Then and only then do they receive their coveted official Junior Ranger badge! It's really cool and the kids feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.
Parks around the Rapid City area that have the program include Badlands National Park, Devils Tower National Park in Wyoming, Jewel Cave National Monument, Mount Rushmore National Monument, and Wind Cave National Park. When your kids get their badges be sure to take pictures and #VisitRapidCity.