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USA
Opinion
Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

Planning to take your children to a US national park? Ask about the Junior Ranger badges

This program aims to bring the youngest members of the family closer to nature, teach them to treat it with respect and show them its fragility

A girl proudly displays the Junior Ranger badge she received at the Grand Canyon National Park.
A girl proudly displays the Junior Ranger badge she received at the Grand Canyon National Park.ADRIÁN RODRÍGUEZ

If you are planning to visit an American national park with your children anytime soon, you might be interested in knowing how to get the Junior Ranger badges. It is easy, fun and very educational.

Junior Ranger badges are like those badges that we all remember seeing on the lapel of the uniforms of the rangers that appear in movies and television shows, like the one that the Jellystone ranger from the Yogi Bear cartoons used to wear. Sounds familiar? The Junior Ranger program aims, among other things, to bring children closer to nature, teach them to treat it with respect and show them its fragility, so that they learn to value it and treat it with care.

The program is carried out in the vast majority of the parks that belong to the National Park Service system. The badges are usually linked to a small activity booklet about each of these protected natural spaces, which can be completed before or during the visit. Each booklet includes a series of exercises divided by age groups, normally between five and 12, so that everyone can find a suitable level of difficulty.

The Statue of Liberty is a national monument and, as such, also has its own Junior Ranger badge.
The Statue of Liberty is a national monument and, as such, also has its own Junior Ranger badge. ADRIÁN RODRÍGUEZ

The process is simple. The most common thing is to go to the park’s visitor center and ask for the activity booklet, which is generally free. The idea is that the children carry out these activities during the family visit; then, at the end, after they completed the activities for their age group, they themselves can take the booklet to the park ranger, who will kindly invite them to take an oath to promise to take care of nature. After that, they are rewarded with the coveted badge. Each park has its own.

Junior Ranger activities to do at home

If your children love nature, but you have no trips to a national park planned in the near future, the booklets are also available to download, so they can do the activities at home. Several parks offer them; they are divided by topics, from exploration to astronomy.

Adrián Rodríguez and Gosia Bendrat, with their children Daniela and Óliver, at the Sequoia National Park, in California.
Adrián Rodríguez and Gosia Bendrat, with their children Daniela and Óliver, at the Sequoia National Park, in California.ADRIÁN RODRÍGUEZ

The idea is that these booklets are accessible to all children, regardless of their location or country of residence. Of course, there is a clear advantage to doing and presenting them directly at the parks: there, they will receive their Junior Ranger badge. If they complete the booklet online outside the United States, even if they send it to the park, the badges cannot be mailed outside the country.

Parks with Junior Ranger programs

In general, all U.S. national parks with visitor centers offer Junior Ranger booklets. Finding them is as easy as googling something along the lines of “NPS + [park name] + Junior Ranger.” There, you will find all the necessary information about the area you will visit.

Every American national park has its own Junior Ranger badge.
Every American national park has its own Junior Ranger badge.ADRIÁN RODRÍGUEZ

Some families make whole collections with the badges, as they are all different, each one displaying a distinctive feature of their park. An interesting fact is that some places are cataloged as national parks and have their own activity booklets (and Junior Ranger badges), but they are not actually parks. Two examples are the Statue of Liberty in New York and the famous Alcatraz Penitentiary in San Francisco, where you can find up to five different Junior Ranger booklets.

This is a very fun activity to do with the children when you visit the national parks of the United States, or if you are looking for things to do at home with them.

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