Friday, September 3, 2010

Graduate from Junior Ranger - Be a Scout Ranger

If you have kids and love the outdoors, you probably already know about the National Parks Junior Ranger programs which are available at almost all NPS locations across the country. While no two programs are the same (they are individually created by each park), generally the requirements are for the child to fill out a work book and attend one or more Ranger led programs. Most are programs designed to be completed in a one or two day visit to the park. Upon completion, the child is awarded a Junior Ranger pin or patch, or sometimes both, to show off their accomplishment. It is a wonderful program to get kids excited about learning, the outdoors, and to remember their trip by for years to come. I still have many Junior Ranger patches from my own childhood!

But for those overachieving Scout girls and boys looking for even more patches to add to their vests, consider checking out a lesser known program at the National Parks for Scouts of all ages. The Scout Ranger Resource Stewardship program is designed to encourage kids to do and learn even more about our country's incredible National Parks by offering a certificate for 5 and a patch for 10 hours of participation at any combination of parks. Participation can be through a service project or educational program offered at any National park. And yes, Junior Ranger requirements count as educational participation! Depending on the park, I estimate that most kids could complete the certificate hours by completeing 2 to 3 Junior Ranger badges, and could earn the patch with an additional 2 to 3 badges. Of course, vollunteering at a park clean up event or trail maintenance day for a couple hours would help diversify the child's park experience and speed up the Scout Ranger earning process!

Since the requirements can be fulfilled with a variety of activities and across more than one park, completion of the Scout Ranger program is verified with your child's 'Scouts Honor.' Information about the program and a log sheet to help keep track of hours is available here for Boy and Cub Scouts or here for Girl Scouts on the NPS website.

Encourage your kids to develop a lasting love and relationship with the outdoors and our National parks by getting them excited to earn this special award. Spread the word with your Troops and Packs to get the kids earning and learning together. Or don't. If your own child earns it on his or her own, have it presented at an awards ceremony or brought to a meeting as a show-and-tell. There's sometimes nothing better to get kids interested in earning an award than by having one child with a patch that the others then oooo and ahhhh over. You can bet those ogglers will go home and ask their parents if they can go to a National Park tomorrow and start working on their own patch!

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