The National Park Service Junior Ranger Program is available at the majority of all national parks and some state parks. The motto, “Explore, Learn, and Protect!” is the oath that each child learns stating that they will protect the parks, learn from about them, and share their story of being a Junior Ranger with their friends and family. Here is how they can earn their Junior Ranger Badges.
The Ultimate Guide to The National Park Service Junior Ranger Program & Junior Ranger Badges
We love using the National Park Service Junior Ranger program in addition to our homeschool day-to-day life. My kids have learned so much at the National Parks and I have even learned a lot helping them with their books!
What is The National Park Service Junior Ranger Program?
Typically, kids are between 5-13 years old, although anybody can participate even if they are just young at heart. We have also helped our younger children as young as 3 work a book to get a badge.
The Junior Rangers complete a series of educational activities during their park visit and then share their answers and what they learned with a Park Ranger. The kids then receive an official JR Ranger Program patch or badge and certificate.
National Parks and National Park sites, over 400 in total (plus many state parks!) offer a free activity book to earn your badge. A few national parks charge up to $3 for the book to help support the park.
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How do you earn Junior Ranger badges in the Junior Ranger Program?
Head to the visitor center at any National Park or National Park site. Ask the rangers at the desk for their Junior Ranger program book. We also get all the program details from them and any must-see location at the park from them as well! This is also where you can get your National Park Passport stamped.
Once your child completes the book you turn the book back into the ranger at the visitor center. They go over the book, talk to the kids about the park, sign their certificate and then they have to take the Junio Ranger oath (which changes by park). Then they get their badge or patch!
What to expect from The National Park Service Junior Ranger Program
Each location has different requirements to gain your badges. We visited Fort Pulaski and they basically had the kids following along on the self-guided walking tour and doing different activities along the way.
Each book has requirements based on age to earn their badges. The requirements change from park to park. Some require a hike, some require you to watch a movie at the visitor center, some require you to walk their museum, attend a ranger program, or take a tour.
Another example is when we visited JFK's birthplace just outside Boston the sit was so small that to get their Junior Ranger badges they had to do a scavenger hunt and find items and marks where they were found.
Why We Love The National Park Service Junior Ranger Program
At some of the larger national parks like Yellowstone National Park, they have specific programs for the Junior Rangers. At Yellowstone, they have a full-color activity booklet is $3 with a range of activities for the kids to complete. Yellowstone as well as other larger national parks, have their own special patch that the Junior Rangers receive when they complete the program. What’s cool is that they can get a different patch as they grow-up and complete the program for their age group. For instance, the patch is a geyser for 4-7 year olds, a grizzly bear for 8-12 year olds, and a bison for those over 13 years old.
As a homeschool family, I love how this is a great supplement to your curriculum. We take a day and learn history or natural science do something fun and spend some time outside! After visiting Fort Frederica my son spent a week looking up different forts and building them with Legos.
National Park Junior Ranger Badges to Earn at Home with the Junior Ranger Program
There are around 10 Junior Ranger Badges you can earn at home if you aren't able to make it to a National Park! Always check back at the National Parks Junior Ranger page to see any new ones!
To celebrate the 100th birthday of the National Park Service they released a special centennial book and Jr Ranger Badge.
Next is the 50th Anniversary of the National Historica Preservation Act. The NPS released a Junior Ranger book and badge in honor of the event.
Encouraging your kids to explore the night sky they can earn a Junior Ranger Night Explorer Badge and learn to find the North Star.
The Junior Ranger Wilderness Explorer Badges helps kids learn the best practices while in and visiting the National Parks.
If you have kids who are into dinosaurs like my son, they can become Junior Paleontologists! Learn about the 200+ parks that are currently helping preserve fossils.
If your kids are interested in becoming a Junior Paleontologist above they will love doing the Junior Ranger Archeologist book and badge as well. There is also an Arizona Archeologist Badge.
Next, how about they become Junior Cave Scientists? How cool is that? Learn about the National Parks 150+ cave sites and the animals that live in them.
Next is the Junior Underwater Explorer Badge. They can learn all about the many National Seashores in the National Park Service.
If your kids are studying the Civil War the Discovering the Underground Railroad Badge is a great compliment. If you kids complete this book and complete one fo 2 option listed they can also become a Junior Civil War Historian.
Becuase of the recent Eclipse there is also Junior Ranger Eclipse Explorer Book and Badge
How many Junior Ranger badges does your child have? Let me know in the comments below.