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So I mentioned a few things last week in another post that I was planning a longer National Parks post. Well, here it is!
My little niece had become a Jr. Ranger for the National Parks in this very park last summer, and was so excited for Wyatt to become one as well! Wyatt was pretty excited too, especially when he got his badges and his patch. It was really simple. We asked for the Park Ranger booklet for Sleeping Bear where we were, completed the activities inside while we toured the visitor’s center, and reported back to the ranger on duty. I explained that Wyatt’s speech is limited so reciting the oath would be tough, and she was so sweet and kind about all of it. Wyatt did repeat key words however, and listened and raised his hand – until he got shy about halfway through and hid his head on his dad’s shoulder.
Kids can either become Jr. Rangers and earn badges at nearly every National Park, or…they can do them online (unfortunately not every park has an online program)! I love that they offer some of them online, not all families have the ability to travel to all the parks, or even travel much at all, and these children can still participate in this free program! Since Wyatt was still excited about earning his badges at Sleeping Bear, I thought we would give the online version a shot. I chose Denali, since I don’t really see us getting there, especially when he is young kid. He is also familiar with Denali thanks to the PBS cartoon Molly of Denali, so it seemed like a good one to experiment with. And honestly we had a really good time learning about the different facets of Denali via the NPS website! Wyatt had to search the website, looking for answers to questions like, which sled dog would you like to meet (Nucha) and which animal that calls Denali home would you most like to see (moose)? Nucha is a cutie, I wish we could actually meet him! And he sounds like a dog made for Wyatt, sweet and charming and mischievous. After finishing up the questions, we dropped it in the mail! I guess they will mail his badge to us; I am curious about how long it will take!
Kids like to wear and display their badges, of course. My niece has a backpack that she puts hers on, and we saw a little boy with them on his hat. Neither of those options are quite right for Wyatt. A vest wouldn’t really work either, so I went online and took a peek at solutions, and found the perfect thing! A lanyard! He LOVES it, and will actually keep it on. So far he has three badges and two patches, although one is from Hartwick Pines State park, where we stopped on our way home. I figure he can pick and choose which badges he puts on his lanyard, and then we will keep the rest as well as any patches on banners, which I still need to order. I am considering getting one of those scratch off maps, or just a map of all the National Parks to hang as well.
I think this is going to be so fun to do with Wyatt! He is starting a U.S. social studies curriculum next year, where he will learn about all of the states, and I think for some of them we will try to visit a National Park, or do an online badge to go along with the curriculum.
I also mentioned in that post that Wyatt received a free lifetime membership pass for all the National Parks due to having a permanent disability. We got ours at the gate, but you can apply online here. They also have a senior pass , and free access passes for veterans and Gold Star families, as well as the general annual pass. Fourth graders can also get a free one year pass! So there are many different options out there.
I am already out here planning a trip to Voyageurs National Park with my brother and his family – and since we will be out that way, a few of the Laura Ingalls Wilder homesteads. You can rent a houseboat at Voyageurs! Has anyone done that?
We are very excited about this whole thing as you can tell. We really didn’t need anymore incentive to visit the National Parks but I think this does make it more exciting for the kids.
My proud little ranger!
2 thoughts on “Jr. Ranger for the National Parks”
Congratulations, Jr. Ranger Wyatt!!! What a fun way to learn about just about anything!! I would love to go to Denali, too! When I was teaching, our whole school “participated” in the Iditarod. Each class would pick a musher. One of the kindergarten teachers had a large map on her hallway bulletin board to keep track of where everyone was. We would watch them online whenever we could. I always joked I was the kiss of death because my mushers almost always had to leave the race. One year, we had a guy come (I don’t remember if he was a racer on the Iditarod or not). He brought all of his equipment…and a dog!!! I think that was the best part. He talked about raising and training them. Oh, I loved school assemblies…I think I may have been the only teacher who did! Thanks for sharing, Erin!
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That sounds like such a great time!! What a cool assembly! I was a library para for years before Wyatt was born and I always was the volunteer at assemblies too. I got to pet a bat and a fennec fox, and held a python that decided to head down the neck of my shirt. Lol. I would be right there with you!