Even though we were on the road, we were able to sneak in a good bit of schooling by taking advantage of National Park Service Junior Ranger Programs. I'm so glad I ran across Junior Rangers while planning our trip. Having Tessa participate in the programs was an excellent way to be sure we slowed down enough to truly learn about and enjoy the parks.
After completing a booklet and pledge at each park, Tessa earned at least a badge and certificate for her effort. While each badge was personalized with the park's name, most featured unique designs as well. Some parks offered patches, postcards, posters and other little goodies as well. Each park is responsible for designing its own booklet, so requirements ran the gamut. Some parks offered leveled booklets, which were awesome! Many did not. Although the tasks at a few parks were significantly above level and fairly time-consuming, Tessa was able to complete the majority of the work on her own when I served as her personal narrator and scribe.
Badges & Booklets
- Saguaro National Park - Unique badge/leveled booklet. - Booklet required completion of a desert scavenger hunt, activities on plant and bird identification, a petroglyph drawing, hidden animals picture puzzle, and a drawing of a favorite desert plant and animal. Easy.
- Montezuma Castle National Monument - Unique badge/leveled booklet. - Booklet (Sonoran mud turtle questions) required completion of two short answer questions, one circle-it, and two observe and draw activities. Easy to moderate...a little too much focus on writing and not enough fun activities for Tessa's age.
- Tuzigoot National Monument - Unique badge/leveled booklet. - Booklet required completion of a word search, one fill-in-the-blank question, one counting activity and a small drawing. Very easy.
- Walnut Canyon National Monument - Generic badge/patch for nominal fee/non-leveled booklet. - Booklet required extensive reading and writing...geared primarily to middle-schoolers. Required completion of two short answer questions, choice between word search or crossword puzzle, Hopi words language lesson, exhibit hall scavenger hunt, and a small drawing. Advanced and time-consuming. Having said that, we learned a lot here!
- Petrified Forest National Park - Unique badge/free patch/non-leveled booklet. - Booklet required completing four of seven activities. Most activities required extensive reading and writing...geared primarily to middle-schoolers. Advanced and time-consuming. Tessa enjoyed this program the least. The activities were very challenging.
- Canyon de Chelly National Monument - Unique badge/postcard/mini book/non-leveled booklet. - Booklet required picking up litter, observing plants and animals, visiting the on-site hogan and answering four simple questions. There was also a large crossword puzzle that was optional. Easy.
- Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park - Unique badge/poster/non-leveled booklet. - Booklet required completion of a crossword puzzle, small drawing and a match-it activity. Easy, except for a few answers on the crossword puzzle.
- Navajo National Monument - Generic badge/non-leveled booklet. Booklet required completing choice of activities...watching the park video, taking a discovery hike, going on a Ranger-led hike, answering questions about the exhibited pottery, word search, fill-in-the-blank questions and two drawing activities. Easy to moderate.
- Grand Canyon National Park - Generic badge/patch for a fee/leveled booklet. - Unfortunately, this program required every Junior Ranger attend a lengthy Ranger-led program (no exceptions), plus several activities in a leveled booklet. Since we rode the Grand Canyon Railway to and from the canyon as well as the accompanying bus tour at the canyon, we did not have adequate time to complete the program. This was unexpected and disappointing.
|Tessa found a quiet place to sit and use her senses at Montezuma Castle. She drew the cliff dwelling (something she saw) and the cliff swallows that live above it (something she heard).|
|Ranger Michael was an especially friendly Park Ranger whom we met at Tuzigoot National Monument. Tessa got a kick out of getting to wear his hat.|
|Tessa recited the Junior Ranger pledge at Walnut Canyon National Monument. Part of the pledge was to promise to respect and tell others about the park. She repeated a version of this pledge at every park.|
|Tessa was given a small trash bag to fill with litter and correctly deposit in a trash can at Canyon de Chelly.|
|While learning about Ancestral Puebloan pottery at Navajo National Monument, Tessa was to find the smallest and largest pots from various displays within the exhibit hall and then record their individual uses.|