Popular Junior Ranger Program is Expanding to Add "Let's Move Outside" Activities

Junior rangers on a hike at Shenandoah National Park. NPS photo.

The popular Junior Ranger Program, which lets kids earn a patch, badge, certificate or similar award for completing activities in many national parks, is expanding to include Let's Move Outside, which encourages physical activity for youngsters. The program is now underway in 36 parks, with more being added before summer's end.

Young people who complete at least one physical activity in pursuit of their Junior Ranger badge receive a special sticker that designates them as a "Let’s Move Outside Junior Ranger." The activities range from adventures like hiking with a ranger at Grand Canyon National Park to canoeing at Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.

Let’s Move Outside, led by the Departments of Interior and Agriculture, "provides tools and information to parents to make it easy to enjoy the outdoors and be active and healthy. This program is part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s nationwide campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation."

“As a department that manages one fifth of our nation’s land, the Department of the Interior will play a vital role in Let’s Move Outside!” said Julie Rodriguez, director of the department’s Youth Office. “Our parks, refuges, and other public lands are waiting to be explored and enjoyed by our nation’s young people, and we are eager to help them get outdoors.”

“Young people inspire us; we want to help them be vigorous and curious for life. It starts with family fun. National parks are amazing places where exercise is disguised as adventure, and we sneak in some learning too,” National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said.

According to an NPS spokesman, "Almost all Let’s Move Outside activities can be enjoyed by the entire family, and many are easily accessible from urban areas. Less than an hour’s drive from Chicago, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore offers miles of hiking trails through peaceful dunes and woodlands. In the heart of Washington, D.C. Rock Creek Park boasts green spaces and pathways for families to explore together. By the end of the summer, Let’s Move Outside Junior Rangers will be running, hiking, biking and swimming through 50 parks across the country."

The activities don't have to be complicated or require any special skills or equipment. For example, “Voyageurs National Park’s Let’s Move Outside Junior Ranger program offers kids and parents the chance to hike one of the many trails in the park. Hiking is not only great exercise, but also an incredibly fun way to see and learn about the park,” Chief of Interpretation Tawnya Schoewe said.

At Shenandoah National Park, the Let’s Move Outside Junior Ranger program offers kids and parents the chance to hike on park trails during a ranger-guided Junior Ranger program, or they can explore that park on their own with one of three Ranger Explorer Guides.

Websites for both the Junior Ranger and Let's Move Outside programs are still catching up on lists of parks which are participating in the new programs, but an NPS press release includes a list of all three dozen NPS areas that currently on board. The Let's Move Outside website also offers details about the program in other locations.

Comments

This is excellent! We love the Junior Ranger Program (my kids have almost 200 badges) but one of my complaints about the program is there is so much busy work that requires them to sit inside. I often wondered if it was worth our time to sit in the visitors center doing a word search rather than be outside hiking a trail. Hiking a trail (or some other outside activity) will teach them so much more about the park than a word search. I hope this new program will catch on and maybe change the current focus of the Junior Ranger program. It's great but can certainly get better.

I always thought the word searches and other paper exercises were supposed to be used in the car. They can sure help eliminate the whining, "When are gonna get there?"

When we are able to get the Junior Ranger booklet in advance ie printing it from the internet or asking for it to be mailed, then yes, the busy work activities are great for doing in the car. Unfortunately not all the parks will allow you to get the booklets in advance (ie Saguaro said absolutely no way would they send us the booklet in advance). In those cases we often opt out in order to actually experience the park rather than sit inside doing the booklet. It's a great program - just needs a bit of tweaking here and there.

I have an older relative (old enough to have a senior pass) who got his "Junior Ranger" badge at one NP. Eligibility depends on the park, and some have no age restrictions.

The official policy of the Junior Ranger Program is that no one is to old to be a Junior Ranger. No park is supposed to deny any visitor the right to participate in the Junior Ranger program. However, most of the programs are geared towards 6-13.