We returned to Arches National Park so Brody and Scarlet could be sworn in as Junior Rangers. We also took the opportunity to revisit our favorite free climinbing spot, Double Arch and visit a few more arches. It made up for the fact that it was 19 degrees last night. After lunch we headed towards Colorado along the Colorado River Scenic by-way. It’s a fantastic canyon view and we don’t have to feel bad about going so slowly.
Brody and Scarlet have now collected 17 Junior Ranger badges. The Junior Ranger program is for children of all ages – seriously, we have seen adults asking for the booklets. At a National Park visitor center the kids as for a booklet complete a number of activities, turn book back in, take a pledge and then collect their badge. What is interesting is that although this could be standardized, each park is a little different in their execution.
The activity booklets vary widely in shape, size and color. Some are professionally put together, others are cranked out on an old mimeograph machine purchased at the elementary school surplus sale in 1989. The activities are park centric and the children have to look around the visitor center display for information to help complete the book. There are also word searches and crosswords. Even though they are quite simple they do help convey information about the park, wildlife and history. In addition to completing the pages the children usally have to take a hike, attend a ranger program or watch a film. We have learned that Peter Coyote has some sort of deal witht the parks and has been the film narrator at more than a few.
Another difference is the pledge. I’m pretty sure that each time the kids take the pledge the Real Ranger is making it up on the spot. My kids have pledged everything from protecting the environment to brushing their teeth every night. The badges are all a bit different too, they have the same shape and are mostly gold painted plastic. They each bear the park name and a seal. About half use the National Park Service seal while others have a picture unique to their park: Oregon Caves – bat, Olympic- elk and Arches- arch. Two sites went a step further Mesa Verde has green print and Grand Teton is made of wood. Yellowstone doesn’t have a badge, they just give a patch – then there are Jewel Cave and Petrified Forest which give a badge AND a patch.
This is a free program but in each visitor center you can also purchase items to show off your bling: T-shirts, hats, vests, a banner… Brody has eyed the children with the vests and badges with envy. However, the knowledge that he has more badges make him feel better. If there is a record for number of badges in a year – I think our kids are in the running.