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  • Writer's pictureMaggie Peikon

5 Reasons Why You Should Become A Junior Ranger

I’m a proud Earth Enthusiast and outdoorista. I appreciate public lands, I advocate for their protection, I visit National Parks, I hike, I camp, I explore. I try my best to give back to these spaces that give so much to me. So, When I saw Katie Boué—an outdoorist that I so admire—take to Instagram to post proudly about becoming a Junior Ranger, I was intrigued.  Thoughts that immediately went through my head: Wait, I’m not too old to be a Junior Ranger? How can I become one? Where can I become one? I leave no trace, I recycle, I pick up trash I find on the trail, I compost, I don’t use plastic straws. I want these spaces to remain as pristine as possible, so future generations can love them up as much as I do...but it had never dawned on me to become a Junior Ranger.  >> Insert google-search hole on junior ranger programs at every national park we’d be stopping at on our New Mexico road trip. << (I decided on becoming a Junior Dunes Ranger at White Sands National Monument) (And I was super duper mega stoked about it) Turns out, anyone, at any age can become a junior ranger, and you can complete a Junior Ranger program at most (I haven’t checked them all, so I don’t want to misinform) National Parks.  So, want to become one, too? (You should!) Below, five reasons why you should become a junior ranger, and one main one: because your inner child deserves to have some fun out there.  1. Learn About The Land Junior Ranger workbooks are very informative about the history of the park, and flora and fauna found inside and around the area. You’ll also learn about things to look out for from a safety perspective-like lighting in White Sands. This tip came in handy, too, as our gorgeous bright and sunny day turned into a wild thunder/lightning/hail storm.  Bonus: Activities throughout the workbook teach you about the land in a fun, creative, and engaging way (so you’ll actually remember what you learned)!  2. Connect With Park Employees  Workbooks often ask that you find an NPS employee and ask them about what they love about their job, or why they chose to work for NPS. It's a great way to connect with the people that work in the park, and behind the scenes, supporting these lands that we love! 3. Feel Like a Kid Again  There's something about writing and drawing in a workbook that makes you feel like a school kid again. 

That, and you get to explore the land with a newfound excitement as you look for things you learned about in your workbook throughout the park. It's like a scavenger hunt! Trust, you'll never be as excited to see a darkling beetle as you are when you get to check it off in the ‘things you’ve found’ section of your workbook.  4. You'll Get A Sweet Patch (Or Badge!) When you complete your workbook, after exploring the park, you'll get sworn in by an NPS employee after you recite the ‘Junior Ranger Pledge’.  Once you're officially a Junior Ranger you'll get a patch, or a badge, to seal the deal. I was surprised to find just how excited I was to walk away, proudly, with my sweet new White Sands Junior Dunes Ranger patch (photographic proof below...Yes, I now realize it was upside down, I blame excitement overload for the oversight). 

5. Inspire Others To Get Involved (Regardless of their age!)  What's better than getting people excited to visit a National Park and support our lands?! Much like Katie had inspired me to learn more, I was excited to be able to do the same.  After posting on social media that I had become a Junior Ranger I was thrilled with how many people reached out to me to find out more about becoming a Junior Ranger. Like me, many didn't know that there was no age limit to the program, and so many people wanted to become a Junior Ranger (and, let's be real, get an ultra cool patch), too.  Have a favorite park or one you’ve been dying to visit? Make it happen! Get out there, Get exploring, and add ‘become a proud Junior Ranger’ to you adventure to-do list.

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