I loved both the Junior Ranger Program and the Young Scientist Program! They both helped our kids get really engaged in the parks. And I learned a lot too from the programs. Here’s how the programs work:
Junior Ranger Program
The Junior Ranger Program is a program that many of the National Parks offer. The activities you do are different for each park so that you learn about the park. Both Yellowstone and Grand Teton required that the kids go to a Ranger Talk and do some activities like word searches or answering questions about the animals in the park. The activities you have to do change based on how old you are. Aftering completing the activities for your age group, you return your newspaper to a ranger at any Visitor Center. They review your work and swear you in as a Junior Ranger. At Grand Teton National Park, you have a choice of a patch or a badge pin. At Yellowstone, they only had the patches (which I preferred, but my sons preferred the pins).
Grand Teton National Park asked for a $1 donation to participate in the program. Yellowstone was free of charge (I think because this year is its 20th anniversary, the program paper actually had $3 at the top of the paper). Here’s a link to the Grand Teton program newspaper. Here’s a link to the Yellowstone Junior Ranger page. There are links on the page to the newspapers. There is one for 5-7 year olds and one for 8-12 year olds. Anyone can participate in the Grand Teton Junior Ranger program, even adults. One of the shopkeepers in the park told us about that and said his wife did it.
The Grand Teton National Park has another route to earning your Junior Ranger badge for 8 – 12 year olds. They hold Junior Ranger program event at the South Jenny Lake Visitor Center. It’s an hour and a half program. You can make a reservation for your child at any of the Visitor Centers. The day of the program you drop your child off at the flag pole outside of the Visitor Center. At the end of the program, you meet your child back at the flag pole where they perform the swearing in ceremony and receive their badge.
Showing the Ranger their work in Yellowstone
Swearing in Ceremony after the Grand Teton Junior Ranger Program
Swearing in at the Grand Teton Visitor Center After Completing the Activities
Young Scientist Program
This program was really neat. The program consists of an activity book that kids 5 and up complete to earn a Young Scientist patch or keychain. The activities revolve around the geyers and thermal features and the amount of activites you need to complete is dependent on your age. The basic premise is the kids need to hypothesize if geyers are alive. They then complete activities to test their hypothesis. This booklet does take awhile to complete, so be prepared to spend at least 3 hours.
The program is only offered at the Old Faithful Visitor Center in Yellowstone and costs $5. As part of the program, you can check out a Young Scientist backpack to use free of charge. Included in the backpack is a wheel that shows you how hot a thermal feature is based on the color, colored pencils, rock samples, and a laser thermometer. The laser thermometer was so cool! You pointed it at the various thermal features and it would tell you how hot they were. The highest reading we got was 185 degrees!