I love our National Parks! I’m very thankful for those who back in the latter half of the 1800s thought to preserve our beautiful landscape for future generations. I love that each park is unique. For instance, they all have their own special qualities that draw visitors far and wide. There are parks with majestic mountains, sweeping valleys, waterfalls, geysers, open fields, rivers, and lakes. Then there is the history of each park. Some parks have more historical significance in the role they played in history and the development of this country. While others show off the best that nature has to offer. And that’s just the parks. There are also historical sites, monuments, memorials, and landmarks too. I also love all the programs they offer like the Junior Rangers program.
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One of the ways I like to have the girls learn a little more about each park is for them to participate in the Junior Ranger badge program. Lucky for me it’s an easy sell. They love doing the activities as well as getting the badge at the end of it all. What I love is that they might actually learn something about the history of the park and the US. Therefore, if I homeschooled the girls this would be part of their history lessons.
Check out the national parks website to see all they offer for kids. You can download the Junior Ranger booklets there as well, or pick them up at the park visitor center. Above all, it’s a great program for them to participate in. There are many programs offered by the park system that you and your family can participate in. Since each park has its own programs, there will be many for you to enjoy. Check them out for every park you go to.
Junior Ranger Angler badge
The park system also offers a Junior Ranger Angler badge. The park system is trying to inspire the next generation to get out in nature and fish responsibly. The booklet is a great way to introduce your child to fishing. In a fun and creative way, this badge teaches your child what he/she needs to know to have fun fishing. The badge teaches the different aspects of and ways to fish as well as how to fish safely. Your child will also learn how to protect aquatic habitats and the native fish that use those habitats.
Another really fun program the park system has is called Webranger. Web, hence this is an online program your child can participate in. Your child sets up an account through the national park system. They can start off by customizing their own ranger station. While playing games they earn points and learn about the parks in the United States. There are activities in nature, science, puzzles, parks, history, animals, and people. They can even print out a WebRanger ID badge. Ainsley has a particular interest in this webranger program. Particularly, I think it’s her love of animals. Who knows maybe one day she’ll be a Park Ranger.
Every Kid in a Park Program
The National Parks also have a great program offered to 4th-graders. It’s called “every kid in a park”. Your child must be in 4th-grade or the equivalent of 4th-grade for homeschooled kids, age 10 to participate. They can participate in a fun online activity to receive a voucher for a free 4th-grade annual pass. Your 4th-grader becomes an ambassador for the parks and can show you around. What 4th-grader wouldn’t like that? The program starts September 1st of their 4th-grade year and ends August 31st of the following year which gives them (and you) a full year to use their annual pass. **Be advised the activity online must be completed in one sitting and your child must be able to print out the voucher at the end of the activity. That printed voucher needs to be presented by your 4th-grader to the park staff to exchange for their annual pass.
Lowell Mills National Historial Park
This picture from Lowell Mills National Historical Park was a fun day out for our family. Lowell is a town in northern Massachusetts that sits right on the Merrimack River. With the beginning of the Industrial Revolution many towns, like Lowell, used their rivers for power. Therefore, Lowell Mills became textile mills, making cloth to sell to a seamstress to make clothing.
There are many different buildings and parks in this national park. You will explore the buildings where the “mill girls” worked. They even run a few machines for you so you too can experience the incredible noise that the ‘mill girls’ experienced every day. It was extremely loud and I think it’s what the girls remember the most. I can’t imagine what it was like when all the machines were working. Those poor ‘mill girls’. I’d have had a headache every night. You will also ride the trolly through the town. For my kids, this was a fun bonus. The trolley took us to the boat which took us up and down the river and through the locks, another treat.
Liberty Bell Center
Another park the girls loved is the Liberty Bell Center. Seeing the Liberty Bell for the first time myself, I was taken aback by it. The history, the story, It’s just amazing. Did you know that the original name for the bell was The State House Bell? Also, we learned that the ‘crack’ you see on the bell is actual the repair of a hairline crack, amazing. If you look closely you can see drill bit marks (40 in total) used to open up the hairline crack to ‘repair’ the bell. Unfortunately, the repair didn’t work.
The Liberty Bell’s inscription reads ” Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof”
Across the street from Liberty Bell Center is Independence Hall. The Birthplace of America. The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed in this building. The significance of these documents with their universal principles of freedom and democracy has deemed Independence Hall not only a National History Site but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tour of Independence Hall was fun as well.
Liberty Island and Ellis Island
If you are in NYC try to visit Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Seeing the Statue of Liberty up close is spectacular. Since there is an auto-tour for you to listen to as you walk around the statue you will learn a lot. It does tell a nice story about the statue. Of course, to go into the Statue of Liberty reservations need to be made well in advance.
Ellis Island has a life of its own. Walking through the rooms the immigrants were led through gives you just a small understanding of what the crowds of immigrants experienced when arriving in America for the first time, most not speaking a word of English. There is also an auto-tour telling the story. Every moving indeed.
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Acadia National Park
My kids have earned the Junior Ranger badge at Acadia National Park more than once now. We love Acadia so much that I’ve written an entire post about it, Majestic Acadia. As junior rangers, they will explore the park and see the diversity of this small park. The highest peak on the eastern seashore is Cadillac Mountain in Acadia. This year we hiked up Acadia Mountain as well as explored the tidal pools along the shore at Otter Point and Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. We also went to Sieur de Monts, where we explored the Wild Gardens of Acadia and they received their junior ranger badges.
If you have a 4th-grader I hope you take advantage of the free annual pass for them and get out there and explore. Which park(s) do you live near? Which national park is your favorite?