Tom and I have always enjoyed working with children and youth. We especially enjoy participating in the Jr. Ranger and education programs at the National Parks. When we were visiting all the national park sites out west, we ran across a brochure that interested us: Become a Scout Ranger.
The National Park Service has a variety of activities for children and youth. Every site has a Jr. Ranger program, usually aimed at children ages 5 to 13. However, anyone of any age can ask for a Jr. Ranger book and complete the program. Everyone who fulfills the requirements gets a Jr. Ranger badge at that park. We often have adults who ask for the books and complete the program. The program encourages participants to learn more in-depth information about a park.
The Scout Ranger program encourages Boy or Girl Scouts of any age to not only learn about a park, but also to give back in service hours to the park. The scouts participate in organized educational programs and volunteer service projects. Usually the local Scout Council and a national park site work together to develop the program. At King’s Mountain, we had a special Scout patch that boys could earn.
Boy and Girl Scouts are often allowed special privileges in a national park. Because they practice “leave no trace” camping, they are often allowed to stay overnight in a park that doesn’t normally allow overnight camping. They can help out with special events. Boys age 16 and over can participate in black powder programs where they dress up like soldiers and fire muskets.
If you are a Scout leader and would like to learn more about the Scout Ranger program, go to www.nps.gov/findapark to find a park near you. Then call or email and ask to speak to the Volunteer Coordinator at the park. If the park you contact doesn’t have a Scout Ranger program, offer to help them set one up. Volunteer Coordinators love people who have great ideas and are willing to work on them!
Scouting and the National Parks go together. They have many of the same goals: education and preservation of natural resources; enjoying and learning about the world around you. Many National Park Service Rangers participated in scouting programs in their youth. I wish I had known about the Scout Ranger program when our Boy Scouts went to Glacier National Park for a week. You can bet they would have been earning their Scout Ranger patch while we were there. Check out the Scout Ranger program and maybe your scouts can be Scout Rangers too.