Friday, June 11, 2021
Welcome to my Travel Friday’s B.R.E.A.T.H.S. blog post. Last month, I began my travel blogging with my tour of the United States National Parks© Services (NPS) and their NPS Passport Program. Last week, I shared that I have started an educational nonprofit, Global Alternative Learning Systems (GALS), and we are in the process of building an educational platform for teachers, parents, and community members to collaborate, communicate, and cultivate learning opportunities for every human in every community. One of the platforms will be an advanced outdoor education system that will link city, state, and National Park programs for people of all ages. For the month of June, I am sharing what I learned about the National Parks© Junior Ranger Online for kids that can be done while at home, and an interactive Junior Ranger Program at over 400 of the NPS locations.
What is the National Parks© Junior Ranger Program?
The NPS Junior Ranger Program is available at each of the different National Parks© Systems, about 420 locations across the USA (including American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and & Virgin Islands). Kids can enjoy each park with interactive booklets, guided tours, and special collector’s pins. This is the part I want to expand upon and make the knowledge more available to the public. Especially because the Junior Ranger Program is a fun and FREE way to interact with any park.
Junior Ranger Booklets
Kids learn special things by picking up a Junior Ranger booklet, reading through the history, completing some activities, and touring the playground, garden, and historical structures. At the end of their visit, they earn a gold arrowhead badge with the name of the park, similar to the one the park rangers wear. Before they earn the badge, the park rangers will recite the Junior Ranger Pledge about exploring, learning, and protecting our parks.
What Junior Ranger Programs Have We Visited?
For the month of June, each Friday I will be posting about one Junior Ranger experience I have had at different parks with my family and friends all over the USA. Last week, I shared my trip to Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis, MO, with my friends. This week, I am sharing my experience with visiting Fort Vancouver National Park in Washington state with my family.
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Vancouver, WA
On April 14, 2021, I was back in the Pacific Northwest with my family and we picked a perfect Spring afternoon to visit Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Washington. We visited the Visitor’s Center to get our NPS passport books, but they were not open to sell anything due to being closed for Covid restrictions. However, the Fort was open and we could take a peek inside some of the structures while social distancing.
Before we went into the Fort, we had a picnic and played on the playground behind the visitor’s center (up the hill from the Fort). When we got to the Fort, we walked through the beautiful blooming garden. As we entered the Fort, we were kindly and promptly greeted by the Park Rangers.
They did not have the living history performers (blacksmiths and cooks) to show daily life at the Fort. However, there were Park Rangers available to discuss the different buildings and how the site was completely reconstructed to look like life in the 1800’s. Archeologists have found several thousands of artifacts and evidence of how the early pioneers lived in that area. The reconstructed structures are a house, bakery, schoolhouse, blacksmith, and fur trading post.
Junior Ranger Badge
While we were at Fort Vancouver NHS, we were able to earn a Junior Ranger badge for that location. However, there are two other locations where kids can earn badges, Pearson Air Museum (at Fort Vancouver site) and the McLoughlin House (at a different site in Oregon City). Unfortunately, due to Covid restrictions, both those locations were closed when we visited (also, the air museum is installing a new exhibit and the house is being rehabilitated), but we will have a great time planning our next trip now that we are experienced Junior Rangers!
Conclusion on Fort Vancouver NHS, WA
We had a great time exploring Fort Vancouver. We are excited to come back and visit the air museum and house to complete our Junior Ranger badges for those National Park Services. This place is great for kids and also dogs! Yep, pack up your pooch to join your NPS adventure! We recommend also packing a picnic, bringing reusable water bottles, having good walking shoes, and we hope the living history presenters are live in action for you to get the full experience of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. Please enjoy our YouTube video below showing more details of our visit. We hope we have inspired you to check this location or any other of the National Parks© Service Programs.
Most of the links I post here are directly to the NPS website. When you are ready to plan your visit to a park, I highly recommend downloading their new NPS app. Each NPS site is responsible for keeping updated information on the website and app (I have found this to not be quite accurate, but still tremendously helpful, especially the visitor’s center location and hours because that’s where we get the passport cancellation stamp for the NPS Passport Program).
Thank you for reading and viewing. I hope that you will share this information with your friends and family. Looking forward to seeing you at the National Parks!
Dr. Jaime Brainerd, Ed.D.