Monday, June 4, 2018

Here's Every National Park Junior Ranger Badge You Can Earn By Mail

It's been four years since the kids first discovered the Junior Ranger program at Badlands National Park, and thus began their obsession. I'm never one to let an educational experience go, so since that first thrilling day, I have deliberately organized ALL of our US vacations to include as many Junior Ranger programs as possible, and I've included all of the Junior Ranger programs that it's possible to earn by mail into our homeschool plans.

"How did you figure out where all of the Junior Ranger programs are?" you ask.

Friends, I made a giant freaking map:



Yes, that is EVERY SINGLE NATIONAL PARK SITE WITH A JUNIOR RANGER PROGRAM. I put them all in by hand. I went to every single national park's website, searched for its Junior Ranger program, and if it had one I put it on my map.

When I plan road trips, I check my map for all the nation park sites with Junior Ranger programs that we could detour to, and then we detour to them. During our upcoming road trip, for instance, we're visiting Saint Croix Island and Acadia National Park, primarily for their Junior Ranger programs.

But the kids' enthusiasm for earning Junior Ranger badges is unceasing, and yet we cannot spend our entire year traveling to various national parks. If only!

So I went back through every one of those websites, and I noted every park that permits children to earn their Junior Ranger badge by mail. Most of these parks provide the badge book as a downloadable pdf for kids to complete using internet or book research (often the park's own website, but we've also found useful park videos on YouTube). They mail their completed badge books to the park, and in return, the park rangers mail them back their badges and certificates.

It's always, eternally thrilling.

The kids have been doing this for years now, and still have tons of Junior Ranger badges left to earn by mail. They've learned geography, history, and several sciences in the process, experienced the breadth and depth of the national experience in ways they haven't had the opportunity to do in person, and have an intense appreciation for the variety of cultural, historical, and geographic artifacts and monuments that must be explored, preserved, and protected.

Not every national park, or even most national parks, allow their Junior Ranger badges to be earned by mail, mind you. You'll know if one does, because it will say so on its website or on the book, and it will have the book available as a downloadable pdf and include a mailing address for the completed book to be sent to. Many parks will state, kind of pissily in my opinion, that they do NOT allow badges to be earned by mail, and that's their right, but I think everyone loses when they do that--why stifle a kid's desire to learn? Why refuse an opportunity to grow someone's knowledge and love of your national park?

Before you get your kid all revved up on earning these badges by mail, you should know that since you've got to mail the completed badge books to each park, you'll be paying a few bucks for postage and manila envelopes each time. If you're conserving resources, check out the online badges that I've noted in my list--those let kids either do or submit their work online, so you don't have to pay for either supplies or postage.

Fortunately, MANY national parks are happy to have more kids interested in them and working to learn more about them! Here are all the national park Junior Ranger badges that you can earn by mail:

  • Jimmy Carter National Historic Site (Georgia). This is another badge that had a profound effect on Will. She was unexpectedly moved by the story of Jimmy Carter, and now longs to meet him.

This is one of my absolute favorite activities that we do in our homeschool, but it's partly so wonderful because it's so adaptable. Sure, it can be your entire geography curriculum, or just an enrichment to another spine. You can include it in your history studies, or in the natural or earth sciences. Even if you don't homeschool, these Junior Ranger books are so fun that kids can simply DO them for fun. My kids do, and they think it's a nifty trick that I also let them count them for school!

If your kids love earning Junior Ranger badges, then they'd likely be interested in learning about the national park system as a whole--there's so much to explore there, from history and culture to geology and the sciences. Here are some of our favorite resources for learning about and exploring the national park system:


P.S. Want more obsessively-compiled lists of resources and activities for kiddos and the people who want to keep them happy and engaged? Check out my Craft Knife Facebook page!

47 comments:

  1. This is AMAZING!! Thanks for sharing~

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  2. THIS IS GREAT!

    We just did our first two JR badges at Death Valley & Grand Canyon but are heading to Mammoth Cave next week for our 3rd.

    Question - I love the pins, but the iron on patches are even better, Did the parks send you both or how did that work? Just curious. I know you can buy some of them online, but was wondering what you ended up receiving in the mail.

    Thanks again for posting this guide!

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  3. THANK YOU for all the research you did on this and your willingness to share it!
    My son got so many badges when we traveled, but that was a few years back and I never knew about anything online.
    This is cool!!

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  4. This is amazing! Thanks for all your hard work!

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  5. How fun to discover another family as wild about these badges as ours! Your obsessive searching sounds just like mine and we're embarking on a massive road trip again this year that will allow us to visit at least 24 NPS sites!

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  6. For the parks that you need to visit, how much time is required to get the information they need to complete the badges? I am taking the kids out west this summer and most places we will only be there a few hours.

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  7. This is insanely helpful- thank you SO much!!

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  8. Sometimes they will send just the badges, and sometimes they will also send patches. Sometimes, the children have also received pencils, stickers, or other small treats, as well. I just took a wander past the kids' vests, and out of the ones they've earned by mail, it looks like Jimmy Carter, Junior Archaeologist, Petrified Forest, and Point Reyes sent them patches. The kids have several other patches from sites, but those were all ones that they visited in person, so I'm not sure what would be mailed from those.

    Each park creates its own Junior Ranger book, so the time taken to complete them varies a LOT. In some parks, the kids have earned their badges in an hour or so at the visitor's center before we've even toured the rest of the park, and in some parks, the kids have worked on them for a couple of days and we've seen every part of the park and learned every single thing there is to learn about it in the process, I feel like. And other parks have time commitments of just about every possibility in between. When we're planning a trip, I will usually print out the park's Junior Ranger book (if they've made it available as a pdf online), and ask the kids to complete all of the activities that don't require our presence in the park ahead of time. That way, when we're there we can concentrate on the park, and I won't have to sit on a bench for an hour while they work a crossword puzzle, say. Also, a total of two times this was the only way the kids could earn a badge at a particular park--twice, we've gone to a park and had the ranger tell the kids that they'd run out of badge books. Each time, when the kids excitedly showed them that they'd printed their books at home, the rangers were happy that they could do the work and earn the badge.

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  9. Great idea. I think we will use them to form a class at our local library. I do notice that some of these referenced things that can only be done at the park, how do you get around those?

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  10. this was an excellent resource for planning our (nearly) crosscountry trip last month. We ended up hitting 18 parks. A couple of additional notes:
    1. Some parks will have additional books for certain subject matters, for instance Hot Springs had a second book specifically on Bats, and many of the parks along the path of Totality had a special Eclipse book back in the fall. These weren't offered automatically, typically only the normal park book was presented
    2. I found most were free, but at least Great Smoky Mtn Park charges a nominal fee for the program.
    3. Most badges are plastic, but some are wood (I was told reclaimed maple), and apparently there are 4 metal ones (Stones River NB is like pewter, and I'm told Lincolns home and Fort Donnelson, not sure what the last is)
    4. Arizona has a secondary program as well where by completing a couple of additional activities and visiting 4 AZ based NPS sites you can get a special Arizona National Park patch with park specific minipatchs
    5. If you were wondering why some are Parks and some are Monuments, Parks require Congressional approval but Monuments only require the President to declare.

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  11. So this is a terrific post. Thanks for taking the time to put it together. My family gets our junior ranger on whenever we can. As a prior commenter shared, sometimes parks run out of books or badges/patches. I thought I'd share another program called Redwood Edventures through the California Parks system. They are great, action/clue oriented activities which earn you patches for each one completed. You can find out more at http://www.redwood-edventures.org.

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  12. Great map! We also are planning our vacations around these stops, and the kids are obsessed with the badges! Recently while driving from NC to Cleveland, we randomly noticed a sign for the First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton, OH. We literally pulled off and called to ask whether they have a Jr Ranger program. They do, and they have these unique round medallion badges. Consider adding this to your map. https://www.nps.gov/fila/index.htm http://www.firstladies.org/

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  13. Thank you for letting me know--I added it to the map!

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  14. First of all thank you for compiling this amazing resource. Do you find when you mail in the completed activity books that they are returned to you? I was hoping they do because they contain a lot of valuable information.

    Thanks
    John and Junior Ranger Ian

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  15. It depends on the national park. Most parks do return the books, and some will even include other souvenirs, such as pencils or patches.

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  16. You can also earn one through mail at War in the Pacific National Historical Park on the island of Guam. It is also regular US postage to mail any mailable items to our patk. Visit our website at www.nps.gov/wapa or email wapa_interpretation@nps.gov

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  17. Badlands National Park can also be earned through the mail. Rangers will mail back the badge. There is also a patch, but it is earned by completing a Ranger-led Junior Ranger program.

    As for why some parks charge and why others don’t allow the badges to be earned by mail, the books and badges can become a large budget expense for many parks. The materials are only allowed to be bought with specific funds and some parks do not receive as much as other parks because of size or visitation. The small charge is to help offset the parks cost at times because of the high visitation.

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  18. Most of Utah's state parks also offer Junior Ranger programs and we only found one that had a nominal charge for the book. Between the national parks, monuments and state parks you can earn 48 without leaving the state. Kodachrome Basin offers a unique six pointed star badge that was one of my sons favorite badges.

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  19. Thank you so much for making this map!! When we travel, we try to visit as many of these as possible and this is the best resources EVER!

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  20. Thank you for this list and the links!

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  21. I love the idea of adding Utah's state parks to the map--thanks for that! I only found three of their Junior Ranger programs via Googling, but I added those to the map, and whenever I come across any other state park Junior Ranger programs, I'll add those, too.

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  22. I've noticed a few parks are missing. There may be more than even this but we just started. On the Outer Banks in NC, my son received the National Seashore Badge at the lighthouses and a Jr Ranger badge at the Wright Memorial. He also earned a patch and certificate at Jockeys Ridge State Park.

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  23. For the National Seashore badge you're looking for Cape Hatteras National Seashore on the map, and for the Wright Memorial badge you're looking for the Wright Brothers National Memorial on the map. Fort Raleigh Historic Site is right there, too, and they've also got a Junior Ranger program.

    Thanks for the tip about North Carolina State Parks Junior Rangers! It looks like I can put Chimney Rock, Mount Jefferson, and William B. Umstead State Parks on the map.

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  24. I was just going to comment that the Outerbanks ones are missing, although you earn the same one if you visit Cape Hatteras Lighthouse or Bodie Island. There is also the Wright Brother's National Memorial.
    I am from Pennsylvania and there are SEVERAL in PA that are not on the list and it shocks me. Geettysburg is the biggest one missed! Also, Steamtown National Hisorical Site, Flight 93 National Memorial and Allegheny Prortage Railroad National Historic Site.

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  26. You are absolutely correct that the parks you mentioned have wonderful Junior Ranger Programs. Most of our 419 National Park sites have a Junior Ranger Program. Some even allow you to earn multiple badge and/or patches for completing multiple books or additional activities. It appears that the original intention of this post and list was to highlight the National Park sites that have a program that can be completed from home and then mail your completed book in to receive your reward. I have found some parks only allow you to pick up your activity book at the park and must be returned in person. Others have the book online to print at home but must be turned in at the park in person (this is my favorite because you can work on it even if the Park Visitor Center is not open yet). I agree Pennsylvania has some wonderful National Parks. You mentioned Gettysburg. This park has their book online that you may print from home but it must be turned in at the park. The Eisenhower Farm has its own Junior Ranger Program, its a Secret Service Junior Ranger activity. It can be completed at the site or online as a WebRanger. Hope this information proves to be helpful. Explore-Learn-Protect

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  27. If a Junior Ranger program isn't on the list, that's because it's not a Junior Ranger program that you can earn by mail. The list is only for Junior Ranger programs that a child can earn by mail. Look on the map for all Junior Ranger programs that a kid you can earn in person--that's where you'll see all of those Pennsylvania ones that you didn't find on the list.

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  28. I currently have over 120 badges and this has really helped me get some of the ones in far places that I may not go to

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  29. This is awesome! Thank you so much for taking the time to do all this and your willingness to share it with all of us. We just started on our Junior Ranger program journey and we are super excited about it. Your hard work and generosity is greatly appreciated!
    Here is one more I found today: The Effigy Mounds in Iowa https://www.nps.gov/wapa/learn/kidsyouth/beajuniorranger.htm

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  30. Love this - Although, I am starting to think it is more fun for me than my daughter :)
    Thank you so much for sharing! Here are other lesser known parks in Florida. We had such a great time!

    https://www.nps.gov/deso/learn/kidsyouth/beajuniorranger.htm (De Soto Nat'l Park)
    https://www.nps.gov/foma/learn/kidsyouth/beajuniorranger.htm (Fort Matanzas)

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  31. Thank you for this list! I have never thought about doing this by mail, we will have to try a few of theses that we might not be able to get to. We have done 80 junior rangers and aren’t planning on stopping! It’s fun to see ones we don’t have! Also while at Lassen this year I found patches that say 25, 50 and , 100 Junior Ranger trek club. The kids were ecstatic! They are playing a spring trip to work on getting that 100th!! Thanks again for all of your hard work on this list!!

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  32. I am so intrigued by that Ranger Trek stuff! Did you see their products in the gift shop at the national park, itself? Because I just found their website and they also have STICKERS!!!!!!!

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  33. We have loved earning badges on our recent road trip this summer. It was such a hit that we decided to incorporate them into our homeschooling. I love this list, thank you so much.

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  35. Lani Derrick,
    What a wonderful idea. You may also want to check out Webrangers with the National Park Service. Explore - Learn - Protect

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  36. I just discovered your site and I really love your info about the Jr. Ranger pins. However, I clicked on the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park (Massachusetts) link and it took me to an article about Peter Earl Diezel, white supremacist from Indiana, also active in Illinois/Chicago instead of the Park site. You may want to check it out.

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  37. I just checked the link and it took me the correct page for New Bedford Whaling Junior Ranger.

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  38. This is AWESOME! I was about to make this map myself but I thought I'd google it first figuring someone must have done it already. I was able to copy your map to my account. I'm color coding the ones we've already completed. Thank you!

    You are very right about how drastically different the amount of time it takes to complete each booklet. The Boston one takes several days as you have to visit several different historical sites around the city. They are not far apart, but it's a lot of walking and T time. I find we can only really do one historical site or park per day because you want to spend time enjoying it and learning, without having to rush. I think doing as much of the book ahead of time is a great idea because the kids have a better understanding of where they are going and the whole family can enjoy being there more. Sitting and waiting for kids to do activities is not fun. I've finally conceded to mailing in completed books later so that we can enjoy where we are more.

    I would love to see all your patches and badges you've earned. I didn't realize there was such a variety of styles. Some are really cool designs.

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  39. There's also a badge available for the US Virgin Islands (USVI)

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  40. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS GREAT LIST. We are working through starting with the ones in California where we live. I had my daughter submit the Charles Young for black history month. We tried the Anza online but the email bounced back. I contacted them but haven't heard back yet. We also heard about sending in Flat Rangers when we mail in the completed activity, so we might try that too.

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  41. Thank you for such an excellent resource. I’ve reposted this link to a Facebook group, “Wild Green Memes for Ecological Fiends,” and it seems to be well appreciated and shared. As an educator and caretaker of kids, and then as some who just loves great ideas, and yet again as someone who loves the NPS, thank you again for this incredible list.

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  42. Thank you for this excellent. I’ve posted a link to the Facebook group “Wild Green Memes for Ecological Fiends”, also educators, caretakers, and lovers of the NPS, and it appears to be dearly appreciated. Thank you personally.

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  43. Thanks for putting this together. A more complete list of of Junior Ranger Booklets can be found at: http://npshistory.com/agency_history.htm#junior-ranger

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  44. One more that didn't make the list!

    https://www.nps.gov/mwac/juniorranger.html

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  45. The Midwest Region has a Junior Ranger Archeology program that can also be completed through the mail. Reading all of the books is certainly my favorite part of my job, so send them in!! Copies can be downloaded from the link below.

    https://www.nps.gov/mwac/juniorranger.html

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  46. We have really enjoyed your list! Some others we've found that you may want to add are: Stones River National Battlefield, Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, Oregon and California National Historic Trail, Santa Fe National Historic Trail, Old Spanish National Historic Trail, Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail, El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail, El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail, and Pony Express National Historic Trail. Thanks for a great resource!

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