One of the activities that we actively pursued in our RV travels is to visit as many state and National Parks as we can. The kids do the National Park Service’s Jr. Ranger programs at many of the national parks, and most of the kids have over 100 badges/patches. We really enjoy the programs as they are generally very educational and include many details about the parks that we would otherwise not have known. They are a great way to get in some site-specific learning – and some nag-free roadschooling in.
We also found an online program that the boys thought was nearly as enjoyable as the real thing:
WebRangers = Jr. Rangers with a twist.
WebRangers is the National Parks Service’s online Jr. Ranger program. The program is fun, free, and you do not have to download anything onto your computer to play it. The kids each set up an account; they are not asked for personal, identifying information, just make up an onscreen name and password. WebRangers features dozens of different games and activities that teach kids interesting facts about everything from various NP ranger uniforms, signal flags, water quality, animal behaviors, and many different famous Americans. It includes lots of different activities, of varying difficulty, to interest everyone from the non-reading preschooler who is learning to use a mouse, to your teens that like to discover new places. WR will give the kids a glimpse of many unfamiliar land and ocean animals and their habitats, and teach them many new details about historical people and places. The program requires several hours to complete, and can be done all at once, or one activity at a time over a long period as their work is saved under their account; the kids can even do their favorite activities multiple times.
My kiddos thoroughly enjoyed the program and when they earned computer time by completing their regular schoolwork, they would use it to work on their WebRanger badges. Currently there are around 70 different activities that your child (or you! – it’s fun, give it a go!) can complete; each activity’s difficulty level (and interest area) is marked so your child can find the ones that are best suited to their skills. Once your child completes a certain number of activities, they earn a badge – just as if they complete a Jr. Ranger program at a National Park! The National Park Service will send you (the parent) an email link from which you can request that your child’s patch be mailed to your snail mail address (no personal, identifying info is entered on to the WebRangers website until the child finishes their activities and they enter their parents’ email address).
Four of our kids have completed the program so far, and have received their badges in the mail; we actually did them a few years ago, and now the little girls want to get started on earning their own Web Ranger badges! Even the boys that have completed the program like to go back and redo their favorite activities off of the program, and to do new ones as the site is updated!
Even if it’s not your goal to collect Jr. Ranger badges from every National Park that offers the program, Web Rangers is still be a fun and educational activity for your little camper!
(the above pic is Joel, Daniel, and Thomas, holding their WR badges, just 2 months into our Jr. Ranger journey – it’s from Dec of 2010. The picture below is the same boys from July of 2014…)
If you would like to learn more about the traditional, onsite NPS Jr. Ranger program, I wrote a post about it here: Intro to the NPS’s Jr. Ranger program.
Can’t travel to the parks themselves right now? Web Rangers is a great activity to pass the time until the next camping season (or trip), and may even give you some great ideas for new destinations based on the many National Parks that you will discover via The National Park Service’s online Web Rangers program!