Last updated: January 23, 2017
“May I have a Junior Ranger book, please?” Many national park adventures begin with those words. Sometimes those words come from a shy four-year-old, sometimes from an empty-nester. No matter who asks, the answer is always the same: absolutely! Junior Ranger activity books are one of the many ways the National Park Service engages with visitors young and old. At Carlsbad Caverns we have a number of books just waiting for the inquisitive mind.
Most parks have a site-specific book. Sometimes it’s a newspaper and other times it’s a glossy book with colors. Activities are divided up by ages. Carlsbad Caverns has a book for kids 6 and under, 7-12, and 13 and up. Targeting books to specific ages and learning abilities is an excellent way for people to learn about the park in a fun way. Our books feature everything from bat tic-tac-toe to a cave scavenger hunt to the story of Native Americans in the Chihuahuan Desert. The activities aid visitors in seeing the stories happening at the park on many levels.
In addition to the site-specific books, there are several national books catering to specific subjects. We are lucky enough to have a selection of those. Our most requested extra book is the “Cave Scientist.” The activities address different types of cave, how they are created, and what makes them all special. The “Night Sky” book is gaining in popularity as the park service has come to realize and promote the beautiful dark skies present in many parks. These books are often given out at night programs. “Wilderness Explorer” books can be found in parks with large areas of designated wilderness. Congress has used the 1964 Wilderness Act to preserve tracts of land for present and future generations where “man himself is a visitor” and people can find and experience nature on its own terms. “Leave No Trace” principles are emphasized in the book. The last specialized book at Carlsbad Caverns is the “Junior Paleontologist.” This book explores the foundations of paleontology, the plants and animals scientists study in national parks, and how conditions today help us understand the earth in the past.
All of these activity booklets serve the same purpose: to discover new ideas in an interactive way for our visitors. After completing the required number of activities, kids of all ages can turn in their books at the visitor’s center. Park rangers go over the books answering any questions and asking some of their own. Rangers then fill out a certificate of completion and swear-in the new Junior Rangers. They receive either a badge or patch (depending on the park and program completed) to wear with pride. Other visitors know when they encounter a Junior Ranger, they are seeing the next generation of park stewards. Reaching future stewards is so important; there is even an online Junior Ranger program for interactive park fun at home. The next time you visit one of your parks, don’t be shy when asking, “May I have a Junior Ranger book, please?”