Junior Ranger Activity Guide

Junior Ranger Book Cover Image
Junior Ranger Activity Guide Cover

Become a Junior Ranger

Welcome to Indiana Dunes National Park. As you explore, be sure to visit different areas of the park and enjoy your Junior Ranger adventure. From the beach to the farm, and back to the trails, there is much to discover in YOUR neighborhood national park.

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Junior Ranger Requirements:

Junior Ranger Hat

ALL Junior Rangers must complete the activities with the Junior Ranger hat next to the titles: Explore Your Parks, Walk with a Ranger, and Junior Ranger Training Camp.


If you are younger than 9 years old, complete THREE of the activities with the painted turtle next to the title. Also do the Junior Ranger hat activities.


If you are 9 or older, you must complete FIVE activities with the red fox next to the title. Also do the Junior Ranger hat activities.

Let's Move Sticker

Bonus Sticker - Hike one of the parks many trails or go for a swim at West Beach when a life-guard is present.

During your Junior Ranger adventure, go on ranger-led tours, read the wayside exhibits, hike trails, and use your observation skills. Return this completed Activity Guide to the Indiana Dunes National Park Visitor Center to receive your official Junior Ranger badge or patch. Return to the previous page to continue learning about the park.

Thank You! Thanks to Support from the Student Conservation Association, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and the Friends of Indiana Dunes in the development of this guide.
Illustration of Junior Ranger Hat

Explore Your Parks

National parks are special places for all people to enjoy. Each of the almost 400 national park units in the United States tells a different story. Think of a place near your home that you would like to protect. What is special about it? Draw a picture of your favorite spot, and explain why it should stay just the way it is.

My favorite place is:

It should stay how it is because:

Draw your a picture of your special place.

Ranger Holding Drawing Board

What is the mission of the National Park Service?

(You can find a brief version of the NPS mission statement in the park‛s newspaper, The Singing Sands, and also on the park's management page.)
Illustration of Turtle

Living Lakes

Where to visit: Lake View Pavilion

People have used the Great Lakes for many different things throughout time. The lakes provide food, water, transportation, and a place to have fun. That is why it is important to preserve the Great Lakes.

To gain an appreciation of Lake Michigan, visit Lake View Pavilion on Lake Front Drive. Color in each of the Great Lakes on the map, record the name of each lake on the line, and circle the national parks that you have visited or would like to visit.


Our Great Lakes






Great Lakes Quiz

I visited Lake View Pavilion on:

Parent’s initials:

Illustration of Fox

Glacier Games

Where to visit: Indiana Dunes National Park Visitor Center

Although there are no glaciers in the Great Lakes today, these giant sheets of moving ice played a large part in the formation of the area. Watch the video at the Indiana Dunes National Park Visitor Center. Fill in the missing words to tell how these lakes were made, using each word only once. Ask a ranger for help if you get stumped.









Great Lakes

Imagine that you are standing on the _______________ Glacier nearly __________ years ago as it moved across northern Indiana. You walk to the edge of the glacier and notice that you are more than one _________ above the ground. As the giant sheet of _________ moves across the land, you see that it is picking up large __________ and other debris. Suddenly, the ___________ starts to melt! Large chunks of ice and rocks that were caught in the glacier fall off and form huge piles around the edges of the glacier. The rocks and soil pile higher and higher as the glacier melts, and soon form a large __________. The water begins to fill the large __________ that was carved out by the moving sheet of ice. You take a moment to look at this amazing sight before you, and then realize that you are standing on the glacier that helped to carve out the ____________________.

I watched the video at the visitor center on:

Ranger signature:

Illustration of Turtle

Footprints in the Sand

Where to visit: Bailly Homestead

The first people to live in and around the Indiana dunes were American Indians. Potawatomi and Miami Indians relied on the land for food, water, and shelter. Part of the Little Calumet River Trail in the Bailly/Chellberg area was once used as a trade route by American Indians and early traders.

Take a walk along the trail, and follow in their footsteps by using a special method of hunting called stalking. When an Indian hunting party walked through the woods, they would make a straight line and walk in the footsteps of the person in front. Follow these instructions, and then see if you can sneak up on one of your friends!

First, place the back of your heel on the ground.
Next, roll the side of your foot down from your heel to your pinky toe.
Lastly, slowly place the rest of your foot firmly on the ground.

Do you think you could get food by hunting and stalking? List five animals that you would look for in the dunes if you were out on the hunt with the Potawatomi.






I visited the Bailly Homestead on:

Parent’s initials:

Illustration of Fox

Meet me at the Bailly’s

Where to visit: Bailly Homestead
When Europeans came into the Great Lakes region, they set up trading posts along rivers and trails. These trading posts were areas for people of all backgrounds to come together and exchange goods.

Visit the Bailly Homestead. Use the self-guided trail brochure found at the Indiana Dunes National Park Visitor Center and the signs of the homestead to help the Potawatomi exchange their traditional tools for modern European tools. Draw connecting lines.



Bow and Drill (Fire) Metal Pin
Antler (Making Holes) Glass Jar
Stone Axe (Chopping Wood) Flint and Steel
Clay Pots (Cooking) Hatchet
Gourd Containers (Storage) Iron Kettles

I visited the Bailly Homestead on:

I saw this many buildings:

Illustration of Turtle

Stroll in the Sand

Where to visit: The Beach
As you stroll along the beach, observe the animals and plants that make their home on the sand.
Check off each living thing you see, and answer the questions.


Dragonfly ____
How many legs?____

Six-lined Racerunner

Six-lined Racerunner ___
What color stripes?_________

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper ___
What does it eat?___________

Cottonwood Leaf

Cottonwood ___
How wide is the leaf?___


Antlion ___
Find its funnel-shaped trap in the sand.

Fowler’s Toad

Fowler’s Toad ___
Where does it live? ____________


Ladybug ___
How many spots? ____

Marram Grass

Marram Grass ___
Where does this grow? ___________

Wild Grape

Wild Grape ___
How long is the leaf? _____

Herring Gull

Herring Gull ___
Look for tracks on the beach.

Name of the beach I visited:


Illustration of Fox

Water Safety

Where to visit: The Beach
Lake Michigan is a very large and powerful body of water. Conditions change often and can sometimes be very dangerous. Before going swimming at any of the park’s beaches, you should consider these facts and check conditions for safety.

1. Look at the waves. How high are they?
Rate them from 1-5 with 1 being no waves and 5 being very tall with whitecaps. _______

2. How hard is the wind blowing today? Rate it from 1-5 with 1 being no breeze and 5 being a strong wind. ________

3. Which direction is the wind blowing from?_________
Hint: if you are looking at the lake and the wind is blowing in your face, it is a north wind.

4. Do you see any change of color in the water? If you do, what color is it and where do you see it?___________

5. Do not swim without an adult who is comfortable swimming in the lake.
Circle your swimming partner.

6. Did you bring a lifejacket? YES — NO

Cartoon Ranger Waving

Since Lake Michigan is not a pool and does not have a flat botto m, it is safest to swim with a lifejacket. There are high and low spots throughout the shallow areas, and a lifejacket will help keep you floating if you step off the edge of a drop-off.

Should You Go Swimming Today?
If you gave the waves a rating of three or higher, if the wind is blowing from the north, if white caps are present, and if you see a change of color in the water, there might be rip currents. DO NOT GO SWIMMING.

Parent’s initials: _______

Illustration of Turtle

Pond Patrol

Where to visit: Miller Woods or West Beach Wetlands
The animals that live in the Indiana dunes are very good at hiding. Even though they can be difficult to find, they leave clues about where they eat, live, and sleep. Look at the footprints, and do a three-way match, connecting the name of each animal with its picture and tracks. When you are finished, visit the wetlands and look for tracks.

Canada Goose

Animal Footprints



Animal Footprints


Great Blue Heron

Animal Footprints


White-tailed Deer

Animal Footprints



Animal Footprints


Bull Frog

Animal Footprints

Name of the place I visited:


Illustration of Fox

Secrets of Succession

Where to visit: West Beach Succession Trail
Indiana Dunes National Park is part of one of the largest expanses of freshwater dunes in the world. How were they made?
Walk along the West Beach Succession Trail using the self-guided trail brochure. Watch the transformation from the lake to the forest. As you explore, order each stage of the dunes by putting the numbers 1-4 on the line next to each description.

Jack Pines and Junipers

Stage #______

Jack pines and junipers take root in the sand behind the foredunes and help to create a more stable dune.
Cottonwood Trees

Stage #______

Cottonwood trees and more diverse plants begin to grow on the back, or lee side of the dune. When their leaves fall off, they decay and make soil that is better for trees and shrubs to grow in.

Hickory Trees

Stage #______

Black oak and hickory trees begin to grow in the richer soil and create a wooded dune.
Pioneer Plants

Stage #______

Pioneer plants, such as marram grass, spread their roots out under the sand and catch the sand blowing off the beach.

If you have a thermometer, record the following information:
Air temperature ____ Water temperature ____ Soil Temperature ____
I walked the West Beach Succession Trail on _____________.

Parent’s Initials_______

Illustration of Turtle

Discover With Your Senses

Where to visit: One of the park’s hiking trails
Indiana Dunes National Park is full of sights, sounds, and smells. Find a trail that you would like to hike. While you are walking, tune into your senses and answer the questions. And remember to always hike with a friend or parent.
(Park and trail maps are available at the visitor center.)

1. Describe the weather to your friend or parent. Is it cloudy or sunny?
Do you feel warm or cold?

2. Find three different trees on the trail. Compare the leaves and then draw a picture of each of them in the boxes.

First Leaf

Second Leaf

Third Leaf

3. Look for evidence of animal activity. How many tracks do you see on the ground? ______ Do you see any movement in the trees or in the sky?

4. Stop for a moment and listen carefully for sounds. Do you hear the rustling of leaves? What about birds chirping? Talk with your hiking partner about the sounds you hear and what might be making them.

5. Take a deep breath through your nose. Do you smell anything special? Tell someone how the smells along the trails are different from the smells at home.

Name if trail hiked:


Illustration of Fox

Barnyard Bingo

Where to visit: Chellberg Farm
Welcome to the farm! More than 100 years ago, the Chellberg Farm was owned by Swedish immigrants named Anders and Johanna Chellberg.

Take a tour of the farm with a ranger, or use the self-guided brochure to tour the area with your family or friends. Look for the different tools people used to work the land.

While you are discovering the farm, check off the things you see.
(Brochures are available at the visitor center.)

Field Plow




Clothes Line


Wood Stove


Water Trough

Sorghum Press

Fire Wood


Sugar Shack

Chicken Coop


Corn Crib

RoosterHelp out on the farm!

Check with a ranger at the farm or at the Indiana Dunes National Park Visitor Center to see when there will be a program at the farm. If time permits, go to the Chellberg Farm, and participate in the program.

Date visited the farm:

Illustration of Junior Ranger Hat

Walk with a Ranger

One of the best ways to have fun and learn about Indiana Dunes National Park is to go on a ranger-led program. Go to the Indiana Dunes National Park Visitor Center or check out the calender page to find out what activities are taking place during your visit. Attend one or more with your family. Listen to the ranger; fill in the blanks.

Name of program:

Date and time of program:

One thing you learned:

Ranger Signature:


Talk with a Ranger

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a ranger? Now is your chance to find out! Look for a person wearing a grey and green uniform with a badge and an arrowhead logo on their arm. Introduce yourself, and let her or him know you are becoming a Junior Ranger. Ask these questions and record their response:

What is your name?

How long have you worked here?

What is your favorite part of the park?

What do you like best about your job?

Ranger Signature:

Illustration of Junior Ranger Hat

Junior Ranger Training Camp

Now that you have been all around the park and have completed the activities, think about some of your duties as a Junior Ranger.
Read these scenarios, and select the best answer.

While you are on the beach, you see a small group of seagulls walking in the sand.
What should you do?

A. Feed them some of the leftovers from your lunch.
B. Leave them alone.
C. Throw rocks at them and chase them away.

Your family is on a camping trip at Indiana Dunes National Park.
While you are setting up your tent, you find a set of matches.
What should you do?

A. See if they work and try to light a fire.
B. Leave them on the ground.
C. Pick them up and give them to an adult.

You are walking in the woods and see a beautiful wildflower.
What should you do?

A. Pick it and bring it back to show your friends.
B. Look at it from a distance and take a photograph.
C. Walk off the trail so that you can get a better look.

There are strong winds and a warning for rough water at West Beach.
What should you do?

A. Stay out of the water to avoid dangerous conditions.
B. Go in the water, but take a flotation device with you.
C. Pack up and go to a different beach to swim.

Beach Kids

Answer Key: B, C, B, A

Junior Ranger Oath

As a Junior Ranger, I promise to learn about and protect the plants, animals, and history of Indiana Dunes National Park. I will share what I have learned about national parks and will continue to explore our national treasures.

Your Name and Signature:


Ranger Signature:


Last updated: February 28, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1100 North Mineral Springs Road
Porter, IN 46304


(219) 395-1882
Indiana Dunes Visitor Center phone number.

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