2016 Junior Ranger Day

A man in ranger uniform with pen and maps, surrounded by students.
Caleb Kesler, chief ranger for Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments, autographs Arizona National Park brochures for second graders.

NPS Photo

Celebrate Junior Ranger Day in the Classroom

April 15, 2016

National Park Service representatives from the Southern Arizona Office and Montezuma Castle National Monument joined forces, April 15, at Meridian Elementary School, in Mesa, Arizona, to educate the more than 250 students from first to sixth grade about the diverse occupations within the National Park system.

The representatives began the school’s annual career day by discussing the Every Kid in a Park initiative with the school’s fourth grade classrooms. The NPS speakers also stressed the opportunity the students have to use their 4th grade passes to find their park and explore the country’s treasures during their long-summer break.

“Each age group challenged me in a different way to meet our expectation of being there for their career day,” said Sherry Plowman, the SOAR superintendent. “[I’m] glad we did it as a group and showed a scale of careers and expanded the awareness of the National Park Service, our Arizona Parks and Every Kid in a Park.”

Students of all ages and teachers learned about the more than 400 National Park units throughout the United States, the 4th grade passes and other NPS programs and initiatives while also seeing the different career opportunities that the National Park system offered as represented by the five NPS personnel.

“It was the perfect opportunity to highlight many of the park’s initiatives and programs,” said Stephanie MacDonald, an environmental protection specialist at SOAR who coordinated the event. “Especially the youth initiative to engage the next generation of NPS stewards.”

From scientist to law enforcement officer, students and adults asked questions throughout the afternoon about the different skill sets and qualifications needed to work for the park system. Though every career requires different skills, the speakers stressed that despite the job all NPS employees had one common denominator – an education.

“I think it went great,” MacDonald said. “The kids and teachers were very engaged and interested. We received some great questions, and even though the segments were short, we reached a lot of kids. I loved the jaw-drop moment when we told the 4th graders they could get in free to all the National Parks with a 4th grade pass.”

The career day couldn’t come at a more opportune time as the NPS representatives also had the opportunity to discuss Junior Ranger Day, which started April 16, the National Park Week and the NPS Centennial. Arizona park units proved once again that pooling their resources could result in educating a wide audience.

Meridian Elementary school had representatives from a host of occupations; however, notwithstanding the Arizona Department of Public Safety flying in on a helicopter, the NPS was without a doubt a huge hit among the students. As the bell rang and school let out, a line of second graders refused to leave until they had their NPS brochures autographed by the speakers.

Last updated: May 4, 2017