The National Park Service’s Junior Ranger programs offers kids a hands-on nature experience

Five parks in NoVA offer the NPS Junior Ranger program for children ages 5-13.

Photo by blueringmedia

“Explore, learn and protect,” is the Junior Ranger motto, and is the oath each child takes across the country before officially becoming a ranger, promising to protect parks and to continuously learn about the parks’ importance.

The program, offered by the National Parks Service (NPS), is an activity-based program in which participants complete a series of activities during a park visit, answer questions with an official park ranger and receive an official Junior Ranger patch and certificate.

Think your kid would love to be a Junior Ranger? Below, we’ve listed out the NoVA parks offering this program for children 5-13 years old.

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Kids who would like to earn their official Wolf Trap Junior Ranger patches or badges can pick up an age-appropriate booklet at the ranger station year-round, or at the kiosk in the meadow on days when shows are presented at the Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods. Each booklet contains fun activities and helps kids learn about Wolf Trap and the NPS. // Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts: 1551 Trap Road, Vienna

Prince William Forest Park

Head to the Prince William Forest Park visitor center to get a free copy of the park’s Junior Ranger booklet. After kids complete the booklet they can bring it back to the visitor center, or mail it in, to receive their Junior Ranger badges. The booklet’s activities include hikes around the park, a scavenger hunt, identifying animal tracks and more. // Prince William Forest Park: 18100 Park Headquarters Road, Triangle

Great Falls Park

Great Falls Park has two booklets for Junior Rangers: one for 5-7 year-olds, and the second for kids aged 8-12. Families can pick up booklets at the park’s visitor center. The younger rangers will use their senses and write down things they hear, see and smell, identify the park’s regulation signs and learn more about the remains of Matildaville. Children in the older age group use a booklet that features a scavenger hunt, the Potomac River, journaling about what they learned and more. // Great Falls Park: George Washington Memorial Parkway, McLean

George Washington Memorial Parkway

Children can complete one of two Junior Ranger books at George Washington Memorial Parkway: Fort Hunt Park Junior Ranger Book and Let’s Move Outside Junior Ranger Book. The first explores the history of Fort Hunt, including when it was used by Native Americans, by George Washington as part of his River Farm and its role in the Spanish-American War and more. The second booklet encourages fitness in the park through walking and running, yoga, baseball and more, while children also learn about nature. // George Washington Memorial Parkway: 700 George Washington Memorial Parkway, McLean

Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park

This park has four booklets available for kids. After completing each booklet, Junior Rangers receive a patch to mark the accomplishment. Kids are encouraged to earn all four patches to complete their sets. The booklets lead Junior Rangers through the battlefields. Each booklet can be picked up at the battlefield’s coordinating visitor center. // Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park: 120 Chatham Lane, Fredericksburg

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