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Vacation Education: Junior Ranger Program

March 13, 2012

While on our vacation in Hawaii, the kids participated in the Junior Ranger program at two of the National Parks on the big island. We visited Pu’uhonua o Honaunau and Kaloko-Honokohau . At both parks, we asked the rangers at the visitor’s center about the junior ranger program. In both cases, they gave us workbooks and pencils. We then explored the park and what we learned during our visit and used that information to answer the questions in the workbooks. They expect more work from the older kids and less work from the younger kids to complete the project.

Now, I know you all just cringed when you read “workbook.” Who wants to do a workbook while on vacation? But the thing is, the workbooks were pretty cool. They pointed out a lot of information that I wouldn’t have gathered from a casual visit to the park. They were as much guidebook as workbook. Working on the books really enhanced our understanding of the places we were visiting.

At the beginning of the day on the way to Pu’uhonua, loosely translated to mean “the place of refuge”, my kids were grumpy and reluctant to leave the pools at the resort. I said something obnoxious like, “Listen, this is your homeschooling experience today. You can go to a cool place in Hawaii or be home sitting at a desk. What’s your preference?”

With the grumbling over, at least I could enjoy the ranger talk. At the end of the day, the kids were delighted that we visited this special place and they have repeated the story from the ranger’s talk multiple times to different friends since we returned.

I will also admit that I get a little sentimental when I see them holding up their hands and getting “sworn in” as junior rangers. It’s so solemn and they take it so seriously. Likewise, the rangers really are kind and serious about it, too. “It’s the most important part of our job,” one ranger told us.

So, check out the list of possible places for junior ranger opportunities! I note that it’s not complete because neither of the parks we visited were on the list. If you live near or will be traveling near a US National Park, head to the visitor’s center first and ask!


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