Last updated: 10:30 AM ET, Wed August 03 2016

The National Park Service's Junior Ranger Program: Not Just for Kids

Features & Advice | Jennifer and Mark Campbell | August 03, 2016

The National Park Service's Junior Ranger Program: Not Just for Kids

Though the Junior Ranger Program was originally put in place by the National Park Service as a way to get kids involved with learning about and caring for America's National Parks, adults can participate as well and learn so much about our park system.

Collecting badges is a lot of fun, too!

I believe this is especially fun for the big kids, like me, that never got a chance to join Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, etc.

A few years ago, we were overjoyed to find that we, as adults, could participate in the Wilderness Explorers program at Disney World's Animal Kingdom and earn the distinction of Senior Wilderness Explorers (which we did. At both Disney World and later at Disneyland!).

You can imagine our excitement when we found that we can participate in a similar program on a much larger scale — across the entire United States!

PHOTO: Being awarded our very first Junior Ranger badges for Klondike Gold Rush, Alaska.

The U.S. National Parks Service allows us to learn and collect badges as we travel around the USA and visit our amazing National Parks.

READ MORE: 5 Reasons to Take an Alaska Cruise

We began our journey as Junior Rangers on our trip to Alaska. The three badges we earned are Klondike Gold Rush, Glacier Bay and Tongass National Forest.

To earn our badges, we completed activity guides and learned about the early settlers of the Pacific Northwest, railroads, glaciers, animals in the area including black bears, brown bears, wolves, otters, and eagles, and also about the rainforest climate of the area.

Did you know that the natives in the Pacific Northwest would eat the bright green tips of the spruce trees to obtain their vitamin C? Or that there are over 9,000 otters in Glacier Bay?

PHOTO: Mark's first Junior Ranger badge. How pretty is this wooden badge?

The Alaskan rangers seemed very excited to see adults wanting to participate in the program. We even attended a talk by one of the rangers in the kids club area of our cruise ship. Yep, we were the only adults there and still had a ball!

We are proud to be Junior Rangers! We will definitely continue to add to our badge collections.

I want to extend a special thank you to the most decorated Junior Ranger, Aida Frey, for sharing her travel and badge-collecting stories with me. She definitely gets people excited about visiting our country's national parks!

How many National Parks have you visited? Do you or your children collect the Junior Ranger badges? What has been your favorite National Park? Let us know in the comments below!

This story originally appeared on the Just Chasing Rabbits blog.

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