Junior Ranger Program popular with youth

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Were you worried that your little one might not enjoy his or her visit to Biscayne National Park as much as you will?

What if you said he or she could become a Junior Ranger? Wouldn’t that change his or her mind?

One of the most popular programs at Biscayne National Park is the Junior Ranger Program. The Junior Ranger program is offered at most national parks across the country. It is available for children 8 to 12 years old.

Click on the video at the right to view a short video about Abraham Mendez’s visit to the Junior Ranger Program at Biscayne National Park prepared by writer Pablo Chacon-Alvarez.

“I thought coming here would be boring,” said Abraham Mendez, 10. “I told my parents I didn’t want to come, but I’m glad I came because I got to become a Junior Ranger!”

Abraham and his family were visiting Miami from North Carolina. While Abraham had a great time going to the beaches in Miami, he was a bit more skeptical about his visit to Biscayne National Park.

“He begged and pleaded for me to let him stay at the hotel,” said Carolina Mendez, Abraham’s mother. “He really didn’t want to come, but he disappeared as soon as we got to Visitor Center, and when we found him again he was going on and on about how he was now a certified Junior Ranger.”

When Abraham Mendez stepped into the Visitor Center of Biscayne National Park he stumbled upon a booklet. A free booklet, offered at national parks across the country, with the secret to becoming a Junior Ranger. Upon opening the booklet Abraham found a series of questions and activities he’d have to answer and complete if he truly wanted to become a Junior Ranger.

Abraham flipped through the pages of his booklet and found out that his guide for the day would be Diego the Dolphin, the mascot of Biscayne National Park. The instructions told him that he’d have to complete the National Park Service activity and three activities specific to Biscayne National Park.

He decided to leave the National Park Service activity for last and set out on his first Biscayne National Park activity. While completing the Coral Reef Search, Abraham learned that Biscayne National Park protects the third largest coral reef in the world. He learned that coral reefs were made out of the skeletons of millions of animals called polyps, and that these polyps extend tiny tentacles to gather food.

Next, Abraham completed the Mangrove Feeding Frenzy activity. It taught him all about mangroves and how they grow in a mixture of freshwater and saltwater, or brackish water. It also taught him about the food chain and how everything plays a role in it, even the leaves that fall off the mangrove and decompose in the water.

For his last activity, Abraham chose to complete the Hammock Hideaway. He learned that a hardwood hammock is a habitat that stays dry most of the year because it has a higher ground. It also taught him the difference between an endangered and a threatened species.

After completing the three activities, Abraham went back to the Visitor Center and completed the National Park Service activity. It consisted of a series of questions about the various national parks across the United States, including which parks had Abraham already visited, and which would he like to visit next.

Just as Abraham finished the last question of the National Service Park activity his mother and father stepped into the Visitor Center. He was already excitedly talking about how he was now a Junior Ranger when he remembered that he still had to complete at least one activity from Sammy the Manatee’s activity page.

Once Abraham had learned all about manatees, he asked his parents to accompany him on a walk in one of Biscayne National Park’s many trails. This was his final activity, walk, bike, or canoe a trail with your family.

Abraham took his completed booklet into the Visitor Center and proudly showed a ranger his work. The ranger reviewed his activities and officially declared Abraham Mendez a Junior Ranger.

“Now that I’ve got my badge the next step is to get a Junior Ranger patch,” said Abraham. “I want to be the best Junior Ranger there is!”

One great thing for kids about visiting national parks in South Florida is that the booklet for becoming a Junior Ranger can be used in the Big Cypress National Preserve, Biscayne National Park, and Everglades National Park. There are different questions and activities designated by the parks mascot for each specific national park.

If Abraham visits Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park, he will be able to receive a Junior Ranger patch if he mails in his completed booklet and signed Junior Ranger pledge with stamps from all three parks.

“The Junior Ranger program is extremely popular,” said Gary Bremen, an interpretive park ranger at Biscayne National Park. “Kids come in all the time, sometimes with their families and sometimes on field trips from school. I love seeing the kids get excited about nature and I always try to do my part. The park is a great environment for children.”

For children who can’t make it to Biscayne National Park, or one of the nation’s countless other national parks, the Web Ranger program allows kids to virtually visit any park they want.

For More Information:

Biscayne National Park

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