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American Road Trip Adventure: Day 5 (Part Two)

I've just returned from a long road trip. I was traveling to a conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, and we made it a family vacation, to show our son more of this big, amazing country. I blogged from the road, but I didn't want to advertise to every burglar on the internet that our house was empty, so I've waited until now to start posting the entries.

Sunday, August 18
Rapid City, Keystone, Mount Rushmore,
and Crazy Horse, South Dakota

Part Two: Four Heads Are Better Than One
I had been to Mount Rushmore as an infant, but of course I had no memory of it. I was more impressive than I expected to be. Yes, it inspires warm, fuzzy thoughts about American history. But it's also a remarkable artistic feat. I used my zoom lens to take some closeup photos of the presidents' facial features. Looking at my photographs now, I am amazed at the realism and the expressiveness of the carvings. Even carved in stone, Lincoln's eye actually has a glint in it.

At Mount Rushmore, Jon Morgan received his first Junior Ranger booklet. This is a great program that's available at many U.S. National Parks. While touring the park, the child answers questions and completes simple activities described in the booklet. Afterward, a park ranger reads over the child's booklet, asks some questions to verify that the child actually learned something, and then administers the Junior Park Ranger oath and presents the new ranger with a plastic badge and a solemn recitation of the duties of a Junior Ranger.

What an effective way of encouraging children to observe and learn! I was especially impressed that the rangers didn't just hand over a badge to anyone who turned in a booklet but took the time to go through the activities and quiz the child. By the end of our trip, Jon Morgan had earned four Junior Park Ranger badges:

  • Mount Rushmore (South Dakota)

  • Devils Tower (Wyoming)

  • Arches (Utah)

  • Mesa Verde (Colorado).

But those other National Parks came later. On this very full fifth day on the road, we had one more sight to see. It was not another National Park. But it was another giant head.

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Posted by: ResQgeek (resqgeek)
Posted at: September 9th, 2013 10:51 am (UTC)
Jr. Ranger badges!

My daughters earned all four of those badges (along with almost a dozen and a half more) during our long road trip back in 2009. We absolutely love the Jr. Ranger programs, for many of the reasons you list. It is a great way to get the kids to connect and interact with the park. My daughter may be in high school, but she still loves to complete the books and collect the badges...she got five new ones on our trip to California this summer. At least some states also have similar programs at their state parks (I know Utah and California do, since we've done programs at both of those).

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