Smokies announces National Junior Ranger Day programs

Junior Rangers proudly wear their badges after finishing several fun projects in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Junior Rangers proudly wear their badges after finishing several fun projects in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will celebrate the fourth annual National Junior Ranger Day on Saturday, April 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with special activities in two of the Park’s visitor centers, and in the town of Gatlinburg, Tenn., in conjunction with the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage’s Greener Living Expo. Children and their families can join in a variety of free, hands-on activities at Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg; W. L. Mills Conference Center in Gatlinburg; and Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, N.C.

Activities planned at the visitor centers will range from a Junior Naturalist Walk to making dinner bells at a blacksmith shop. Making historic toys, beeswax candles, cornhusk dolls, and visiting touch tables with animal skins, skulls, and scat are a few of the other natural and cultural opportunities that will be available. Children can earn their Junior Ranger badge by completing three of the specially planned activities. A Junior Ranger booklet is also available, for those who would like to explore the Park in more depth. The Junior Ranger booklets, produced in cooperation with Great Smoky Mountains Association, can be purchased for $2.50 each at Park visitor centers. The booklets are designed to serve four different age groups 5 to 6, 7 to 8, 9 to 10 and 11 to12. Information on the specific programs is available at the visitor centers.

As part of the Greener Living Expo at the Mills Conference Center, Park Rangers will be on hand from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. to help children learn about how early settlers lived a greener life through activities such as forest pharmacy and rural recycling along with teaching modern “green tips.” Children participating in this program can earn Junior Ranger day awards.

National Junior Ranger Day is a special event for National Park Week, celebrated this year between April 17 and 25. Most parks throughout the country will host ceremonies, interactive games, and special events designed to connect children with the resources found in national parks. National Park Week is an annual Presidentially proclaimed week for celebration and recognition of National Parks. National Parks are living examples of the best the Nation has to offer. This year’s theme is “Share a park, shape a life.”

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