Junior Cave Scientist – multiple sites

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Dixon Cave at Mammoth Cave National Park

Junior Cave Scientist
Geologic Resources Division – multiple sites

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/caves/junior-cave-scientist-program.htm

Completed: August 13, 2016 @ Cumberland Gap NHP – Kentucky

While traveling in northern California during June 2016 I visited Lava Beds National Monument and was offered this booklet. It is produced by the Geologic Resources Division, Cave and Karst Program (www.nature.nps.gov/geology/caves/index.cfm). This is a program which can be completed over a period of time and at multiple park sites. I ended up turning in the boomlet at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park in Kentucky.

This program is considered Senior Friendly as there is no upper age given. The three age groups are: Flashlight, ages 5-7, Lantern, ages 8-11, and Helmet and Headlamp, ages 12 and up.

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To earn this badge you are to complete the number activities equal to your age and in your age category. In total there are nineteen different activities, they are; What ate Caves and Karst?, Be Cave Safe!, How to be a Careful Caver, Name that Cave, Icing on the Cave, Troglofauna Trio, Reveal the Mysteries of The Cave Dwellers, Cave Microbiology, Flying Mammals, Zones of a Cave, Dispelling Batty Myths, Uncover the Mystery of the Bat Killer, Finding Fossils in Caves, Evidence of Ancient Animals, Travel Back in Time with Cave Archeology, Karst is All Around You, Living with Karst, Find a Solution to the Pollution and Caves Need Care.

Some of my favorite activities were learning about Troglofauna Trio, the different animals which live in caves, Bat Anatomy on the Flying Mammals page and labeling fossils found in caves as body or trace. There is a lot of information within the pages of this booklet, most pages include some background information which helps you to complete the activity. You do not need to visit any one park site to earn this badge.

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A Collapsed Cave at Lava Beds National Monument

The ranger at Cumberland Gap NHP was very enthusiastic to review my booklet and award me the unique wooden badge and certificate. I had stamped the booklet with the NPS passport stamps at Lava Beds NM, Mammoth Cave NP and at Cumberland Gap NHP. This was a very educational program which provided me with lots of valuable information about caves; their ecology and geology.

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2 thoughts on “Junior Cave Scientist – multiple sites

  1. I am the mother of 3 Junior Rangers. We have been traveling across the US visiting National Parks and participating in the Junior Ranger program for the past 11 years. My oldest is 19 but probably looks younger than that. My other two are 17 and 15. They all still enjoy participating in the Junior Ranger Program and this last summer they each completed about 30 Junior Ranger Programs. In all that time there were only 2 instances where a ranger resisted giving my children a Junior Ranger booklet and badge based on their age. Those two parks were the Old Courthouse at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, MO and Fire Island National Seashore in Long Island, NY. In both cases I was able to convince the ranger to allow my kids to participate. Honestly I can’t understand why a park wouldn’t want to allow someone who actually wanted to learn about their park to participate in the Junior Ranger program. I got the impression in both instances that it wasn’t necessarily the policy of the park to restrict the participation in the Junior Ranger program based on age but rather it seemed more the opinion of those two particular park rangers. When I spoke further with the ranger at Fire Island she explained that they used to hand out the Junior Ranger booklets to every child that came into the visitor center whether they child had asked for it or not. Then later the rangers would find unused Junior Ranger booklets lying around the park. After that they started only giving out the booklets to children who asked for them because of the waste that had been occurring. I understand that for most parks the Junior Ranger programs are fee free and therefore represent a cost to the park. But on the other hand the Junior Ranger program creates more visitors. Even though we have had this experience twice now these experiences are far outweighed by all the times we’ve gone to parks and the rangers were excited to have my teenage kids participate in their Junior Ranger programs. In fact, rangers at most parks tell us that they frequently have visitors much older than my teens participating in their Junior Ranger programs and they welcome it. When I was having a conversation about this with a ranger at General Grants National Memorial he told me that if it ever happens again, that a ranger says my kids are too old for the Junior Ranger program, to tell them that the National Parks can’t discriminate based on age. I’m going to remember that for the future but hopefully it won’t be necessary.

  2. Thanks for sharing and pointing out that Junior Rangers are for ALL ages. When I’ve asked for the booklet some rangers and volunteers have stated that the program is for ‘the young at heart’.

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