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Right now, all 4th-grade students (public, private, or homeschooled) are eligible to receive a free National Park Pass good for the time period of September 2015 through August 2016.  This is a special program to encourage kids and their families to explore the National Parks.  It is also a special way to start the 100th birthday celebration of the National Park System which is in 2016.  We downloaded our form and turned it in at the ranger station at the Mount Evans Recreation Area for our son’s free pass.  

To get your child’s pass, go to Every Kid in the Park. Teachers can also go to the same link to get passes for their students. Go here for the rules of the program.  Basically, the special 4th-grade pass will get their whole family into any National Park, National Monument, National Forest, National Recreational Area, and National Heritage Site.

Did you know that the NPS (National Park Service) also offers lots of educational programs and materials for parents, kids, and teachers? They do, and it is free.  Our son has loved earning his junior ranger badges and we all have enjoyed ranger-led programs.  But, they have even more.  The NPS has lesson plans for educators for free (all kinds of pdf’s).  If you live near Glacier National Park they have educator trunks that can be checked out locally.  For really young children, the NPS has Sesame Street Explores National Parks with videos and downloadable files.  There is a Junior Cave Specialist Program and a Junior Paleontologist Program.  And, if you can’t make it to a national park you can be an online webranger.

To learn more about Junior Ranger programs check here for a list of the sites that have official programs.  Some of the parks not listed may have the program or may be about to start the program.  We check every ranger station or visitor center of the parks we visit.  Your child can earn a badge or patch depending on what the particular park offers.  Our son has earned badges and patches from the following: Bandelier National Monument, Cape Cod National Seashore, Haleakala National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Craters of the Moon National Monument, and Sawtooth National Forest.  We have lots more parks to visit.  In addition, When we visit various state parks across the country we also look into their junior ranger programs too.

Find Your Park can help you find a national park in your state or in a state in which you will be visiting. Go here to find a National Wildlife Refuge near you.  The US Forest Service has a list of all national forests.  The BLM has a list of all National Monuments here.  The NPS has a list of all national historic landmarks here.  Empowering Parks has a list of all National Recreational Areas. The USGS has a comprehensive list of federal recreational areas listed here and whether they issue the interagency passes (4th grade, military, senior, or annual).

Now, go explore a park!  As you can see from this blog, there are lots of places for you and your family to visit.