Great Smoky Mountains Association is pleased to announce the publication of its Junior Ranger Activity Guide, an interactive workbook packed full of fun activities designed to introduce kids of all ages to the Smokies.
The 38-page booklet encourages kids to look, listen, map, seek, observe, dance, play and share during their visit and serves as the official guide to the Junior Ranger program at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After completing at least five activities and five experiences outlined in the guide (with help from a parent or guardian), kids can be officially sworn in as Junior Rangers at any park visitor center.
Featuring colorful illustrations by Jesse White and a tear-out postcard to send to friends back home, the workbook was developed by National Park Service staff at Great Smoky Mountains National Park with support from Great Smoky Mountains Association and assistance from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Cherokee Speakers Council.
“Junior Ranger books are a great way for visitors of all ages to learn about a park,” said Jeanine Ferrence, Great Smoky Mountains National Park Cades Cove Resource Education Ranger. “We wanted this book to be a little different and tried to develop it to encourage visitors to not only explore the park but have fun learning with and from each other at the same time. We hope it not only helps them discover something new about the Smokies, but also helps them create wonderful memories during their trip.”
Activities and experiences outlined in the book include stargazing, making s’mores, taking a closer look at insects along the trail and finding a checklist of patterns in nature — from tree rings to moss-covered rocks. One page prompts children to listen to their surroundings and map out the forest’s soundscape, and another offers a scavenger hunt-style list of items to find while visiting the park’s historic structures. Each activity offers a different educational, hands-on opportunity to engage with the many scientific, historical or cultural lessons to be learned in the park.
“We decided early on that we wanted our book to immerse visitors in exploring the park,” Ferrence said. “We didn’t want them to read about the Smokies; we wanted them to get busy looking and thinking and playing in the Smokies — and we wanted them to enjoy doing that with their family and friends. We were imagining intergenerational groups working on the book together and learning as much from each other as they did from the book. We don’t want this book to be just for kids. If a visitor wants to learn about the park, we want them to have fun participating in the program. We want to swear them in as Junior Rangers when they’re done. There’s no age limit on learning.”
The 9-by-12-inch Junior Ranger Activity Guide, which includes 38 illustrated pages of activities and a tear-out postcard, is available for $4.50 in the park’s visitor center bookstores and online.