Junior Wildlife Ranger, an environmental education nonprofit working to get kids ages 7 and up outside and learning about their local ecosystems and public lands, is offering a free Neighborhood Badge Program designed to give children safe, engaging outdoor experiences this summer.
Kids first need to sign up to become a Junior Wildlife Ranger and start their digital passports. Next, kids can visit the neighborhood badge page to download and print a neighborhood badge worksheet. The first badge activity is about identifying native plants and includes a downloadable native plants guide. Families can head out into their yard, neighborhood or a local natural area and check out and identify the plants around them, using another resource guide if a particular plant isn’t on their worksheet. Kids then draw and label the plant they’ve chosen on their worksheet and scan the QR code to collect their digital badge.
The Junior Wildlife Ranger program is dedicated to rectifying the inequality in environmental science education in communities around the U.S. According to the organization, 96% of visitors to National Wildlife Refuges are white, and their average age is 56. Through free hands-on science activities, hiking and bird-watching at local parks and National Wildlife Refuges, its programs teach youth the significance of public lands and wildlife protection. The goal is to instill in children a lifelong sense of environmental stewardship and love for the natural world.
National Wildlife Refuges are less well-known than National Parks, but charge no admission fees and are located within an hour of major cities. L.A.’s nearest National Wildlife Refuges are Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Ventura County and Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge in Orange County. Both are open to visitors with social distancing requirements in place.
It’s a fun way for kids to get outside and learn about the environment while still staying safe during COVID-19.