Effigy Mounds enlightens with Junior Ranger Program

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Children enjoyed the beautiful landscape as they participated in the Junior Ranger Program at Effigy Mounds, June 17. (Photos by Rachel Mergen)

Michael Douglass spoke with the children about the unique details of the land, including the different types of effigy mounds present at the park.

By Rachel Mergen


Effigy Mounds held the Junior Ranger Day Program on June 17. The program’s motto, “Explore, Learn and Protect,” was held in the young junior rangers’ hearts as they enjoyed and learned from the multitude of activities available, including a hike to view the landscape and mounds. 

Available in over 200 national parks, the Junior Ranger Program is a way for children to connect to and be educated about the country’s national parks. Each year, over 2,000 kids participate at Effigy Mounds alone, said Michael Douglass, park ranger. 

The program is designed for children ages 5 to 8, but all ages are welcome to participate.

The program’s booklet is available every day of the year, with badges rewarded when activities are completed. Special Junior Ranger Day Programs occur four times throughout the summer. The other three will take place on Saturdays July 15, Aug. 5 and Aug. 19. 

What made this program special, compared to others, was that Rendezvous in Prairie du Chien took place during the same weekend, along with the anniversary of Marquette and Joliet’s expedition. 

On June 17, 1673—344 year ago—Marquette and Joliet reached the Mississippi River. According to Douglass, “This event changed the world permanently and supported the progress of the area.” 

With the anniversary and Rendezvous on the same day as the program, the park rangers hoped to educate the children more about fur trading and the expedition. Two hikes, set up for younger and older children, took place to help teach the information, and so the children could explore the park more.

Within the booklet used during the program, three age groups have been designed, designating how many activities should be completed before receiving the Junior Ranger badge. Little Bear, ages 6 to 7, have five activities that must be completed. Ages 8 to 10 are the Bird of Prey group, and they must complete seven activities. Ages 11 to 12, in the Great Bear category, are expected to complete eight.

The activities that must be completed will certainly bring joy to the participants, though. A variety of opportunities and games are included in the booklet. A few of these options are scavenger hunt bingo, which includes walking through the museum and monument as the children attempt to spot items listed, cultural currents in a river of time, crosswords, a comparison of the child’s life to a Woodland Indian’s and the National Park Service mission. Along with these great activities, there is also an Adopt-A-Tree document, which a park ranger will make official. 

In addition, a certificate of completion is included at the end of the booklet. 

Since Effigy Mound’s establishment in October 1949, multiple events have taken place in which the community can take great pride. One of these memories includes being the first park that Aida Frey, the most decorated Junior Ranger and the “Sweetheart of the National Parks,” ever visited. 

In the past six years, 15-year-old Frey, originally from Chicago, has traveled to over 275 parks. She has become a spokesperson for the Junior Ranger Program. Along with being an inspiration to children across the country, she also wrote and published one book about her unique experience, titled America, Can I Have Your Autograph? The Story of Junior Ranger Aida Frey.

Douglass stated, “I hope kids will be inspired by Aida, but they don’t need to follow in her exact footsteps to also be a great part of the park system.” He wants children to know, “No matter what they are interested in, there are opportunities for everyone in the national parks.” 

Effigy Mounds takes great pride in holding the Junior Ranger Program each year. They are happy to welcome the children and their families each day and hope that families will leave with great memories.

For more information about the Junior Ranger Program, visit www.nps.gov/Kids/jrRangers.cfm. Effigy Mounds is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. three miles north of Marquette.

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