Project goal: Inspire Yosemite’s future stewards through Junior Ranger activities that encourage kids and families to explore, learn about and protect the natural world.

Why this work matters: Spending time outside has well-documented benefits for kids, from improving physical health, to sparking creativity and reducing stress levels. For many children, though, growing up has become a largely indoor activity. Yosemite’s Junior Ranger programs create fun, educational outdoor experiences that inspire kids to feel comfortable in and connected to the natural world.

Each year, thousands of children earn their wooden Yosemite Junior Ranger badges through ranger-led walks and talks, educational worksheets, and stewardship activities. Participants might explore ecology during a forest walk, practice Leave No Trace skills while meeting a meadow, or learn about American Indian history while sitting in an umacha near the Valley Visitor Center.

Yosemite’s youngest visitors aren’t the only ones who benefit from Junior Ranger programs. Many activities lend themselves to intergenerational engagement, prompting older siblings, parents, grandparents and other family members to learn and explore, too.

Our donors first funded the park’s Junior Ranger activities in the early 2000s, and they have helped propel the program’s expansion over the past decade. Thanks to that support, nearly 230,000 children have earned their Yosemite Junior Ranger badges since 2008.

How your support helped: In 2020, Yosemite educators adjusted Junior Ranger programming to ensure the health and safety of park visitors and staff during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to offering activities in the park, they created virtual programs to help kids and families learn from home. Virtual programs included a virtual camp-out, featuring art projects, singalongs and other activities; a downloadable Junior Ranger worksheet that invited kids to connect with nature and Yosemite from home; and a “Kids Ask Rangers” series, through which two Yosemite rangers recording from their home answered questions from kids and encouraged people to “stay curious” ( Visit the Yosemite National Park site to learn more about the Virtual Junior Ranger program.)

Rangers also offered some in-person programming from January through March, before the park closed for several months. Once the park reopened in June, rangers continued offering swear-ins (from a safe distance); offered some short, single-family programs; and gave families the opportunity to participate in a self-guided “Junior Ranger Safari” in Yosemite Village. Overall, more than 2,400 people attended Junior Ranger programs in person in 2020, and more than 450,000 people participated in virtual activities.

Your gifts enabled thousands more kids and families to participate in enriching educational activities, connect with the park in a meaningful way, and develop a long-lasting appreciation for the outdoors.

Project partner: Yosemite National Park.

Bob Loudon

Branch Chief of Field Interpretation, Yosemite National Park

Project Notes

"The Yosemite Junior Ranger Program offers opportunities for youth and their families to get immersed in the 'real,' natural world in Yosemite National Park and become the next generation of national park stewards."