Cover of Junior Ranger Handbook

Freeman Tilden said it best in his 1957 classic, Interpreting Our Heritage: "Interpretation addressed to children (say, up to the age of twelve) should not be a dilution of the presentation to adults, but should follow a fundamentally different approach. To be at its best it will require a separate program."

How can you plan interpretive programs for those young people who will someday inherit the state parks legacy? Experienced interpreters say the first step is to approach life as a child: allow yourself to crawl about the ground on your knees, roll in the cleanliness of tide-washed sand, or examine at length the busy activity of an ant colony as the little creatures scurry back and forth. If you can find joy in these things, you are ready to attempt the second part of the interpretive process: sitting down and designing a Junior Ranger program that will provide both meaning and enjoyment for your young guests and a true sense of satisfaction for you. This handbook is a place to start.

A Junior Ranger program can be a staff-led interpretive program, the Adventure Guide, a park-specific self-guided workbook, or web-based activities. Comments from parents and program participants favor the one-on-one interaction children receive during staff-led activities, but self-guided activities are a viable option and can be just as beneficial. Consider what your park has to offer and be creative when you are planning a Junior Ranger program.

This handbook has been developed as a reference tool for preparing and leading Junior Ranger programs.  Use the links below to access PDF documents of either the whole handbook, or each chapter of the handbook.

Complete Handbook (11.5 MB)

Individual Chapters

Opening Material

Working With Children
Animal Life
California Indians
Park Careers
Plant Life
Directed Activities
Suggested Sources

Junior Ranger Adventure Guide

This self-guided activity booklet is designed to be used when no formal Junior Ranger program is available. 
       Junior Ranger Adventure Guide (English)
      Junior Ranger Adventure Guide (Spanish)