Eleven-year-old Jayden Lawler is an outdoor kind of guy. The Big Horn Elementary School fifth-grader enjoys spending time with his family and friends in our national forests and parks. Not only does he just visit these wild places, he takes the time to learn something about them.

He is our most recent participant in the Bighorn National Forest Junior Ranger program. He completed the booklet after visiting his local forest this summer and fall and has earned a certificate and badge. Being the avid learner and outdoorsman that he is, he has also earned badges from Theodore Roosevelt National Park to Death Valley National Park and many places in between.

“We had been to several national parks and hadn’t realized the program was available,” said Jayden’s dad, Chris. “After he received his first badge, he wanted to earn more. I learned this spring by pure luck that they had a program in the Bighorns.”

It all started two years ago when the family made plans to go on a national park tour. They had visited almost all the nearby national parks and wanted Jayden to experience the wonders of other locations. For 10 days the family toured Death Valley National Park, Giant Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy National Parks, Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Muir Woods National Park.

At their last stop, a Lake Mead National Recreation Area ranger asked Jayden if he participated in the Junior Ranger program and explained what is was. After that, he was hooked.

“I like getting the badge and learning about different things,” Jayden said. “I get to look for animals and trees and it’s pretty fun.”

You too can earn a Bighorn National Forest Junior Ranger badge. Print the booklet from our website, fs.usda.gov/main/bighorn/home, or call one of our offices for a copy.

Once you have completed all the activities, either return it to one of our offices or take photos or scan and email to SM.FS.bighorninfo@usda.gov or through the “contact us” link on our website.

Along with learning fun facts about the forest, you will receive a badge and signed certificate for your efforts.

Following the lead of the popular National Park Service program, the Bighorn National Forest Junior Ranger Program started in 2017. The booklet was developed while Student Conservation Association intern Haylen Teel was working as an interpreter at Burgess Junction Visitor Center. Her original artwork, activities and games were updated into a new format in 2020. This booklet is available on the Bighorn National Forest website under the “Learning Center” and “Just for Kids” links, fs.usda.gov/main/bighorn/learning/kids. Along with the Junior Ranger booklet, you will find the Shell Falls Wayside Activity booklet and links to other exciting Forest Service educational resources.

The Forest Service also has a national program where you can learn about forestry and fire science. The Junior Snow Ranger teaches participants about the science of winter and snow. You can learn more about these programs on our website, fs.usda.gov/main/conservationeducation/smokey-woodsy/junior-rangers.

Any time of year is a great time to get outside and learn a little bit about your surroundings. Thank you, Jayden, for your hard work and for sharing your story.

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