Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Family Fun At State And National Parks And Historic Sites

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We love exploring State and National Parks and Historic Sites, not only in Georgia, but in other states too when we are traveling. Sadly they are a resource that a lot of people don't take advantage of enough. Both State and National sites work very hard to create events and activities for families to enjoy that are both fun and educational, but it has been my experience that people are not aware of all that these places have to offer. This post will explain some of our favorite events and activities. I hope that you are able to take advantage of some of these soon!

National Parks:
Most National Parks are very affordable to enter and only charge a parking fee which varies depending on the park. For most of the Georgia National Park sites are only a $3 parking fee. However there are several times during the year where entry into National Parks is FREE.

  • Junior Civil War HistorianOne hundred fifty years ago, our nation nearly tore itself apart. Soldiers in blue and gray struggled on battlefields across the country and changed the face of the United States of America. Complete one of two options to become a Junior Civil War Historian. When done, you will understand how the Civil War shaped our nation's history and become part of a select group of young visitors who truly appreciate how important the Civil War is to us today.

  • Junior Ranger ProgramThe Junior Ranger motto is recited by children around the country; each taking an oath of their own to protect parks, continue to learn about parks, and share their own ranger story with friends and family.  The NPS Junior Ranger program is an activity based program conducted in almost all parks, and some Junior Ranger programs are national. Many national parks offer young visitors the opportunity to join the National Park Service "family" as Junior Rangers. Interested youth complete a series of activities during a park visit, share their answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger patch and Junior Ranger certificate. Junior Rangers are typically between the ages of 5 to 13, although people of all ages can participate.
  • Civil War to Civil Rights Trading Cards - This program started in 2011 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and to encourage families to visit multiple national parks. There are more than 500 cards from nearly 90 national parks in 31 states. To earn cards simply participate in programs, make good observations, or ask or answer questions. For an entire list of the National Parks that have cards click here (this is not the most current list because it is from 2012, but I couldn't find and updated one on their website). 
  • Passport To Your National Parks Program - America's National Parks are presented in one handy booklet with the Passport To Your National Parks program. The 104-page travelogue includes color-coded maps, pre-visit information, illustrations and photographs. It also includes a list of every national park area in the United States. Spaces allow you to collect the series of commemorative Passport stamps issued each year. You can order the booklet here or pick one up at a National Parks gift shop. 
  • Discovery Backpacks - Many of the National Parks offer Discovery Packs that you can check out for FREE at the visitor center. The backpack is filled with all materials that you will need to have a fun nature learning adventure with your kids. (not all parks offer these)
  • Monthly Events - Every month National Parks Sites across the country offer events and programs. Just check the website frequently. Also when visiting a National Park check to see if they have an app, Many of them now offer fun interactive app tours, like these which are great for kids.
If you can't currently travel, but are anxious to start learning about our countries National Parks then check out these fun virtual programs.
  • WebRangers - WebRangers is the online extension of the Junior Ranger program. It's a website for kids of all ages. If you love our National Parks, Historic Sites, and Monuments, then this site is for you.
  • Flat Ranger -  Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown is the story of a boy who is flattened by a bulletin board. Because he is flat, he can travel by mail (which costs a lot less than traveling by plane or car). Like Flat Stanley, Flat Rangers travel across the country by mail. They visit America's National Parks and send home pictures and information about all the places they see. (letter and templates can be found on the website)  There is also a traveling Clara Barton.
  • Sesame Street Explores National Parks - Travel with fun-loving Muppets Elmo and Murray from Sesame Street to two of America's most popular national parks in the new online series Sesame Street Explores National Parks. Watch educational videos and download lots FREE resources!
  • Archaeology For Kids - Do you like digging in the dirt? Finding things that are lost? Putting pieces together? Figuring out stories from clues? Learning about the past? These are all things archaeologists do—maybe you're one, too! 

Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites:
Georgia State Parks charge a $5 parking fee, If you plan to visit a lot of them I suggest the annual $50 pass. The cost for Historic Sites varies and generally runs between $3-$7 per person. However there are a couple times a year that the State Parks and Historic Sites offer FREE admission. Another option that enables you to visit for FREE is checking out the State Parks or Historic Site passes at your local library.

  • Junior Ranger and Get Outdoors Program - Children ages 6-12 will have fun learning in the outdoors as they work toward earning a Junior Ranger badge. By following the guidelines in the Junior Ranger Activity Book they will experience nature first-hand, explore Georgia's fascinating history and enjoy outdoor recreational activities. The experience builds as children work their way through three badge levels. For even more fun children can also earn a Get Outdoors Georgia Gopher Badge. Choose from a list of 16 different badge requirements that will get you outdoors and help you learn about nature.
  • Civil War BadgeGeorgia State Parks and Historic Sites is offering a limited edition Civil War badge as we commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War. "Kids" ages 7-70 will have fun exploring sites in Georgia that were touched by this historic event. (limited time)
  • State Park GeoTour (State Parks and Historic sites) Using a GPS or smartphone with a GPS app, you search 61 Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites locations around the state to discover hidden containers or “caches” which contain a small prize. (The coordinates to all caches are available online at Geocaching.com) You take a prize and then leave one for the next person. After signing the logbook to document your success, you go back online and share your experience.
  • First Time Camper If you've always wanted to try camping, but weren’t sure how to begin -- we can help. Through our First-Time Camper program, you’ll get borrowed gear, expert advice, two nights’ accommodations and more...all for $50.
  • Monthly Events and Homeschool Days - Every month the Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites offer events and programs. Just check the website frequently or utilize the Pocket Ranger App.
  • Educational Resources for Teachers and Parents - view and download numerous resources including animal case studies. fieldtrip guides, educational videos, tour curriculum and more. 
  • Park Clubs and Challenges - Are you a mountain biker, canyon climber or paddler? Then your family will love these fun clubs and challenges. 

Did you know that during May and June, parks all across the country will be celebrating nature and outdoor recreation? Check out all these great upcoming ways to celebrate outdoor fun Kids to Parks Day (May 16), Great Outdoors Month (June), National Trails Day (June 6), National Get Outdoors Day (June 13) and the Great American Backyard Campout (June 27). 

What activity do you think your family will do first? Did I miss highlighting any family fun events or activities that these two places offer?

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