Governed under the City of Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department, the Little Rock Junior Park Ranger Program is a groundbreaking, free, week long day camp recently established in 2015 for ages 9-12. The mission of the program is to energize, educate and engage 9-12 year olds about the natural environment in Little Rock’s 62 parks with the vision to create a safe and healthy park system for citizens of all ages. As such, the program operates under the “Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights” which was adopted under the guidance of Parks Administration and states ten activities that children have a “right” to enjoy in our parks.
Children's Bill of Rights
Play in a safe place
Learn to swim
Follow a trail
Ride a bike
Play a sport
Connect with the past
Plant a seed
Play with your dog in a park
In order to sustain our mission, vision and ultimately the “Children’s Bill of Rights,” our goals are to:
- Teach respect for our parks and nature.
- Help children develop the critical scientific and social skills necessary to address environmental and social justice issues.
- To educate children about the ecology of Little Rock.
- To promote community and volunteerism.
- Provide a sense of accomplishment for the participants.
- Create an awareness that all things are connected.
- Encourage children to experience nature and give them the opportunity to develop a sense of wonder and joy for the natural world.
- To engage the private sector for funding and other support for the program.
The children visit 9 parks or park facilities and learn about the flora, fauna and history of each park. They also go birding, golfing, hiking, fishing, swimming and visit MacArthur Museum. We pick–up litter at every park.
With the Adventure Guide (the curriculum) in hand, we discuss safety in parks, the food chain, water issues, pollution, our Drain Smart program, recycling, and social change through volunteerism. We also build positive relationships with police officers by having one meet us in a park and answer questions from the kids.
Every child receives a backpack, which was provided at cost by Ozark Outdoor Supply Store, with a compass, a first-aid kit, four Arkansas Game and Fish booklets, a water bottle, and hand sanitizer. If they graduate from the program, then they keep all of the above plus they receive a certificate, a Jr. Ranger t-shirt and badge. Binoculars are also available for use for the explorers. A child graduates by being present, participating and exhibiting knowledge of the curriculum when we process our day.
It doesn’t end there! At various times throughout the years to come, we will visit other parks or recreational facilities, build on the Adventure Guide, and the graduated Jr. Rangers will build their leadership skills by mentoring the new applicants.