Kids Up North: Your child can become a Junior Ranger any day of the year at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. But on Saturday, April 28, 2012, there are special events scheduled at national parks across the country, including Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, to celebrate National Junior Ranger Day.

The Junior Ranger program helps kids to "Explore, Learn, and Protect" the experiences and resources of our national parks.  It's a terrific way to learn about the flora, fauna and history of Sleeping Bear Dunes–and it's free! All entrance fees are waived during National Park Week, April 21-29, 2012.

Junior Ranger programs are designed to help raise the next generation of national park lovers, by celebrating and protecting these special places like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Families and children of all ages get outside with Junior Ranger workbooks in hand and learn about the park's wildlife, resources and history. After completing the required activities, participants are awarded certificates, badges and patches, in addition to bragging rights.

On April 28, Park Rangers at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are hosting a special event to celebrate National Junior Ranger Day, aimed at welcoming more young park aficionados into the fold. Plans for the day include morning and afternoon discovery walks and a mass swearing in ceremony with refreshments in the visitor center at the end of the day. To earn a badge and certificate, attend at least one walk and complete a required number of activities in the workbook, depending on age. The day’s events are free, but you should plan for lunch in Glen Arbor or Empire, or pack a picnic if you spend the whole day. There are almost 400 national park sites across the country; most have junior ranger programs, so this National Junior Ranger Day just might spark a future collection of history- and nature-based fun.

Can't make it on April 28th? You can become a Junior Ranger any day of the year! While visiting the park, stop by the Visitor Center in Empire to get the free Junior Ranger book. Or click here and download your own copy. Updated in 2010, this book has a variety of activities and new challenges for kids from 4 to 104! To earn a badge, complete the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Junior Ranger book by visiting spots throughout the park and learning the answers to questions about flora, fauna and history. Then, return to the Visitor Center so a National Park Ranger can check your answers, swear you in as an official Junior Ranger, and award your certificate, badge and patch. If you agree, you can even have your name added to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore's website.

What a fun way for a family to spend time together outside, being active and learning, while developing stewardship of our national parks and especially, Sleeping Bear Dunes!

Sleeping Bear Dunes will once again be partnering with the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society this year. Stay tuned for their star party, taking place during National Park Week!

For more information, 231-326-5134;;

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See it first! With MyNorth Media's Journey Into Sleeping Bear DVD. Get your copy here.

Photo(s) by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore