By: Sabrina Y.
If you are interested in learning a thrilling way to experience nature with your family, earn some badges, and improve your health, take a walk with me as I share with you my experience of becoming a Georgia State Park Junior Ranger.  Most people may find it hard to connect with family and nature, but now with the Junior Ranger program offered at Georgia State Parks, people can explore nature while having a fantastic time with the family.
This free program is designed for Girl Scouts ages 6 to 12 to get in touch with nature, and to have an exceptional day with the family.  Not only do you get to have an enjoyable time, but you can work towards earning a badge!  Getting started is easy; simply visit any one of the 63 Georgia State Parks and ask a Ranger for a Junior Ranger Booklet.  The booklet will help you learn how to proceed through your journey in discovering new things. 
In the Junior Ranger program, Girl Scouts can connect with nature. Girls can observe anything from animals to plants, and even moon phases.  This program teaches you about things in nature people wouldn’t usually notice, and it teaches Girl Scouts things to be aware of nature.  In my experience, I learned how to identify different types of birds, plants, and signs of animals (including dung, tracks, sound, and smell).  I also learned about past wars and historic sites; however, my favorite part in nature was observing the wildlife.  I wrote notes about all the animals I observed such as an egret, geese, a salamander, and even a snake! The flora and fauna in nature are a spectacular site.  It is an appreciated memory that is forever in my heart.  These wondrous sights will change the way people see things in nature.  
          The Junior Ranger program also incorporates the Get out. Get dirty. Get fit. program, which mainly focuses on getting healthy and fit. This program includes hiking, biking, fishing, golfing, camping, and climbing a canyon.  Along with these activities, Girl Scouts can learn new outdoor skills, how to make a healthy/high energy trail mix, and you can enjoy a sunrise or sunset. This program helps Girl Scouts work towards a badge by doing many of these activities and checking them off as they complete each activity.  This is aimed mostly towards ages 7 – 14, but younger kids may participate as well.  In my experience, I combined some of the activities by doing them in one day.  While my family and I were going on a hike on one of the trails that were part of the Canyon Climber club, I made everyone a trail mix as a boost of energy for the trail.  On that same day, I photographed the beautiful waterfall that poured out into the peaceful river.  This club also introduced me to camping.  My sister and I built a tent and we fished together. After that my family and I saw the gorgeous sunset while making gooey s’mores above the blazing fire.  One of my favorite things was documenting my experience, so my memories will never fade of this breath-taking journey.  After I documented everything, I was eligible to earn my badge, and I now proudly wear it on my vest.  Who knew being healthy could be an exhilarating experience?! 
         Although improving your health and learning about nature is great, nothing can beat the quality time that girls can spend with their family.  They will be able to create memories with this program.  Girl Scouts can create a photo album of their journey, or maybe they will make a collage.  No matter what they choose to do with these memories, they will always be shared amongst their family.  I guarantee Girl Scouts and their family will always leave the park with a smile as bright as the sun pasted onto their faces.  My family took over 100 pictures of us together doing these pleasant activities and saved them on an online photo album. We often talk about the adventures, and always end up smiling or laughing. We had such a joyous time that we are thinking of doing it again this summer, and focusing more on being healthy.  I will never forget the time I had with my family during those few months.  We conquered a lot, and did it all together.  I personally was fond of the family bonding time.
         I highly recommend joining the Junior Ranger Program.  There are so many advantages, as well as a vast amount of knowledge that the girls can gain.  Girl Scouts and their family will never leave the Georgia State Parks unhappy.  Are you ready to begin your adventure?  Enjoy the experience!

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