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Friday 13 May 2016

Junior Ranger Jamboree

This past weekend the girls and I headed to San Francisco's Crissy Field for a 100th birthday party.

Just who was turning 100? The National Park Service!

We're big fans of America's National Parks so the kids and I were pretty excited when we heard that there would be a Junior Ranger Jamboree to celebrate the centenary. Every time we visit a National Park Ava and Lola make sure to take part in the Junior Ranger program and earn themselves a badge. When they found out that they could earn a special badge by attending the jamboree they were all over it!

It was a pretty grey and rainy day on Saturday when we headed to Crissy Field but the girls didn't mind. There were so many fun activities on offer that the rain didn't dampen their spirits. Pun totally intended! In fact, Mathilde and Lola were pretty excited that there were lots of puddles for jumping in - even if they weren't wearing appropriate shoes.

When we first arrived at the Junior Ranger Jamboree we headed to the welcome tent to collect our activities booklets and lunch and s'more vouchers. The girls were told that if the completed five activities in the booklet they would earn a badge. For each activity that they completed, a sticker would be added to the booklet. Even though they only needed five stickers, there were so many fun activities that the girls wanted to collect as many stickers as possible. Mathilde was allowed to join in for this special badge too which was great as she's too young for the Junior Ranger program when we visit National Parks.

Our first activity for the day was Park Poetree where the girls made poems about the Bay Area's nature using magnetic words. Their poems? Lola fluked and came up with "Love between International Orange" which we decided would make a good name for a love story set in San Francisco! Mathilde came up with "When ridge colorful life think!" and Ava's lengthy poem was "Banana slug began at my healthy porpoise in a safe trail among Mount Tam in San Francisco because wild trees love windy forest magic bobcat?!". Magic bobcat!

The girls got their stickers and moved onto a table with microscopes where they studied plankton from the bay. They didn't spot any plankton that were trying to steal the Krabby Patty formula but they did see some pretty crazy looking little creatures. Isn't it amazing how such tiny life can be so complex? Oh yeah, and the girls were filmed while they were playing scientist so I'll have to try and track down the footage!

Then we checked out animal pelts and skulls. Ava has decided that she's not keen on seeing animal bones at the moment so she hung back while Lola and Mathilde checked them out. Uh oh, one less sticker for Ava!

The girls were all pretty excited by the next booth where they got to make... wait for it... poop! Ha! Using a sticky dough the girls formed animal poop and added materials to show what that particular animal would have been eating. Lola made deer poop filled with grass and seeds (although she refused to make it the correct shape), Mathilde and I made raccoon poop filled with seeds and berries, and Ava made bobcat poop filled with fur, feather and animal bones. Who would have ever thought we'd be making fake animal poop?

We then had a little dress up fun. Using photo props, Lola pretended to be Rosie the Riveter (although she looks a little more like Angry, Constipated Rosie!) and John Muir.

Then it was time for lunch. We traded in our lunch vouchers for a bag lunch each. I still can't believe how generous the National Parks Service (and the sponsors) were with this event. Each visitor was given a turkey and salad sandwich, a piece of fruit and a packet of chips for lunch. For free! Plus there were s'mores as well which we ate later in the day.

While we ate our lunch we watched a few performances. We saw a karate demonstration, Tahitian dancers and ballet dancers. The girls couldn't believe that the Tahitian dancers performed in the rain in their outfits!

The highlight of the event for Ava was the rock climbing structure. We headed there straight after lunch and joined the line. It was a pretty popular activity. Surprisingly, Lola decided that she wanted to have a turn as well. I half expected her to chicken out at the last minute, but she actually went through with it - although I think she was a little small for the harness and struggled a bit. Mathilde was keen to take part as well, but she was definitely too small! So while Ava and Lola waited in line, Mathilde and I took a little walk to the beach. It was still pretty grey and rainy at this point and the Golden Gate Bridge was still hiding in the fog. The fog lifted later in the day which you can see in my previous post here.

Lola made it about half way up the rock climbing structure before she started to struggle. Ava was pretty proud that she made it all the way to the top and pressed the buzzer before rappelling back down. Considering that the rock climbing structure was wet due to the rain, I think the girls did pretty well.

After rock climbing it was time for the swearing in of the newest Junior Rangers. We headed to the stage area where the girls took part in the swearing in process. Mathilde had no idea what was going on but she held her hand up like all of the other kids! You may notice that Lola looks a little grumpy in the next few photos. She was upset that Ava made it all the way to the top of the rock climbing structure while she didn't. These two are so incredibly competitive, it drives me crazy!

After reciting the oath and being sworn in, the girls collected their new badges and a Junior Ranger program from one of the real rangers waiting nearby.

Time to cheer up Grumpy Lola!

We traded in our s'mores vouchers for a marshmallow on a long stick and headed to one of the fire pits to toast them. Mathilde burnt several marshmallows by shoving them underneath the coals and refusing to move them! We got there in the end though and the girls put their squishy, warm marshmallows on chocolate and graham crackers and devoured their tasty treats.

Next up we headed to a photo booth where we dressed up as park rangers for fun photos. You can see these at the very top of this post. Mathilde looked hilarious wearing the ranger shirt! It was so long on her she looked like she was hovering as she walked around!

Then it was giant bubble time! Ava and Lola made giant bubbles while Mathilde tried her best to pop them - when she wasn't running through a nearby puddle, that is!

We finished up the day getting crafty with plant themed stamping, drawing and impressions.

Oh, and then Mathilde pretended to be a deer! Not very convincing Mathilde!

We had such a fun day out in Crissy Field and the girls are so excited about their new Junior Ranger badges. We're accruing quite the collection now so I'll have to come up with a way to keep them together. I saw a few kids wearing sashes with their badges on them and a few even in Junior Ranger vests (which you can buy in National Parks). I'm thinking the sashes might be the way to go, although I definitely don't want the girls wearing them when we visit National Parks in case they lose some of their badges.

Do your kids take part in the Junior Ranger program when you visit National Parks? Did you even know it existed? So many parents I speak to have never heard of it. It's such a fun activity for the kids and I love that it gives them a small souvenir of their visit to take home and treasure.

More National Parks fun coming up soon on the blog. Stay tuned for our visits to Zion and the Grand Canyon from Spring Break.

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