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Wednesday, 21 June 2017 15:17

Earn a junior ranger badge

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Kids wanting to earn their badge will have plenty of chances with a full slate of junior ranger programs offered this summer in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Aspiring rangers 5-12 can pick up a Junior Ranger booklet for $2.50 at any park visitor center, and after completing the activities outlined there they’ll be able to get a bona fide Junior Ranger badge. 

Explore the damp, dark world of the park’s most popular amphibian with “Slimy Salamanders,” a two-hour program offered at 10 a.m. Sundays on Mingus Creek Trail. Kids will get a little wet and even dirty as the search ensues. Close-toed shoes recommended. 

Learn about the history of elk through show and tell, and stick around to watch them come into the fields during the evening with a 45-minute program on Smoky Mountain elk, 5:30 p.m. Sundays at the Palmer House in Cataloochee Valley.

Wade through a mountain stream in search of aquatic critters with Stream Splashers, offered 2 p.m. Mondays at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Lasts two hours. 

Help feed the pigs and chickens at 6:30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Mountain Farm Museum, with the 45-minute “Feeding Time” program. The museum is next to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.

Learn about the creatures of the night with a one-hour after-dark hike, starting at 8:45 p.m. Mondays and Saturdays at the Bradley Fork Trailhead, located in Smokemont Campground. Registration is required at 828.497.1904.

Eyes and ears are a ranger’s most important tools for observing the world around them, and kids will get to test their skills during the one-hour Junior Ranger Explorer program offered at 10 a.m. Tuesdays from the Oconaluftee River Trailhead. 

Learn how fire can help nature and why putting out a campfire is important during the one-hour “But I Don’t Wanna!” program offered at 1 p.m. Tuesdays, meeting under the maple tree below the Oconaluftee Visitor Center porch. 

Chat with a ranger about what makes the Smokies special with a 45-minute porch program starting at 11 a.m. Wednesdays on the Oconaluftee Visitor Center porch. Topics vary. 

Step back in time with a hands-on demonstration of Cherokee-style pottery during a one-hour program offered at 11 a.m. Thursdays at the Collins Creek Picnic Area. Participants will make their own piece of pottery. Reservations required with 828.497.1904. Call up to four days in advance. No program Aug. 10. 

Learn how to think like a scientist during a one-hour exploration of the Oconaluftee River Trail at 1:30 p.m. Thursdays at the Oconaluftee River Trailhead. No program Aug. 10.

Find out what life in the Smokies would have been like 100 years ago during the one-hour “Mountain Traditions” program, offered at 3 p.m. Thursdays on the Oconaluftee Visitor Center porch. Learn about the traditions of year past and how some have continued into the present. No program Aug. 10. 

A blacksmithing program for kids 10-12 will give them a chance to see how the craft works and bring home an item of their own creation. Offered on the half-hour from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Fridays at the Mountain Farm Museum next to Oconaluftee Visitor Center.

Find out what kids did for fun before video games and iPads with “Batteries Not Included,” offered on the half-hour from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Fridays at the Mountain Farm Museum. Open to all ages, with each half-hour featuring a different game. 

All programs run through Aug. 12. Adults must accompany children to all activities. 

828.497.1904.

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