Visiting a National Park is especially beneficial, in addition to being a lot of fun, for children of any age. It gives them an opportunity to learn about nature, or ancient man-made monuments, and it instills in them a love of nature and history. They are going to be the future guardians of our planet, and during their visits they can learn a lot about preserving these wonders.
The very first National Park was Yellowstone, designated as such in 1872. A few years later, in 1916, the National Park Service was formed, to protect and share these special landmarks, which by then included a few more, like Sequoia and Yosemite, among others.
One of the seven wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon, was designated a National Park in 1919. Living in relative close proximity to it, I have visited it often, and it still never looses its magic. Every day, a cloud, a sunny day, can make a difference in how this vast canyon looks. The amenities around the top have changed over the years, especially on the South Rim, since the ever-growing crowds required more amenities, and ways to help everyone enjoy it. However, the canyon itself is still the same, still as spectacular as ever.
Some of the parks preserve the “work of men”. Mesa Verde was the first park of this kind, designated as such in 1906. With lots of ancient dwellings, the site is spectacular. Like Chaco Canyon, accessible through a dirt road, off the beaten track and quiet, these sites give us a glimpse into the lives of people who came before us.
We have parks protecting areas as diverse as redwood forests, snow-capped mountains, pristine lakes, rainforests, high and low desert areas, and archaeological sites. By designating them National Parks, they are protected, we can enjoy them as much as visitors before us have, and make sure those who come after us will as well.
In addition to preserving these wonderful sites, the National Parks Service helps to teach our kids about the importance of protecting the environment. The Junior Ranger program is especially beneficial to them. All of my own kids have done it, at different parks, at different times. We didn’t visit all of the parks yet, but we have collections of Junior Ranger badges from those that we did.
To earn the badge, the kids have to learn about the particular park, fill out a questionnaire, answer a few questions the rangers ask them then promise to help protect the park, and all that is in it. While filing out their paper, they go on treasure hunts, learn about the specific park, and all that it preserves. It is almost like being in a super fun classroom.
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