Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Junior Rangers

My Christmas trip home to Massachusetts gave me a chance to sift through the boxes of stuff I've accumulated over the years. I found some blog worthy artifacts and I hope to spin some of it into more lengthy and involved articles in the coming weeks. Some of these artifacts are on loan from the E. James Aldrich Museum, which is located in my parents' house and curated by my mother.

Here we have one of the certificates I earned in the Army Corps of Engineers Junior Ranger Program. It's funny to think that this was how I spent part of my summer twenty years ago. It was actually my second of three years in Junior Rangers. I did two years at West Hill Dam in Uxbridge, MA and one at Douglas State Forest, Douglas, MA.

I actually remember some of the activities we did in Junior Rangers. We made birch beer out of black birch bark and we learned taxidermy to stuff a roadkill chipmunk. Years later I remembered how to do it and stuffed a grouse that died when it flew into a friend's picture window. I learned the names many of the Northeastern plants and animals I can still identify in Junior Rangers.

I know that the National Parks Service also runs a Junior Ranger program. It's a great program for kids. It's not segregated by sex like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts*. Secondly, it's not so much of a commitment. No badges, no competitions... just nature education and time out of doors.

 *Note: I have no issues with the Girl Scouts. However, B.S.O.A. vs. Dale, in which the Supreme Court decided that the Boy Scouts can bar homosexuals, atheists, and agnostics from being troop leaders, doesn't sit well with me. It's a shame because Boy Scouts is otherwise a wonderful organization that promotes values like conservation and responsible citizenship. Please don't comment that they're a private organization and it's their right to bar who they want - I know that, but it's still sad.

Junior Rangers is a nice alternative for children who aren't into those organizations, but enjoy nature and conservation, and/or parents whose religious or ethical standpoints don't align with the B.S.O.A.


Patrick said...

I went to a few Junior Ranger meetings at Douglas State Forest, too. Wish I had stayed with it, but was pretty firmly committed to Boy Scouts at the time.

It is a shame that the Boy Scouts are exclusive in the way they are. Lifelong friends, knowledge, and a love of the outdoors are what I got out of it.

Not sure how I'll approach it when my own son is old enough to join. I want him to learn the things that I learned, but don't want religion or intolerance pushed on him. Maybe he'll be a Junior Ranger.

Eric said...

It is too bad that BSOA practice intolerance as an organization, but I have to say that if you check out the troop leader, its very probable that he won't be exposed to overt religious views or intolerance. I think most kids have an experience with the Scouts similar to yours and when the time comes Ted to join, you may be able to weigh the good against the bad. Better yet, by the time he's old enough to be a Boy Scout, maybe things will have changed for the better.