As are many units of the National Park Service, Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park is located within a city. While an urban landscape may not fit the popular notion of a national park, it gives the National Park Service the opportunity to reach a different and often underserved audience: urban youth.
To reach and inspire a new group of Dayton youth, the park held its first annual Junior Ranger Camp this summer. Over 30 new Junior Rangers received their badges after participating in one of two week-long day camps held in June and August.
Each day the campers participated in activities based on the Junior Ranger motto “Explore. Learn. Protect.” They learned about the National Park Service and the many different types of parks that exist, created flat Rangers to send to other national parks, learned how Wilbur and Orville Wright invented the airplane, and even tried to fly on a 1911 Wright Company model B simulator. They learned about urban nature and animals and plants that they might encounter in their neighborhoods. They even made bird feeders from pinecones to attract birds to their homes.
The campers also visited the Paul Laurence Dunbar State Memorial and learned about Dunbar, an African American author and poet who supported himself financially through his writing. The campers hiked along the Great Miami River clearing trash from along the riverbank and learned about recycling through a recycling relay race. They examined how objects can be reused, creating ‘robots’ and other creatures out of potential trash.
The camps concluded with a graduation ceremony, where parents looked on as their children took the oath as Junior Rangers and received their badges and certificates. They left with a mission to share what they had learned over the past week and encourage others to become Junior Rangers.