Fort Union National Monument Junior Ranger Program

Please click on the following link for the official Fort Union National Monument Junior Ranger web page:

You can pick up a free Junior Ranger Activity Book at the Visitor Center. The Fort Union National Monument website states that the Junior Ranger program is for children ages 6-12 years old and after completing the book, the Junior Ranger will receive a badge or a patch; however, when we visited Fort Union, we were told that they did not have a Junior Ranger patch. The Junior Ranger booklet further states that if you are 6 years old or younger, complete at least 4 activities.

My family visited Fort Union National Monument on April 8, 2009. When we arrived, we met Park Ranger Mario Archuleta. Ranger Archuleta was extremely friendly and was enthusiastic about their Junior Ranger program. Both my six year old and four year old daughters completed the Activity Book. Mario recognized that our four year old would need help with the book as several of the activities were not age appropriate, but encouraged her participation. It was nice to see that even though my four year old may not be able to complete the booklet on her own, through Mario’s forethought, he recognized that she would still be able to learn about the park with her sister.

The activity book has 10 activities as listed below:

1. Only a Few have This Sort of View – examine an aerial photograph of Fort Union and label features in the photograph.
2. Fort Union Timeline – Read about events that shaped Fort Union’s history and write the number of each event in the correct order.
3. Fort Scavenger Hunt – Navigate the fort grounds to answer questions.
4. What is It? – Unscramble letters to find out what items are in the picture.
5. Como Se Dice? – Try saying names in Spanish and draw a line from the Spanish word to its English translation.
6. The Santa Fe Trail – Read fictional journal entries written by a teenager about their trip along the Santa Fe Trail, then write about your own present-day observations.
7. Trail Listeners – Whats sounds would you have heard then? What sounds do you hear now?
8. Weather Wonders – Record your own weather observations.
9. Compass Connection – Connect letters and numbers to see a diagram of the Earthwork.
10. In Your Own Words – Write a description and draw a picture of your favorite part of your visit to Fort Union.

The activity book states that:
• If you are 6 years or younger, complete at least 4 activities
• If you are between 7 and 10 years old, complete at least 6 activities.
• If you are 10 years and older, complete all of the activities.

On our trip to New Mexico, we visited eight sights ran by the National Park Service. Three of those, including Fort Union appeared to be using new Junior Ranger Activity Books, with a copyright of 2008. I bring this up, because most of the activities in this new book and the others, which I will discuss in future blogs, were not age appropriate for a 6 year old. Most of the activities in the Fort Union activity book required higher reading levels and some reading comprehension at around the third grade level or higher.

As parents we were able to read and explain the activities to our daughters and they were able to complete the required four activities; however, the Junior Ranger booklet was not as enjoyable for our children as some of the others they have completed. I also believe if they were more age appropriate, they would have learned and retained more about Fort Union.

On the positive side.

We first watched the Park video. The video was very informative.

Let me say something about park videos. We always watch the video first as it prepares our daughters about what they are going to learn that day. Even though some videos are old, they are always a good foundation for what you are going to learn at that park.

We then completed the Fort Scavenger Hunt. This was a great activity as you explore the site and answer questions about Fort Union. I would have liked to have seen this activity expanded.

During our visit it was very windy at times. There are several walls that are still standing, but most have had to be reinforced to stop deterioration. You will learn about this in the park video.

When the activity books were complete, we took them to Ranger Archuleta. He spent several minutes answering questions about the park and then took a picture with my daughters, while they showed off their new Junior Ranger badges. Please see below, for a scanned image of the badge.