Aztec Ruins National Monument Junior Ranger Program

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

Children can become a Junior Ranger and earn an Aztec Ruins Junior Ranger badge by exploring the ruins and answering questions in the Junior Ranger booklet fun sheet, provided at the visitor center.

My family visited Aztec Ruins National Monument on April 11, 2009. It turned out to be a very interesting day. We had planned to visit Chaco Culture National Historical Park this day. We had stayed the night in Albuquerque the night before, and got on the road before the sun came up. For those of you who haven’t been to Chaco Culture, it is in the middle of nowhere and the last 13 miles are on a rough dirt road. If it raining that dirt turns to mud. Well guess what, it was raining when we left Albuquerque and by the time we got to our turnoff it was snowing. So I called the park before we turned off. I informed the ranger we were driving an all wheel drive vehicle and he said we would be able to make it. When we got to the dirt, it was no longer dirt, it was slippery mud and we were sliding all over the place. I was driving an Acura MDX and the warning system immediately came on because of the slipping and sliding. The next thing I notice is this truck that is approaching us, going like 50 miles an hour and just blows right past us. I thought for sure he was going to hit us. Well we decided Chaco Culture wasn’t meant to be this trip. We turned around and headed to Aztec Ruins one day early.

When we got to Aztec Ruins, it was still raining a little bit off and on, but it wasn’t that bad. The Visitor Center has a little museum and a theater to watch a movie about the monument. When the girls asked for their Junior Ranger activity books, they were given two options. Aztec Ruins had just received new activity books. The copyright on them is 2009 by the Western National Parks Association. This was the same type of book that I wrote about earlier that is offered at Fort Union National Monument and Petroglyph National Monument. The rangers weren’t extremely excited about the activity book and offered the girls their previous Junior Ranger fun sheets. The girls decided to take the fun sheets. In this posting, I will discuss both the new book and the fun sheets.

The rangers did provide me with the new booklet, so I am going to write about it. Just like I stated in my previous postings this book was definitely not age appropriate for 6 and under. The book had sections for ages 3 and up and ages 6 and up; however, all sections were written at a higher reading level. How can an activity for a 3 year old, also be appropriate for a 12 year old? I was more disappointed with this book than the other two. There was one thing I liked about it. As you explored Aztec Ruins you completed the activity book as you went on the walking tour. I am not going to go into the activities in the book, as my girls did not complete this book.

I thought the original activity sheets were fantastic. I am not sure as to what ages they had sheets for, but they had a sheet for preschool and 1st-2nd grade. Both were very appropriate for my four and six year old daughter. I am going to discuss both of them below:

Preschool Activity Sheet
The activity sheet had four activities as follows:
1. In the first activity, the child had to identify pictures and circle them.
2. Visit the Great Kiva and draw shapes that you see inside it.
3. Circle things that people had when they lived at Aztec Ruins long ago.
4. Tell and adult one way to take care of places like Aztec Ruins.

1st – 2nd Grade Activity Sheet
The activity sheet had four activities as follows:
1. Identify pictures from a description.
2. Visit the museum and ruins and circle the items you find.
3. Find the pottery in the museum and draw a picture of pottery with your own design.
4. Tell an adult one way you can help take care of places like Aztec Ruins.

The girls really enjoyed completing the activities. I would have liked to see more activities put together in a book, instead of the fun sheet, but I definitely liked the program and the age appropriate materials.

After getting the activity sheets, we first watched the park video. We then explored the exhibits. After that, we went on the walking tour. One thing I liked about visiting the National Parks in New Mexico, was their walking tours. They had booklets to follow and read as you explored the site. At Aztec Ruins we went through most of the ruins, including the bottom level of a structure that included several rooms that had been excavated. We also went into the Great Kiva. The Great Kiva had been restored and was quite amazing. When we returned to the visitor center Ranger Paula Sprenger showed the girls how to grind corn using a mano and metate. The girls then got on their hands and knees and used the mano and metate to grind their own corn. They absolutely loved it and I want to thank Ranger Sprenger for spending time with the girls as the visitor center got quite busy when we were there.

After that, the girls took the Junior Ranger Pledge and received their Junior Ranger badges. Aztec Ruins does not have patches. Please see the photo below for a picture of the badge.

I also asked Ranger Sprenger about visiting Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. We were planning to visit Mesa Verde the next day. We were informed that if it was snowing, most of the cliff dwellings would be closed. We were also informed that it had been snowing there today and most of the dwelling had been closed. We looked at the weather forecast and decided not to take any chances. We hadn’t planned on visiting anymore parks in Arizona, but because Mesa Verde may be closed, we decided to visit Wupatki National Monumnet, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and Walnut Canyon National Monument instead.