WEST ORANGE Junior Ranger Day at Thomas Edison National Historical Park was particularly special for one young visitor. Via video link, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, announced to a group of junior rangers gathered at the park that Rachel Koblitz of West Milford had become the 10,000 WebRanger.
Superintendent of Thomas Edison National Historical Park, Jill A. Hawk and WebRangers manager Wyndeth LaRue presented Rachel with a framed certificate and a backpack of national park related books and gifts. Rachel was on her first visit to a national park and had no advance knowledge of the presentation. To earn her WebRangers patch she had completed over 60 activities learning about many of the parks and the people who care for them. She quickly became a fan of the national parks, even though she had never visited one.
WebRangers (www.webrangers.us) is the online extension of the junior ranger program, the youth initiative that helps engage the next generations of Americans with their national parks. The WebRangers site is full of games, activities, maps, and secret codes and encourages self-paced exploration resulting in an understanding of America's national treasures. Children explore the national parks through this online format and then want to head out to the parks to become a junior ranger.
The goal of WebRangers is not to glue children's eyeballs to yet another computer screen, said Jarvis. It is an invitation - reaching out to them, where they are, and inviting them to come and explore, learn about and protect their national heritage.
WebRangers has been creating connections between children and their national parks for over five years, with new activities and other features added every year. The site has over 200,000 registered users, and roughly one million other visitors who come and complete activities without registering. The site has been very popular with homeschool organizations, and is used in classrooms across the country as well as by children and families. Last year, the addition of a teacher's guide, aligning the activities to standards of learning, made WebRangers even more attractive for classroom use.
Thomas Edison National Historical Park is a National Park Service site dedicated to promoting an international understanding and appreciation of the life and extraordinary achievements of Thomas Alva Edison by preserving, protecting, and interpreting the Park's extensive historic artifact and archive collections at the Edison Laboratory Complex and Glenmont, the Edison family estate. The entrance fee is $7. Children under age 16 are free. The Visitor Center is located at 211 Main St. in West Orang. For more information or directions call 973-736-0550 ext. 11 or visit: www.nps.gov/edis.