EUROPARC Deutschland and WWF have entered into partnership with the National Natural Landscapes to conserve biodiversity and win people’s support for the cause. Use of educational programmes to promote inclusion of children and youths plays an important role. The Junior Ranger programme is an Education for Sustainable Development measure and targets children aged 7 to 12.
Accompanied by professional rangers, children and youths explore Germany’s national natural landscapes. They learn about the values, responsibilities and special features of the country’s national parks, biosphere reserves and nature parks, and encounter both rare species and species of conservation value. They also look at the natural, historic and scientific aspects of the respective landscapes, and develop the skills needed to promote their sustainable development. In a similar way to the Seahorse (Seepferdchen) badge children receive when learning to swim, training to become a Junior Ranger and acquiring the Junior Range badge should become a childhood must.
The programme comprises four pillars offering children different routes to attaining the Junior Ranger badge. This gives all children the opportunity to become a Junior Ranger. All four pillars are based on the principles of Education for Sustainable Development.
Pillar One: Junior Ranger Region. In junior ranger groups, children and youths work on self-developed projects to protect nature and conserve biodiversity, making them important biodiversity facilitators. Many of the young participants also attend the GEO Tag der Artenvielfalt (Species Diversity Day) and Wandern für die Biologische Vielfalt (Hikers for Biodiversity) activities. A follow-on programme is currently being developed for youths aged 12 and over (JR+) to involve them more intensively in the management of protected areas.
Pillar Two: Junior Ranger on Exploration. This Junior Ranger Explorer pillar targets children who spend their holidays in a national natural landscape. Junior Ranger activity books enable children to explore the species diversity of a given area on their own. To acquire the title of Junior Ranger Explorer, they can either perform special ‘research’ tasks and solve puzzles, or they can attend an explorer camp.
Pillar Three: Junior Ranger Web. On the Junior Ranger website (junior-ranger.de) children can create an online base station from which they conduct explorations in the national natural landscapes. This play-based approach teaches children the importance of biodiversity and prepares and motivates them to spend time outdoors in nature and in exploring national natural landscapes. Upon completing the required explorations, the young participants are awarded the title of Junior Ranger Web.
Pillar Four: Junior Ranger School. Here, a teaching module is used to take the Junior Ranger Programme into schools. Children learn what becoming a Junior Ranger involves and then go out into a national natural landscape, either as a project week activity or a school outing, to intensify their knowledge in a practical way. Upon completion of the required activities, the children obtain the Junior Ranger in Schulen (Schools) badge.
The nationwide Junior Ranger programme is operated jointly by EUROPARC Deutschland e.V. and the National Natural Landscapes with support from WWF Deutschland and Town & Country Haus.