Now that spring is officially here, it’s time to check your gear, restock your day pack, and get ready to spend more time in the great outdoors! With more than 417 locations in the National Park Service (NPS), “America’s Best Idea” (as documentarian Ken Burns nicknamed U.S. parks) provides the ultimate places to discover new things, observe natural phenomena, and learn more about the natural world.
Anyone who’s ready to shake off winter and get outside will be happy to hear that the United States’ largest celebration of our national heritage, National Park Week, is April 15–23.
During this exploratory week, NPS hosts special events at parks nationwide, and both weekends that fall within National Park Week offer free admittance, so every visitor can enjoy.
In addition to soaking up some time outdoors, Girl Scouts can take advantage of this special week to work on their Naturalist and Outdoor badges or even a GSHH patch. We recommend trying out the Heritage patch, Camping patch, or the Tree patch. All council-own patches reflect the interests of girls and leaders as well as the local historic and cultural offerings.
There’s also the Girl Scout Ranger patch available. This patch’s requirements let Girl Scouts decide how they want to give back to parks by joining an existing volunteer program or by designing a new project with park employees. Volunteer programs include everything from educational programs to service projects that protect park resources. After five hours of service, girls earn a Ranger certificate, and after ten hours (or more!), they can collect the coveted Ranger patch.
So be sure to check out the NPS’s special events, clear your calendar, and fill your water bottle—it’s time to set out on a new adventure! (Don’t forget to share your pictures with the hashtags #FindYourPark and #NPS101.)
P.S. National Park Week falls during Volunteer Appreciation Month, so if you see one of the 340,000 volunteers who make national parks great, be sure to say thanks!