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Junior Naturalist Program

The Junior Naturalist Program was conceived in 1997 for campgrounds participating in the Nature Recreation Program, then expanded to satellite campgrounds in 1998. The Junior Naturalist Program gives children the opportunity to test their environmental knowledge while teaching them more about New York State's environment.

Original Jr Naturalist Patch, Loon 1997
1997 Patch Depicting the Loon

How It Works

Children five through twelve years old can request a Junior Naturalist Journal at participating campgrounds. The journal is separated in to two sections: one for the younger children (5-8 years old) and one for the older children (9 and up). Activities for younger children are usually marked by an acorn surrounding the page number, where as an oak tree designates activities for the older children. Also, older children should attempt all of the activities in the journal. The journal can be filled in by using the activities as family activities or with someone helping the child. When the journal is completed, children bring it to the appropriate DEC staff person who reviews the journal then gives the child a Junior Naturalist patch.

The Journal

Jr Naturalist Patch 1998, Beaver, the State Mammal
1998 Patch Depicting the Beaver

The colorful activity book of the Junior Naturalist Program, referred to as the Junior Naturalist Journal, is designed for children five to twelve years old. Yet it also contains helpful hints to make the completion of the book a family affair. There are also tips at the beginning on how parents and older siblings can learn from the book as well as the younger children.

Jr Naturalist Patch 1999, Bluebird, the State Bird
1999 Patch Depicting the Blue Bird

The last activity, to be done by all children, regardless of their age, is a reflection activity. This reflection activity allows the children- and adults!- to think back on their stay at the campground and remember some of the new things they learned as well as the things they loved about the trip.

Jr Naturalist Patch 2000, Sugar Maple, the State Tree
2000 Patch Depicting the Sugar Maple

Activities in the Journal

Recurring activities in the journals are a bingo game and a checklist of some sort- whether it is a species checklist to keep tract of what the children see and learn to identify or a list of things found on a nature hike using all the letters of the alphabet. Bingo subjects include insects as well as sensory items. Also included is an activity focused on the Forest Preserve and facts about a specific state symbol such as the lady bug or the eastern bluebird (NYS's state insect and state bird respectively).

The Patch

Jr Naturalist Patch 2001, Lady Bug, the State Insect
2001 Patch Depicting the Lady Bug

After the journal is completed, the child brings it to the appropriate DEC Campground staff person and receives their Junior Naturalist patch. This colorful patch, different each year, depicts the child as a Junior Naturalist- someone who studies natural history. It is the perfect keepsake for the camping trip they have enjoyed so much!

Except for the original patch (from 1997), the next eight Junior Naturalist patches depict a state symbol. So far, the state mammal, the beaver; the state bird, the eastern bluebird; the state tree, the sugar maple; the state insect, the lady bug; the state fish, the brook trout and the state gem; the garnet have been used. In 2006, the patch depicted the black bear, though not a state symbol the black bear has a strong presence in New York State. The patch for 2007 will be a redesign of the eastern bluebird, the state bird of New York.

JNP Participating Facilities*

Region 3 New Paltz: Beaverkill, Kenneth L. Wilson, Mongaup Pond, Woodland Valley

Region 4 Schenectady: Bear Spring Mountain, Devil's Tombstone, Little Pond, North-South Lake

Jr Naturalist Patch 2002, Brook Trout, the State Fish
2002 Patch Depicting the Brook Trout

Region 5 Northville: Caroga Lake, Little Sand Point, Moffitt Beach, Northampton Beach, Sacandaga

Region 5 Warrensburg: Eagle Point, Glen Island, Hearthstone Point, Luzerne, Rogers Rock, Scaroon Manor

Region 5 Ray Brook: Ausable Point, Buck Pond, Fish Creek Pond, Lake Eaton, Lake Harris, Lincoln Pond, Meacham Lake, Paradox Lake, Putnam Pond, Rollins Pond, Sharp Bridge, Taylor Pond

Region 5 Indian Lake: Brown Tract Pond, Eighth Lake, Forked Lake, Golden Beach, Indian Lake Islands, Lake Durant, Lewey Lake, Limekiln Lake

Region 6 Potsdam: Cranberry Lake

Region 6 Herkimer: Nicks Lake

*Please note that participating facilities are subject to change. For further details contact the specific campground.

Jr Naturlist Patch 2003, Garnet, the State Gem
2003 Patch Depicting Garnet
Jr Naturalist Patch 2004, Eagle
2004 Patch Depicting the Eagle
Jr Naturalist Patch 2005, Beaver, the State Mammal
2005 Patch Depicting the Beaver
Jr Naturalist Patch 2006, the Black Bear
2006 Patch Depicting the Black Bear

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