What is the EUROPARC Junior Ranger Programme?
The EUROPARC Junior Ranger programme is a non-formal education programme for children and teenagers around the ages of 12 – 18 who a who are living within or close to the Protected Areas. The programme can be led by park rangers, educational specialists or park vounteers, depending on the local context within the management authorities structure.
A EUROPARC Junior Ranger Programme should:
- connect young people to their natural and cultural heritage
- incorporate environmental education through hands-on learning using non-formal methods
- build a sense of solidarity with other young people within their community and across Europe
- spend as much time as possible outside in the Protected Area
- be FUN!
This programme has many benefits for the participants, such as growing skills and self-confidence, developing an understanding of the interconnectedness of nature and people within it, connecting with other young people and making friends, having improved mental and physical health, and giving them a space to be themselves.
Each EUROPARC Junior Ranger programme is adapted to the local context. Each Protected Area has its own unique benefits and challenges and each local programme should be tailored to meet the needs of the local community and achieve the goals of the Park Authority. For example: for some parks it may be reaching underpriviledges participants, in another it could be creating an inclusive space for participants with disabilities, or for very remote parks it could be creating opportunities for travel and exchanges.
There are also many benefits for the Protected Area management body as well:
- It improves relations with the local community and builds a good foundation for future cooperation
- It provides good promotion for the Protected Area as media often like to feature youth events
- These young people are easy to reach and can be consulted when integrating the youth voice in decision-making
- It can attract partnerships and possible funding targeting young people
- It can inspire a future green careers and thereby a future workforce
- There are many opportunities for intergenerational learning opportunities and for park staff to practice interpersonal competencies
- It can help the park achieve its biodiversity and climate goals (e.g. helping remove invasive species)
What does a EUROPARC Junior Ranger Programme look like?
The EUROPARC guidelines are quite flexible on this topic. The main requirement is that there need to be at least 5 days of activities throughout the year. These can be altogether such as a 1 week camp, or spread out at will. The ideal would be an annual camp with regular volunteering days once a month throughout the year.
The kinds of activities also varies from Park to Park and should be adapted to the local context. We recommend doing a mixture of environmental education, outdoor sport, park maintenance, visitor management, environmental monitoring, excursions to other locations or parks, and community outreach.
An important aspect of the EUROPARC Junior Ranger programme which differs from a similarly named programme in the USA, is that is aims to develop a long term high quality programme for young people. When starting out, some programmes may be restricted to a limited time due to project-based funding, but we encourage all parks to find a way to finance the programme through long-term stable funding to ensure its success.
Similary, while the programme should allow a new group to start each year, they should be incorporated into activities together with the previous years groups, allowing children to join the programme at age 12 and grow with it through the years, developing their own independence through opportunities to do things on their own or take leadership of activities. Ideally, once they reach 18, they will want to continue and have the skills to start or join a Youth+ programme.
Are you interested in starting a EUROPARC Junior Ranger programme? Then:
- Explore the youth pages on our website and especially the Junior Ranger Toolkit
- Visit our Knowledge Hub and scrolls through our YouTube Playlist
- Set up a video call with a staff member by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- Organise a visit to a nearby park with an existing Junior Ranger Programme (scroll down to see a map of programmes)
- Become a EUROPARC Member
Joining the EUROPARC Youth Network
All our Youth Programmes are currently free to our members. If your park is not yet a member (you can check on map here) then we kindly ask you to please consider signing up (more information on how to do so can be found here). We are a federation and all of our work is done by and with our members.
If you are already a EUROPARC member and are considering to develop an existing programme into a EUROPARC Junior Ranger programme then the next step would be to connect with us by email at email@example.com and registering your programme with us.
The EUROPARC Youth Network
The EUROPARC Junior Ranger Programme was launched in 2002 as a pilot project embracing four partner parks. It has grown to include around 50 Protected Areas in 20 countries across Europe involving over 1100 young children and teenagers. Have a look at the map below to find your closest neighbour!
The Junior Ranger network has also grown beyond EUROPARC through our sections and members who are themselves umbrella organisations. The German Section, Nationale Naturlandschaften, has rolled out the programme across all National Parks, Nature Parks and Biosphere Reserves in Germany and developed complimentary programmes such as Junior Ranger Web. Similarly, the National Ranger Associations of Switzerland and Scotland have incorporated the Junior Ranger programme into their work and coordinate small groups across their respective nations. Each of these organisations have mobilised over 2000 Junior Rangers each.
Are you a EUROPARC Member but your Junior Ranger Programme is not on the map? Fill in the form and send us the signed Partnership Agreement, we will update the map as soon as we receive both. If you have photos, feel free to send them with the Partnership Agreement to firstname.lastname@example.org and they will also appear in the map.
Connecting Junior Rangers from across Europe!
Being part of the network also enables to connect Junior Rangers in Protected Areas across Europe. Perhaps you want to find a Junior Ranger Programme from another part of Europe to twin with. We can help members with support and advice and connect them across the network.
The main event of the network is the International Junior Ranger Camp, hosted by one of the network members. This event is a great opportunity for many young people to gather, have fun and discover Europe’s biodiversity. We are always looking for more Protected Areas to host either an International Junior Ranger Camp, or a section seminar (short 3 day training event), or any similar projects.