Rosarian Academy third-grader Caleb Miller and his younger brother, Aiden, a second-grader, are on a quest to be sworn into the Junior Ranger Program of all 59 national parks in the United States with the end goal of an invitation to the White House.
Since starting this mission three years ago, the boys have 16 parks under their belts and have mapped out an additional six national parks to hit this summer.
After learning about Mount Rushmore in his kindergarten class, Caleb brought home “One Hundred Best Vacations for Families with Children” from the Rosarian Academy book fair, saw Mount Rushmore in the book, and told his parents he wanted to go there for summer vacation.
Caleb’s interest and excitement spurred his parents, Jeff and Ruthann Miller, to MapQuest the surrounding area and book a trip to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, along with Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons national parks in Wyoming.
In 2011, while visiting their first national park, the Miller family was introduced to the Junior Ranger Program at Mount Rushmore’s education center. Each national park’s Junior Ranger Program gives the child activities to complete based on his or her age.
The goal is for junior rangers to help preserve and protect the national parks as they learn about nature and history and have fun exploring the parks.
Upon completion of the required activities, children are sworn into the Junior Ranger Program for that particular park and given a badge with a certificate of completion signed by a ranger.
“During this first trip, we were told if you become a junior ranger in all 59 national parks, you get invited to the White House,” Jeff Miller said. “This put Caleb and Aiden on a quest to reach the goal of visiting all the national parks.”
So, with the support and guidance of their parents, Caleb and Aiden sit down each year to assess the parks they have not visited in order to map out their summer vacation to visit as many parks as possible.
This summer, the Millers will travel to California to visit Death Valley, Chanel Islands, Pinnacles, Lassen Volcanic, Redwood Forest and Joshua Tree national parks.
Ultimately, the Miller boys leave each park as junior rangers to spread the word about their adventures and continue to protect the environment at home and at school.
Each year, Caleb returns to his kindergarten teacher’s class to present on his experience of visiting Mount Rushmore and hopes to spark the same excitement and park stewardship that started when he too was in kindergarten.
For more info., visit www.rosarian.org.
ABOVE: Aiden and Caleb Miller with their collection of their junior ranger badges and patches.