Reflections on Being a Park Ranger

Jul 22, 2013 | 0 comments

I haven’t talked much about my actual job on this blog, so I figured I would take some time today to do just that. But where to begin?

Well, as a uniformed interpretive ranger, essentially my job is to be the public face of the National Park Service, your friendly local ranger here to teach you about your natural and cultural resources. Beyond that, I am also a civil servant; this fact really hit home last week when my supervisor read us a thank-you letter from someone who wrote in, thanking us “for serving our country.” This isn’t to say that as park rangers we serve in the same way as the military, but I felt so humbled to be recognized for serving my country in a way that I’m proud of, and that is not always seen for what it is.

As an interpretive ranger, the majority of my work is in teaching. I am SO grateful for the summer camp counseling experience I have, because otherwise I don’t think I would be at all prepared for the challenges I have faced this summer! Most of my week is spent developing either hour-long programs for Tundra Tots (ages 3-5) or 90-minute programs for Junior Rangers (ages 6-12), or Ranger Talks for the general public. In addition, the last couple weeks have also been spent developing 2 1/2 hour programs for a summer camp group of 30+ kids. Ack!

I’ve gotten pretty good at developing the program outlines, but delivering programs is a whole other challenge in and of itself. We give two Tundra Tots and two Junior Ranger programs each week, one to the public, and one to a local Native day care group. For all of them, one of the hardest parts is dealing with a wide range of academic abilities. The majority of local youth are academically behind lower-48 levels for their ages, so I always have to develop programs that don’t involve a lot of reading or writing, even for the older kids, and yet still keep it interesting for the few who are more advanced. This continues to be extremely difficult each week, especially given the wide age range of the junior rangers.

Nonetheless, I’m pretty proud of myself for getting through it so far. I got my first supervisory review back last week and it was quite positive. I just need to work on my technique with the little kids some more. Overall, I’ve been trying not to worry too much about how well I’m doing, and just do the best I can to improve each week. As I learned last week, kids do NOT like to make timelines (who knew? I liked timelines when I was little!), but habitat dioramas are super fun. 🙂 Lessons learned.

Even though working with kids takes up the majority of my time, I think my favorite part of my job is interacting with visitors. Ranger talks are hard, but fun; I meet so many interesting folks in the visitor center and working as a roving naturalist; and you really can’t beat a good day-long hike on the tundra. I’ll be honest, I REALLY enjoy being a park ranger. It can be fast-paced and high-intensity sometimes, as you’re expected to live up to a high standard, but that forces you to stay on top of things and continue to push yourself and earn your respect.

So, those are my thoughts on it all, hopefully not too scatterbrained, but enough to give you an idea of what I do 40+ hours a week.


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