By Caitlin Campbell, Visual Information Specialist, Lewis and Clark NHT
The Lewis and Clark Trail Junior Ranger program is now available at more than 30 locations in 13 States across the country. To earn a Junior Ranger badge, kids work on an activity book that engages them where they are and connects them to the national Lewis and Clark Expedition story. To make the program relevant to sites along all 4,900 miles of trail, planning and community input were essential.
First, Trail officials asked a small group of National Park Service interpreters with Tribal affiliations for general input. Considerations included identifying the intended audience; examining how needs would vary across multiple public land agencies, State parks, county parks, Tribal heritage centers, and museums; the overall goal of the program; and, finally, identifying the program’s key messages.
Next, employees of the Lewis and Clark Trail created a “book map,” which assigned key messages and activities to each booklet spread. This rough outline streamlined review and prevented big late-stage changes that could undo graphic design and illustration efforts. Trail staff wrote and designed the booklet inhouse.
Ten locations across the Trail served as test pilots to review and provide feedback on the Lewis and Clark Trail Junior Ranger activity booklet’s first draft.
Meanwhile, Trail staff developed innovative elements to boost engagement and accessibility for all. Online read-along videos narrate the activity pages and audio-describe them to non-sighted participants. A new Native Names webpage allows participants to hear indigenous names of plants and animals. Custom 3D tactile maps of the Lewis and Clark Trail help non-sighted participants understand the trail route. The team also developed an Online Partner Toolkit for host sites.
The Lewis and Clark Trail Junior Ranger program launched on National Trails Day 2021. Participants and host sites have reported high engagement. As kids fill-in-the-blanks, they’re learning about tribal homelands. As they decode messages, they’re seeing expedition members’ diverse backgrounds and skills. This innovative, accessible program is showing kids that the Lewis and Clark Trail story is for everyone—just as planned.