During summer, spring and Thanksgiving breaks from school, Aida Frey and her parents go on road trips, which have national parks and historic sites as destinations.
While at the parks and historic sites, Frey picks up activity books that have questions about the park that help youngsters learn more during their visits. When they’re complete, park rangers give the kids junior park ranger badges.
During the past three years, the family has visited 164 parks and historic sites, such as Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace in Kentucky, Yellowstone National Park and Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park. Frey has earned about 200 badges, which she keeps on a few vests.
Frey recently spoke with reporter Joseph Bustos about her involvement in the Junior Ranger program.
Bustos: How did you get involved with the Junior Ranger program?
Frey: We went to Effigy Mounds [in Iowa] and there was a nice ranger there, and they asked me if I wanted to do one of these books. The books ask you questions about the park, and you go around and look for the answers.
When you’re done, you give it to the rangers. They’ll grade it for you and give you a badge.
Bustos: Is it something to keep your attention while going though the park?
Frey: It’s like a behind the scenes thing over there. You try to look for a specific thing that you might not pay attention to while you’re just looking at the exhibits. You learn more by doing this.
Bustos: That sounds like a fun thing to do when you’re 9 or 10 years old. You’re 13 years old now. Why have you kept up with it?
Frey: I like how I get to meet people and all these rangers get to help me complete the book. I like learning more about the park and what the park is about.
Bustos: What’s your favorite location you’ve been to?
Frey: That’s a hard question, because each park is so special to me and I learn something different at every park. ... I just love all of them.
Bustos: What’s one park or historic site that you want to go to?
Frey: I want to go to Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and I want to visit the Liberty Bell. There’s a lot of history over there.
Bustos: If I grabbed a random book out of there and I quizzed you, how well would you do?
Frey: Because we’ve been to so many, I get confused sometimes, but I think I can pass it. Like the caves I get confused, because we’ve been to three of them. I know Mammoth Caves is the biggest one.
Bustos: How do you decide where you’re going?
Frey: We all sit as a family, and we all try to figure out where can we hit the most parks. But we all try to do something to help each other out.
Bustos: Do you wear these vests regularly?
Frey: Yes, but it hurts after 15 minutes because it’s so heavy. ... If the rangers are really cool, and there’s more than usual, we bring the vests over.
Bustos: Do you interact with other junior rangers when you’re at the parks?
Frey: Yes. They ask me the same questions. “How many have you been to, how many do you have?” I’ve helped one with their book.
Bustos: You were featured in a video for the parks’ service. What was that like? Why did you shoot the video?
Frey: They saw me. It was the superintendent [of Richmond Battlefield National Park], and he was really impressed, and he wanted to interview me.
Bustos: What do you want to do when you grow up?
Frey: I’m hoping to be a superintendent for a park, or be the director of the National Park Service.
It seems like an interesting job. I would like to make more parks for people to enjoy.