The Junior Forest Ranger (JFR) program is an exciting way for young people to explore their national forests and grasslands.  The Cradle of Forestry in America heritage site is nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains and is a great place to enjoy nature education, hiking trails, and a day of family fun! The JFR program uses Forest Service science and practices to encourage girls and boys ages 8 to 12 to enjoy and appreciate nature. Programs run weekly on Thursdays between June 18 and August 6, from 10:30am to 12:00pm. Caregivers are not required to attend but are always welcome. Pre-Registration is required. 

Program Info

  • Each Thursday Junior Foresters will investigate and explore the outdoors, learning about a range of topics from forestry, forest sciences, outdoor ethics and stewardship. 
  • Each child receives a Junior Forester booklet and badge upon taking the “Conservation Pledge” at the end of the program. Children can come to one or all eight programs!  
  • Parents with younger children can sign up for our Woodsy Owl’s Curiosity Club ages 4 to 7 which takes place at the same time as the Jr. Forester program. 
  • The program cost $5 per child and $3 for any accompanying adult.

Program Topics: Scientists of the Forest

June 18 – Herpetology: If it’s slimy and scaly, chances are a herpetologist knows what it is!  Slither on in to learn all about reptiles and amphibians, what their differences are, their life cycles, how to identify some of them and where to find them!

June 25 – Ichthyology: Icky what?  Ichthyology!  The study of fish!  Our mountain waterways are home to a variety of fish that some people may not even know exist.  Through hands-on activities and games, children will get to know some of our WNC species of fish, the parts of a stream, and all about stream habitat.

July 2 – Dendrology: Make like a tree and branch out with this program that teaches basic tree identification using a dichotomous key, invasive species and the different uses and benefits of trees.

July 9 – Entomology: Can you handle creepy crawlies?  Insects are a vital part of the ecosystem, and in this program, children get hands-on in exploring a number of habitats and the varying insects that can be found in each one.

July 16 – Chiropterology: They squeak and swoop through our night skies, they’re bats, man!  Learn why bats are so valuable to humans, the reason why so many bat species are in decline, and how scientists and technicians capture bats in order to study them.

July 23 – Mycology: The fungus is always among us.  Join in as we hit the trail in search of these wildly colorful and diverse ‘shrooms, slimes and molds.  Children will learn the anatomy of a mushroom, their important role in the ecosystem, and how to make spore prints in order to help identify mushrooms.

July 30 – Mammalogy: Through tracks, trail cams, scat, and other scientific methods, mammologists study and learn about our furry forest friends: mammals – and so will we!

August 6 – Hydrology: The study of water and its movement on Earth.  Through guided hands-on activities and crafts, children will learn about the importance of watersheds, the water cycle, and where their own water comes from.

What To Bring

Some light hiking will take place during these programs, so the following items are recommended for children and accompanying adults to wear and/or bring: 

  • Sturdy, close-toed shoes 
  • Small backpack 
  • Sunscreen 
  • Water bottle 
  • Raincoat 


Not able to attend one of our summer programs? The Cradle of Forestry now offers a Junior Forester booklet for the site. Fill out the activities and return to front desk to receive a certificate and badge.

Download the pdf