Saving Centsably: Earning badges from the state parks

July 2, 2014 

Last week I told you about several ways you can save money while visiting any of the Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites throughout the state.

In addition to their everyday activities, there are also special events and Junior Ranger camps during the summer.

You can learn more about these activities by visiting the State Park Service website at www.georgiastateparks.org. Search to find a campground or historic site near you. Or, look to find one that is not located near you -- and then expand your horizons and visit an area of Georgia you’ve never seen before.

While you are going, take your children or grandchildren and learn about the great outdoors. There are several free programs the Georgia State Park Service has that will help you learn and teach the next generation about nature.

For example, the Junior Ranger program, sponsored by the Georgia State Park Service, allows children and teens to earn three different badges by completing activities.

Identifying trees and leaves, learning about animal dropping and tracks, learning how to fish and how to know whether the fish you caught should be kept or released -- and so much more -- can be learned using the Junior Ranger workbooks. Simply request a Junior Ranger workbook the next time you visit a state park.

The activities have varying degrees of difficulty, and of course earning the third level badge requires a little more work than earning the first level badge. But for basic outdoors knowledge, look into the Junior Ranger program.

To claim the Junior Ranger badges for your child or grandchild, mail the completed activities to the address in the book or have a state park ranger personally look over the work, discuss some of the activities with your child and award the badge right there in the park.

This makes a great photo opportunity and a lasting memory for you all.

While there are other badges and awards to earn with the Georgia Park service for activities such as biking, hiking, climbing and geo-caching with the Canyon Climbers Club, Muddy Spokes Club, Park Paddlers Club, Geocaching Challenges or the RV Club, the newest badge is my new favorite.

Earlier this spring, I discovered the opportunity for my children (and my husband and I) to earn the 150th Anniversary Civil War badge from the Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites.

To earn the limited edition Civil War badge, print the booklet available online at the State Parks’ website, then get to work.

Learn about the civil war by visiting the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers.

Plan a trip to Andersonville National Historic site, home to a prison where Union soldiers were held. Learn about slavery by visiting any one of the plantations that are part of the park system.

Take time to watch some of Ken Burns’ “Civil War” series. Visit your library to read books about the time period.

In addition, during 2014 and 2015 there will be several re-enactments throughout Georgia to commemorate the battles that took place here in Georgia.

Earn your free Civil War badge while brushing up on your American (and Southern) history. You may be surprised what you forgot or never even learned in the first place.

The Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites really do offer affordable family fun -- activities such as hiking, biking, walking, running, fishing, canoeing, etc. -- while at the same time giving families the opportunity to learn.

Combining education and fun while remaining affordable to families is just one of the reasons our family really does enjoy the park service here in Georgia.

We’ll be claiming our Civil War badge this month -- what about you?

Rachael J. Mercer is a freelance writer and coupon workshop instructor living in McDonough. Contact her at savingcentsably@gmail.com.

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