Every once in awhile I come across a program so amazing that I am thankful that I have a soapbox to stand on and tell everyone about it! If you haven’t heard of the Explorer’s Program offered by Parks Canada listen up, this is by far one of the most educational and fun programs my kids have ever been a part of!

 

The Parks Canada Xplorers Program is offered in our National Parks. When you arrive at the gates (or at a visitors center) you can ask for a Xplorers book for each of your children. These books are custom to each National Park and the activities are specifically designed to educate children 6 – 12 years on the park’s geography, local animals and species, Aboriginal cultures and traditions, arts and crafts, special places of interest, and more!

The goal is that the books will encourage children to experience and learn about as many different things in the park as possible. The average book has approximately 12 pages and children need to complete at least 5 of the activities to be awarded their “Xplorers Badge.” I asked my kids what their favorite parts of the program were and here’s what they had to say:

“You get your own booklet”

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Playing in the ancient clay at Kootnay National Park

When we arrive at a National Park the kids ask for their booklets before we’ve even checked in. As soon as we arrive at our camp we focus on unpacking while the kids rip through their books and plan out our next couple of days. They love choosing which activities that they want to do, what shows they want to see, what arts and craft classes they want to attend, and what animals we have to be on the lookout for.

“You learn about animals and the outdoors”

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My son was asked to be a part of an animal demonstration at Kootnay National Park.

I LOVE that each booklet is designed for the park that we are in. The booklets feature activities that are specific to the animals that live there. So whether we’re looking for animal tracks, doing an educational activity on how they keep animals safe, playing eye spy, or attending a play about what animals do when wildfires happen, it’s clear that educating children about these amazing species is of utmost importance in our National Parks.

 

“You feel like you’re camping with lots of other people”

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The kids were filming a real parks educational video as one of the evening programs! They worked with the interpreter to film certain scenes and then he pulled it all together into a first class video! They kids LOVED it!

The Park’s Interpretive programs happen throughout the parks and bring together large groups of people for an activity. The kids loved that it was an opportunity to meet other children and the program was able to do a variety of different things because there was so many people to take part in the activities.

 

“You get to go to events”

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We were invited to a Cadleigh in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. We loved how they combined education, history, and music into one very entertaining show.

When I saw this on her list I literally started laughing. “You mean you HAVE to go to events?” Our days were literally planned around whatever was happening in the park and whatever it took to earn their Parks Explorations Program. The kids LOVED checking out the day schedules and telling us what we “HAD” to go to. 

 

“There are lots of activities”

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Here the kids are in the Fortress of Louisbourg learning how to be children of the 18th century. Their task of the day, learn how to cut up and prepare fish. No fish were injured in this demonstration, they had large fabric ones with wooden knives for the kids to practice on!

Our days are literally planned around the Park’s Interpretive programs (which you can earn credits for completing). As a family, we LOVE the programs as they are high quality (no dollar store crafts here) entertaining, and engaging for all of us!

 

“We learn how to build Tipis”

Tipi building in Jasper National Park

Tipi building in Jasper National Park! Hands on and everyone gets a turn!

I’m glad that my children decided that this was one of their trip highlights. After watching a play another park interpretive program popped up and the kids were taught how to make tipis. Not only were they educated on the physical structure building, but they learned about the traditional Aboriginal beliefs and reasons behind such things like why the doors always face East.

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My kids got each got their own drum to beat along to in the rum circle.

After they completed their tipi building they took part in a drum circle! So cool!

“WE get to do things”

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My kids love that the parks programs are all hands on, meaning they get to be the ones with the equipment and learning how to do things. (As parents we love it too)

When we took part in the Geocaching program the children were each given their own GPS and taught how to use it. The Parks Interpreters had put together 6 different cache’s for us to find, each with their own challenging question inside. After we had completed the course we all came together and then went through the questions and learnt a lot about the park.

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The kids learning how to GeoCache as part of a Parks Explorations Program.

I love that the kids get to get hands on with their learning. All of their programs are very engaging which as we know is the best way for kids to learn!

 

“We got to see animal skulls”

Geocaching in Kootenay National Park

Most parks that we’ve been to have their own hands on displays featuring animal furs, skulls, teeth, and bones. From whales to sheep, we’ve seen it all, and it’s a great way for the kids to learn about the animals that are native to each park.

When I say these programs are quality I mean HIGH quality! The Parks interpreters bring along animal skulls, furs, horns and give children a hands on experience with who the native animals are, what they are like, what they eat, how they live. The Interpreters also explain how all of the animals that they have today are because of human interaction, such as being hit by a car so the emphasis on preventative ways we can protect animals is also emphasized. (Such as not feeding the bears)

 

“You earn dog tags”

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Some parks have a very “serious” swearing in ceremony, where you say an oath that you will protect our National Parks. It’s pretty cute that they take it so seriously… minus the PJ attire!

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These badges of honor truly represent our Parks Canada Road Trips. We now have collected 13 badges and they are the kids greatest treasure! These are the only souvineers we come home with!

Once you’ve completed your workbook you have to take it to a Parks Staff member and they check through your work and test you on what you’ve learnt. Then you complete a special National Parks Promise (that is equally awesome) and the children are awarded their Parks Xplorer Dog Tags. My kids have earned three so far and have no intention of stopping anytime soon! “Where’s the closest national park to home Mom?”

The BEST part? It’s all FREE

Yes, the Parks Xplorers Program is free as is ALL of the park’s interpretive programs! So when we roll into camp in a National Park all we have to pay for is our stay and our food as education and entertainment are all included!

Are you ready to plan your National Parks visit? Choose your location with my “Glamping in Canada” article or see why I think our National Parks Are The New 5 Star Camping Experience
Happy Xploring!