The Junior Ranger Program from the St Eustatius National Parks Foundation returns as a 2-year program that started September 2023 and will continue to November 2025. We invite students from Groups 7 to Form 2 (10 to 13 years old) to go on a 4-semester journey: JR1 – Nature, JR2 – Nature and Humans, JR3 – Conservation and Advocacy, and JR4 – Ranger Apprenticeship. The hands-on experiences provide the youth with visual and practical nature education that does not feel like another classroom. The renewal of this impactful program is possible thanks to support from Blue Marine Foundation and the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance.
The nine STENAPA Junior Rangers meet weekly, either on a weekday for an hour-long session or on the weekend for a longer adventure.
During our first session, they were encouraged to share what they considered nature to be and how many aspects of nature they could name. They ended with a game of nature bingo, where they searched for different natural elements around the STENAPA Yard and use resource books to identify certain plants and animals.
Sea turtles crawl onto our beaches for their annual nesting season. Green sea turtles started nesting at the Zeelandia and Turtle Beach from August. For their second session, our Junior Rangers visited Zeelandia Beach to have a go at Triangulation – a method used to find a specific spot on a beach. In this case, a sea turtle nest. Sea turtles attempt to hide their nest when they leave, so we honour their intent and use measurements from stakes placed 20 metres apart on the beach to know where that nest was located, instead of marking them. This year’s STENAPA Turtle Intern joined the session to tell us more about these incredible creatures and answer some of our questions.
The children continued their investigation of Statia’s marine ecosystem during the following session with a snorkel treasure hunt along the coral wall and nearby patch reefs, while practicing their snorkeling skills. They observed and spotted various species of fish, corals, sea turtles and more. The Junior Ranger will continue to practice these snorkeling skills in future sessions, allowing for an even better exploration of this underwater ecosystem.
Tropical Storm Phillipe guided us indoors for our fourth session. After a brief explanation of the various shapes and marks of fish, and how they can be used to identify the groups and species, we brought out the games! These games helped them practice identification and more. The games included a fish puzzle (‘Can you rebuild the fish?’), memory game & snaps (match the juvenile to the adult form – they do not look the same), another memory game of commercial fish, and a modified game of ‘Guess Who’. The session ended with a game of ‘scuba sign’ charades.
“It has been encouraging to see how enthusiastic the Junior Rangers are with their weekly activities. The experiences and memories will remain with them wherever their path takes them”, shared Achsah Mitchell, the Education and Outreach Officer.
The program continues with weekly sessions, starting with a bird watching tour on St Eustatius. Other topics will include an investigation of nature along our western shores, iguanas, and other reptiles, insects, and a hike in the Quill. Junior Ranger 1 ends with a ‘graduation’ barbecue. The program resumes with Junior Ranger 2 in March 2024 with the same cohort.
The Junior Ranger program extends beyond the children within each cohort and impacts children in other youth nature education opportunities. The activities and games created are available for our upcoming Youth Camp during the summer and our sessions with the after-school programs.