Autumn is just around the corner. It is a season that begs for hiking, climbing, exploring, and adventuring outdoors. Luckily, as a homeschool family, we have the opportunity to spend our fall days gallivanting in the wilderness as much as we would like. Because of this, I am constantly looking for new ways to link our educational experience with our outdoor excursions. I recently had the opportunity to interview Mary Dalheim, the Editorial Director of Ranger Rick magazine. Join our conversation about using this Ranger Rick as a tool in your own homeschool study of the great outdoors.
Homeschool.com: Ranger Rick Magazine has been with us since 1967, I believe. Tell us a little about how the magazine came to be, what it held as its mission, and how that has evolved into what is available today.
Mary Dalheim: Since 1967, Ranger Rick magazine has been read and loved by tens of millions of American children, many of whom are today’s parents, and some are even grandparents. With an average one to two million child readers per year spread over 46 years, there are some 30 million Americans (10% of the public) whose reading skill, interest in wildlife, and positive attitude toward conservation have been nourished by Ranger Rick.
It all started with the January 1967 issue of what was first called Ranger Rick’s Nature Magazine, and since then, America’s favorite raccoon has hosted more than 500 magazine issues! Along the way, the magazine’s publisher, National Wildlife Federation, shortened the name to Ranger Rick. But the publication’s mission has remained the same: to inspire in young people a greater understanding and love of the natural world, as well as a lasting commitment to environmental stewardship. Each issue is packed with fascinating facts, world-class wildlife photos, and the kinds of outdoor and animal stories that change a child’s appreciation for and relationship with nature.
Ranger Rick magazine is designed for ages 7 through 11. But in 2012, the Ranger Rick brand introduced Ranger Rick Jr., a print magazine specially designed for 4- to 7-year-olds. This magazine uses wildlife photos, colorful illustrations, and simple, easy-to-follow text to introduce young children to the world of animals. A brand new character, Ricky Raccoon, guides children through the pages of Ranger Rick Jr., helping them to think further about what they learn and observe. (Ricky also has his own app called Ranger Rick Jr.’s Appventures—Lions.)
Also in 2012, National Wildlife Federation launched a highly interactive digital magazine called Ranger Rick’s Tree House. This is for tech-savvy kids in the 7-to-11 age range. Designed for use on the iPad, Tree House re-envisions how children read and consume magazine-like content on digital devices. Picture an electronic version of Ranger Rick’s tree-house home. Inside are rooms packed with animal videos, comic adventures, multi-level games, and goofy jokes—as well as interactive wildlife articles, photos, and animations. That’s Ranger Rick’s Tree House! It’s truly awesome—a real twenty-first century magazine for kids!
Homescool.com: What can kids expect to learn from Ranger Rick Magazine?
Mary Dalheim: It’s no secret that Ranger Rick magazine captivates kids. But the magazine is more than just fun. It’s also a great tool for building conceptual science understanding and nonfiction reading skills. The mix of narratives, science facts, and questions in Ranger Rick’s editorial framing make it ideal for teaching information literacy in addition to core reading skills.
Homeschool.com: Would you encourage parents to use Ranger Rick Magazine as part of a homeschool study? How would you envision that working?
Mary Dalheim: Absolutely! For every issue of Ranger Rick magazine, we provide a free online educational guide designed for classroom teachers and homeschooling parents to use with children. The guide includes activity ideas and student pages that enrich the issue’s key teaching opportunities. All are tied to national curriculum standards. See the Guide here. You’ll find other educational resources there as well.
Homeschool.com: What would you encourage kids to do, beyond reading your magazine, to become more involved in protecting and preserving their environment? What is their “next step?”
Mary Dalheim: We have some wonderful resources on our website that homeschool parents can take advantage of in this regard: For Educators, Connecting Kids and Nature, and Programs for connecting kids with nature.
Homeschool.com: Is there anything else you would like to share with our homeschooling community about the work you are doing?
Mary Dalheim: When I tell adults I’m the Editorial Director of Ranger Rick magazine, faces light up and the testimonials flow . . .
“Ranger Rick? Ranger Rick was my favorite thing as a kid! I would carry around issues until they were tatty.”
“I read Ranger Rick when I was growing up. I’m a forest ecologist now. Is that a coincidence? I don’t think so!”
“My grandpa gave me a subscription 25 years ago. I have wonderful memories of sharing those magazines with him. Now my daughter gets Ranger Rick, and I’m making new ‘wonderful memories’ with her.”
What more could a magazine editor ask for than to be part of something that for more than 46 years has generated so much love and joy? And as you can see from these responses, the magazine has also helped form the foundation for many lifelong connections to wildlife and the natural world.
We are happy to share that Ranger Rick Magazine is offering an exclusive subscription discount for Homeschool.com readers. Use this link to save $5 off a subscription. That is only $1.50 an issue. Thanks Ranger Rick!