Here’s how the Junior Ranger program is impacting kids

Get kids moving, learning, and having fun without leaving home

We're getting to that part of the summer when some kids cry out, "mom, dad, I'm so bored, there's nothing to do." But Local 4 has found there's actually plenty to do without ever leaving the house. We found the secret to a never-ending field trip.

SHELBY TOWNSHIP, Mich. – It’s that time of year when summer has lost its bloom for many children, and you hear those dreaded words, “mom, dad, I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.”

Not so, as there’s now plenty to do.

How about experiencing Michigan’s rich history and attractions and immersing yourself in a never-ending field trip without ever leaving the house?

We know gas prices are going down steadily, but driving around is still a pretty penny, and there’s so much to see. And so we’re going to show you and your kids how to dive into your laptop to find cool stuff, stop the kids from complaining for hours on end, and get lost in Michigan without getting lost at all.

You could live in the Detroit area for a lifetime and not experience as much as you will on your way to becoming a Junior Ranger with the MotorCities National Heritage Area.

The bright idea is to get kids moving, learning, and having fun without leaving the house.

“We curated a collection of automotive resources, fun videos, and stories that would illuminate some of the names that you’ve heard,” said Brian Yopp of MotorCities National Heritage Area. “So, if you’ve heard of Henry Ford or David Buick and Billy Durant, you’ll learn more about them and understand why their names are so important. Why do we drive a Cadillac car today? It’s because of these people that have actually lived.”

14-year-old Sophie Moore was a trusted advisor to building the program and a chief beta tester.

“My grandfather was making the website, and he wanted me to beta test it basically,” said Moore. “He wanted me to go through to see if there were any problems, issues, or anything that really stood out to me. So I went through all of the sites with him in his office, and I basically told him what was working and what didn’t work. What I think could improve some areas, so it was easier for kids to access first.”

The tours can take you all over Michigan, and you can experience fun stuff in various ways.

We thought the Piquette Plant’s 3-D tour was the most fascinating because you can actually walk the building virtually as if you’re actually there, learn about cars and the people who built them, and see the cracks in the floor, it’s so realistic you can almost touch everything.

Sophie says it’s this interactive quality that will really engage children.

“So you would go through and print this out on a sheet, color it with crayons where things are,” Moore said. “You answer the questions like, ‘what’s an automaker from MotorCities and what’s in the famous building?’ This is exciting to them because they can see what all of these cars look like. ‘Like, why did the 1920′s car look like this? This is interesting because it looks different.’ And also it’s because the kids think they look cool.”

So, you can color on the map, visit websites, read data, watch videos, self-guide yourself with whatever interests you most; or try new stuff at the Yankee Air Museum in Belleville, Stahls Automotive Foundation in Chesterfield, or the Michigan Firehouse Museum in Ypsilanti.

MotorCities partners with 50 locations in 16 counties.

The goal is to engage in the interactive exercises, submit them and then get your Junior Ranger status.

If kids see something they like, parents can certainly take them in person, but even with gas prices dropping, you can’t possibly get this much fun done in so many locations for the price, which is absolutely free.

Click here to visit the site.

About the Authors:

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's a Peace Corps alum who spent her early childhood living in Sierra Leone, West Africa and Tanzania and East Africa.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.