Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area

Just For Kids

Be A Junior Ranger

What is a junior ranger?

A junior ranger attends ranger programs, completes activities in a workbook, and promises to take care of Boston Harbor Islands. It is a great way to learn and have fun in the park. When you are a junior ranger, you can teach others how to care for nature.

How do you become a junior ranger?
Before your arrival to the park, download the entire Junior Ranger booklet and bring it to the islands. Complete activities in the booklet and attend a ranger program. Then, take the completed booklet to any National Park Service ranger who will check your answers, sign your booklet and give you an official Boston Harbor Islands Junior Ranger pin. You can take it home and show all your friends!

Plan A Field Trip: Site Selection

The island you choose to visit depends upon the lesson plan you have selected. Each island within the park offers a variety of natural and cultural settings, and learning opportunities.
Questions to consider when determining which island to visit include:

  • Will the educational experience focus on salt marsh ecology? If so, Thompson Island is a good choice.
  • Is your class studying intertidal invertebrates? Lovells Island provides excellent intertidal areas.
  • Would you like the students to explore a rocky intertidal area or lighthouse history? Outer Brewster may be the island for you.
  • Is your class studying the Civil War? If so Fort Warren on Georges Island will provide a unique expedition to a period coastal fort and Confederate prison

If the objective of the expedition is to focus on coastal or intertidal ecosystems, it is recommended the arrival to the island is scheduled to coincide with low tide. Consult a

tide table

or an

education ranger

to determine the appropriate time and date to visit the island.


Tides occurring during a full and new moon are the lowest tides of the month, providing excellent opportunities for exploring sand flats or rocky intertidal zones. The intertidal zones have the best opportunities for students to examine invertebrates, mollusks and bivalves, as well as marine algae found at the outermost limit of the intertidal zone. In contrast, high tides offer the best opportunity to discuss coastal processes, such as wave dynamics, dune propagation, and coastal deposition and erosion.

Other factors to consider when selecting an island include:

  • Safety – Are there hazards such as steep inclines, slippery intertidal rocks, sharp objects such as shellfish or metal or glass? It is essential that all participants wear footwear.
  • Special Needs – Do you require arrangements to accommodate special needs students?An eight person electric vehicle is available at Spectacle Island to meet the needs of your students. Island staff is available to operate the vehicle but prior arrangement must be made. Arrangements can be made by calling the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Boston Harbor Islands Visitor Services Coordinator at (781) 740-1605. 

Plan A Field Trip: Trip Preparation

There are a several things to remember before you come to the park and on the day of your island expedition that will make your experience at Boston Harbor Islands more enjoyable.

Planning Your Expedition

  • Become familiar with emergency contact information. Prepare a list of emergency contacts to carry with you while on island. Contact information should include the bus driver on mainland. Cell phone reception is available on several islands.
  • Plan for emergencies by:
    • Designating a predetermined meeting place should a student become separated the from group.
    • Bring a well stocked first aid kit.
    • Inform the students about the importance of bringing drinking water, sunscreen, insect repellant, etc.
    • Remind students footwear is required at all times while on the island, including when walking on the beach or in tidepools.
    • Remind students that swimming or wading is not allowed due to currents.
  • Prepare and review a list of what students should wear. List should be seasonally appropriate. If you are unsure of what type of clothing to bring, please call NPS staff for assistance.
  • If appropriate, remind students to bring a lunch, and don’t forget to factor lunchtime into the overall expedition timeframe.

Day of the Expedition

  • Make final check of the weather and confirm that the expedition has not been canceled for a weather related reason.
  • Confirm vessel departure time and location with company representative on telephone.
  • Schedule arrival time at departure location one half-hour prior to scheduled departure time. Inform the vessel operator and captain of your arrival time, and review any last minute changes to the itinerary.  
  • Confirm arrival time on mainland with bus driver and ensure pickup in a timely fashion.

Arriving at the Site Location

  • Introduce yourself to the DCR or National Park Service ranger to ask any questions you may have. The ranger will also:
    • Address safety issues such as the importance of staying on designated trails.
    • Highlight the island environment and habitat.
    • Discuss island etiquette and environmental stewardship, such as Leave No Trace
    • Describe how to use the Clivus compost toilets (applicable only on Spectacle and Georges Island)
    • Confirm meeting and departure time and location with teachers and chaperones. 
    • Have a copy of your DCR Recreational Use Permit available at all times.

For Kids & Youth

Junior Rangers
Are you planning a visit to Boston Harbor Islands? Do you want to have fun while learning about the plants, animals, rocks, and history of the park? If so, you should Be A Junior Ranger. It is an exciting way for kids of all ages to explore the park's natural and historical wonders.

Island Ambassadors
Island Ambassadors provides leadership development and career bridging opportunities for Boston youth. The program includes environmental education activities, stewardship projects, NPS office internships, career exploration, and summer employment.

Island Ambassadors began as part of Boston’s Environmental Ambassadors to National Parks (BEAN), an after school program, plus an initiative to provide students from Odyssey High School in South Boston with summer employment in parks. The program is conducted cooperatively by NPS and Island Alliance.

Plan A Field Trip: Departure Locations

Vessel transportation is available from the following locations:

With the exception of Pemberton Point, all vessel departure locations range from a few feet to a quarter-mile from the closest public transportation. If needed, each departure location offers nearby parking for a fee with the exception of Columbia Point, located on the University of Massachusetts - Boston campus. Parking at Columbia Point may be arranged by contacting the campus police.

Should none of these departure locations prove suitable, a more convenient departure location might be arranged with the ferry company for an additional fee.

Trip Tip!: When planning your expedition don't forget to factor in travel time to and from the mainland departure location! In general, factor four hours for a roundtrip expedition to your island destination.

Trip Tip!: It's a good idea to begin your expedition planning by working backwards. Things to consider include: what time you want to be back at school; what time the students need to be picked up for transport home; or what time your school bus needs to be available to transport students from school to home at end of day.