Spring 2024 Issue:


No Junior Ranger

Caitlin Campbell ’13 may serve Junior Rangers as an interpretation engagement coordinator for the National Park Service, but her award-winning work is superior.

No Junior Ranger

By Jeff Csatari, Spring 2024

You can call it a “Smokey the Bear Hat.” But the iconic broad-rimmed campaign hat with the “lemon squeezer” profile worn by National Park Service employees is affectionately known to rangers as the “flat hat.”

When Caitlin Campbell ’13 puts on the flat hat to complete her ranger uniform, she sometimes feels the need to pinch herself. “I’m in a kind of dream job,” she says, something she had vague aspirations for way back in high school.

“The service part of the National Park Service is something I feel really deeply and passionately about when I put on the uniform,” says the 10-year veteran of the federal bureau in the Department of the Interior. “We’re at our best in the National Park Service when we’re truly meeting our dual mission of working for the places we protect and working for the public that we are protecting these places for.”

Campbell is an interpretation engagement coordinator for the National Park Service’s Interpretation, Education, and Volunteers directorate. The Moravian University grad is clearly one of the agency’s best and brightest stars, having recently been honored with the Freeman Tildan Individual Award for Excellence in Interpretation.

She earned the accolade for creating the Lewis and Clark Trail Junior Ranger Program, consisting of a 16-page activity journal that she wrote, illustrated, and designed as well as read-along videos, native names audio clips, and a braille trail map. The program, which took her a year-and-a-half to complete, is offered at 34 locations in 16 states along the 4,900-mile trail from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to the Pacific Ocean, commemorating the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804 to 1806.

How do you tell the Lewis and Clark story, the subject of hundreds of books, and honor the contributions of African Americans, indigenous people, and women and make it fun for kids all in just 16 pages?

I met a professor on the trail who told me about the career of interpretation—communicating about science, nature, and history for the public. That was the spark to come to Moravian and pursue environmental work but from the perspective of communication.”

—Caitlin Campbell ’13

Well, you hire Campbell for the job. See, “Caiti” Campbell was already well versed in the Junior Ranger initiative. She had been an interpreter ranger for more than 10 years, much of that time spent as a field interpreter at visitor centers at national parks around the country. A field interpreter is someone whose goal is to inform and inspire, creating an emotional connection between the parks, the trails, and natural resources for visitors, especially the young ones. Campbell has given the official Junior Ranger pledge and badge to thousands of kids over the years. And with publication-design skills honed in art classes at Moravian, Campbell had already produced 10 Junior Ranger guidebooks for various other national parks. She was perfect for the monumental task.

With so much to cover, Campbell decided to focus on underrepresented topics like the critical importance of tribes to the exhibition’s success and the diversity of the Lewis and Clark team. “I didn’t want kids to bury their face in a history book. I wanted it to be an interactive gateway to connect them to the place they were visiting.”

Campbell self-designed her major at Moravian, focusing on her passions of environmental science and graphic design. She grew up in Ocean County, New Jersey, and attended a vocational high school, the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science. In the summers, she netted blue claw crabs in Barnegat Bay and volunteered for the Student Conservation Association, which gave her a first taste of park service life.

“I was a kid from New Jersey who had never been in California before, hiking in Redwood National Park among some of the biggest living creatures on planet Earth, the redwoods,” she says. “I met a professor on the trail who told me about the career of interpretation—communicating about science, nature, and history for the public,” she recalls. “That was the spark to come to Moravian and pursue environmental work but from the perspective of communication.”

She interned at national parks during the summers while at Moravian and was snapped up by the park service following graduation. One of her most memorable posts was a stint at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Southeast Alaska, a park so remote there was not even a dock that could accommodate the cruise ships in Glacier Bay. The rangers had to steer a 30-foot pilot boat out to cruise ships and then climb a rope ladder onto the deck to do programming all day.

“That was an absolute profound experience,” Campbell recalls. “You had to learn to take all of the love you have for a place like Glacier Bay and pour your heart out to thousands of people and make a plea for how special this place is and why it needs protecting.”

Campbell says it was emotionally draining work, but so very rewarding. And it made her even more proud to wear her ranger’s flat hat.

No Junior Ranger

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