* Ranger Rick vs. Nat Geo Kids

If you have any elementary or middle school kiddos, the annual fundraising events have finally ended.  When trying to decide between wrapping paper, cookie dough, or magazine subscriptions, I prefer magazines.  I have been receiving Ranger Rick and National Geographic (Nat Geo) Kids for a while, although I’ve not renewed my Nat Geo Kids subscription.  As a special ed teacher, my money is on Ranger Rick, but their websites are another story.

Why do I prefer the Ranger Rick magazine?  While Nat Geo is visually grabbing and covers a wide range of topics, it reminds me of twenty second ads: short, sweet, and not too deep.  A two-page spread is the limit.  Ranger Rick has the visual grab but also depth, probably a function of its founding organization, The National Wildlife Federation.  Each monthly Ranger Rick features comprehensive articles on animals, such as a six page intro to the world of tarantulas.  There are also ongoing comic adventures featuring Rick and his friends learning about animals and nature, plus opportunities for kids to give feedback (post jokes, caption photos, and letter writing in response to questions).  Ranger Rick rounds out each issue with a few pages of animal-related games and puzzles.  Teacher resource guides for each issue are available online.  I especially like the use of guided activities to help kids get the most out of each issue.

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This is NOT Ranger Rick, who is copyrighted out the wazoo.  He’s just turned 50!!  That tells you something about the quality of the magazine.

Here’s the scoop on their respective online features.  Starting with Nat Geo Kids, you’ll find online depth that isn’t in the magazine.  From a terrific encyclopedia to huge entries on every major animal family, there’s a lot to explore.  For kids, Nat Geo online features informative articles, games, videos, and opportunities to earn badges and submit photos.  It looks like they have taken cool content from various National Geographic publications and used it on their site.  There’s a link for educators with teaching units for ages 3 to 18+.  They cover topics from child development to general science to biology (and more).  Of course, their photos and videos are hallmark National Geographic: fantastic!  Bookmark National Geographic for terrific FREE online resources.

What about Ranger Rick’s online offerings?  They are excellent and FREE, as well, with a narrower focus.  The Ranger Rick magazine has two versions for younger kiddos: Ranger Rick Jr. and Ranger Rick Cub.  The site is divided into sections for kids (by magazine/age and games), along with special features for families, parents, and educators.  The focus is on wildlife, obviously, so online teacher resources include the National Wildlife Federation’s focus on animals and the environment.  I do wish the major sections opened in separate links, but otherwise, navigation is fine.

Well, that covers last year’s fund-raising purchases; after a couple of months, I might compare Boy’s Life and Chickadee!  Money, money, money!

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