Monthly Archives: May 2012

Staff learning from staff

Most of our career as interpreters is spent trying to become better at what we do, attending conferences, reading books, joining professional organizations, etc.

We have all seen exhibits, gone to places or attended interpretive programs that “wow” you, a lot of people have done research about the “wow” factor and make sure that we have those emotional connections. There plenty of tools and techniques out there to learn and share but for me observing others is my way to learn.

Mentors by assignment or by accident are great; they will share most of the time their experiences and you can watch them at their best. Throughout my short career as interpreter I have observed other around me and they may not know this but they have become mentors to me. Shadowing staff, supervisors, or other interpreters have shaped my career and this is how I learned most of the tricks of the trade.

I have spent the past few months with my Department Director as part of a mentoring program. The experience has been one of the best I have had. Being able to informally train with my bosses boss (my grand boss according to my wife) has been extremely educational and enjoyable.

Whenever possible find a mentor or start a mentoring program at your site. You will get “Quarterback stars” before you know it.

Watch the video on the link below and share with others who are your mentors and what have you learned from them.

QB Mentoring – from ESPN

Happy Trails,


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Begin again, Continue On

Being a Volunteer Coordinator as my primary duty, I find myself becoming detached from the field of interpretation.  Only during a handful of days in the summer, do I actually become a frontline interpreter again.  As such, I need that occasional reminder of what we do as interpreters.

Sometimes reviewing the basics of interpretation is necessary, no matter how long you have been an interpreter.  Sometimes our job duties change, as did mine, or we become complacent in our Interpretive duties.

Just recently, there has been an update to the National Park Service’s Interpretive Development Program. Although much of the information is primarily geared towards Park Rangers, some of the resources are available to anyone in the interpretive field looking to review the basics or continue their education.

One such resource is the online courses through Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands.  There are several categories, including Interpretation, that have a few free courses available.  One free program is an essential competency for almost all interpreters, Foundations of Interpretation.
After the course, I’m now energized and ready to staff the Info Desk and take folks on guided walks. If you already reviewed the basics and are curious to know what’s the next course of action in your interpretive education/career, consider the Park Service Competency Table as a guideline.  Some of the interpretive competencies are in Eppley Institutes’ catalog.

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Noctilio: an Education, Research and Interpretation Project about the Fisherman Bat in Puerto Rico

Why interpreting bats? Because they live in our forests and are part of our biodiversity and most importantly there are many stories to tell.

We like to present NOCTILIO a Citizen Science project in Puerto Rico about bats.

CASA Volunteers handling a Noctilio leporinus (march 2012)

The purpose of the Project NOCTILIO  is to train University Students and High School Teachers as volunteers to collect data to confirm the presence and highlight the importance of the fishing bat (Noctilio leporinus) as flagship species of the interconnection of the Santa Ana Urban Forest with the San Juan Bay Estuary Region. Then, the NOCTILIO volunteers will be ready to give interpretive talks about bats in the locals publics schools near the forest and the Estuary area.

– Eliezer

Imagine going during night into the woods to work with bats. Few would do this because when we think of these enigmatic mammals we relate them quickly with the negatives: They are ugly, blood-sucking vampire and become or are entangled in the hair, nothing certain. Instead, bats should be worthy of admiration: for piloting swiftly in the dark using echolocation, they look challenging our aesthetic and its activities provide many important benefits to our ecosystems.
As interpreter and research coordinator of the Environmental Center Santa Ana (CASA), [a nature center administered by the Natural History Society of Puerto Rico in the National Park Julio E. Bayamon Monagas], I have experienced the fascination with environmental volunteers in CASA, working with bats Noctilio Project. This project aims to monitor study and educate on the fishing bat (Noctilio leporinus).
Noctilio we do it in collaboration with the San Juan Bay Estuary Program, Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, Metropolitan Campus and the Bat Conservation Program of Puerto Rico directed by Dr. Armando Rodríguez Durán at the Interamerican University in Bayamon.

Some of the tasks performed by environmental volunteers, is to assemble and disassemble the mist nets (for catching bats), data collection and placement of monitoring collars to each bat.
At the end of the day, we learned to look at Noctilios with “dilated pupils well” (effect on the human eye to be in the dark), evaluate the need to educate and protect their habitats and so desirable that these friends fly all nights between the Estuary and the Forest with a fish in his paws.

You can follow NOCTILIO Project in our facebook page every month, just LIKE: Centro Ambiental Santa Ana, CASA and look for the Album named: NOCTILIO

– Dayamiris

Do you have bat education programs, please share with us, ligth our way, write us:

Santa Ana Nature Center Volunteers during the first Noctilio Project Training Day “nigth” (Feb 2012)

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Potty Mouth Interpretation

It is easy to overlook the most common question at all interpretive sites, but “where is the restroom” is an opportunity.   It’s the one destination we know most guests will see and the only place all visitors have the same goal.   You can engage this captive audience through a humble periodical.

Ours, The Call of Nature News, is housed handsomely (and sanitarily) in Plexiglas frames at eye-level, on walls and stall doors, with a brief editorial and event postings.  Offered quarterly, I put humor and a message in 8-12 sentences laid out like a newspaper story.  We originally tried to have staff members contribute articles but balancing succinctness and substance challenged most authors to the point that revision was more trouble than it was worth. 

Many institutions have a “Toilet Paper.”  Ours is the first one I have seen with an article.  That piece gets our guests talking to each other about our core messages and some are so tickled, they ask to take a copy home. You too can give your guests a take home message while they are doing what they will do anyway.

Categories: Interpretation tools | 2 Comments

What Interpretive Managers can learn from the NFL Draft.

This past weekend concluded the National Football League’s draft of athletes. Basically a televised high profile job fair. Many of the individuals involved in the draft decisions are former football players themselves. Likewise, many frontline interpreters become managers later on in their career and are tasked with staffing their interpretive team. Here are a few things we can learn as managers from the NFL.

Big Name Schools: What you typically see in the draft are players from standout college programs.  Notre Dame, USC, and Ohio State, are renowned programs that produce many NFL players. There are many known interpretive college programs out there that you can recruit from. The NAI website ( lists a number of colleges that offer interpretive coursework. You’ll typically see the top colleges represented and active at regional and national workshops that you can recruit from.

Scout: Often players are observed early on by coaches to see if they’d be a prospect for their team. Attending state, regional, and national conferences and meetings are a great way to network with others in our profession.  These can be a great forum to ask yourself, “Would this person fit on my team.”

Development: Players and coaches are always trying improve on their performance individually and as a team unit. Throughout our career we need to continue to provide opportunities to develop our staff and prepare them for interpretive leadership roles in the future. We can do this through mentoring and coaching at your center, as well as, sending staff to trainings outside of your center. In the NFL you see the leadership “law of reproduction” often where successful assistant coaches are mentored up and become head coaches with other organizations based on prior successes and experiences.

Evaluate: Many coaches and players watch film to evaluate performance.  A great tool for interpretive managers is getting your front line staff on camera and having them evaluate their own interpretive program. We tend to be great self-evaluators and our best critic.

Determine and Fill needs: In the NFL draft no team uses multiple picks on players with one skill set such as quarterbacks or kickers.  It’s important to fill the needs of your organization with the right person. Look at your team and ask yourself if it is well rounded, and does it combine different skill sets to best relate to the different audiences out there.

The Combine: The NFL has a combine where players gather and showcase their skills in front of teams.  The NAI certification  program and conferences can be a similar gathering where skills and attitudes can be displayed over multiple days.  I often hear my boss who is a trainer say, “So and so from _____, would be great for our team,” after a CIG training.

Trades: In football you see players moving from one organization to another organization often.  The same is true in interpretation. As an interpretive manager you’ll soon develop circles with other hiring managers.  This is a great forum to speak to the abilities of your staff and get them to the next level should opportunities arise. I’ve encouraged and seen interpreters go from our center to a colleague’s center, and vice versa based on the attitude, skills, and goals of that individual benefitting all parties.

At the end of the day as interpretive managers we want to find the right person, train them, practice, mentor, and help develop them into a hall of fame interpretive career!


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