Monthly Archives: April 2013

NAI Region 3 Logo contest

Calling all artists! We need your creative talents to help us prepare for the 2014 Region 3 workshop, jointly sponsored by the Alabama/Mississippi chapters. Submit your ideas for a workshop logo and slogan. The workshop will take place on February 3-6, 2014 in Livingston, Alabama which lies in the heart of the blackbelt prairie physiographic region, a crescent-shaped belt that joins the states of Mississippi and Alabama. We’d like the logo and slogan to convey what makes the blackbelt region special and unique. Please send us your high quality logo tiff files (300 dpi minimum) that can be used for conference brochures and t-shirts. The conference slogan should be short and catchy and complement the logo and theme. The winning entry will receive a $100 to put towards the conference registration. Email your creative efforts to Bob Brzuszek by Friday, May 10 to rbrzuszek@lalc.msstate.edu.

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Living by example

As interpreters, we fill our days leading programs, planning exhibits, scheduling school groups, designing activities and working with volunteers and staff. It’s a busy and exciting job! In the endless shuffle, it can be easy to forget that we influence visitors to our sites not just through our interpretive programs or educational activities, but as examples by how we interact with nature.

It was recently brought home to me how easy it is to touch people’s lives by example, without even being conscious of it at the time. For some reason I had been Googling my maiden name, and I came across a newspaper column originally printed when I was 20 months old. The column’s writer had just had her first brush with camping. In search of a journalistic topic, she found the local Sierra Club chapter, whose members had staked out a section of meadow in the shadow of Stone Mountain for a workshop on wilderness survival skills. My parents happened to be among the Sierra Club members attending.

Revealing my age, here...On the hiking trail, circa 1991.

Revealing my age, here…On the hiking trail, circa 1991.


Adults happily took notes on emergency first aid and poisonous snakes, but the skeptical columnist’s eyes were drawn toward the toddler in the bunch. Apparently my younger self was helping my dad set up a display about some aspect of wilderness survival. “I learned something important,” the columnist wrote in the last segment of her column. “If Katie can camp out, so can I. It was Katie who taught me the real trick of successful outdoor adventure – find someone as experienced, as patient, and as kind as [these families] and tag along with them.”

Now, was I a lucky kid, with parents who took me camping on wilderness survival workshop trips? Yes. But at one and a half, did I know I had just changed a suburban writer’s whole perspective on the outdoors just by being there? Of course not. Yet that’s what we do as interpreters every day. No matter what plant or animal or fungus we’re interpreting, no matter the age of participants or the goals we have for the program, there’s always the chance we’re changing someone’s life just by being ourselves. There’s someone who’s experienced, patient, and kind, some visitor thinks when she sees you in uniform gently lifting up a twig to reveal a gall or listening for the return of migrant songbirds. If she can do it, so can I.

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Mission Possible

“What are you prepared to do?”  Those were the words conveyed to me by my mentor some fifteen years ago as I pursued my dream job, to be a Park Ranger.  Unbeknownst to me, those words shaped the professional I became and were shared with those I strove to mentor within our profession.  Flash forward ten years.  As I repeatedly spent the late winter and early spring interviewing prospective seasonal interpreters, I repeatedly asked one question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”  Instead of the bewildered face I’m sure I gave to my mentor, those who sat across from me laughed at the elementary question.  Recently, about a month ago, as I sat eating pasta with my toddler, feeling guilt with every additional bite of carbs into the supposed dieting mouth, I thought to myself, “If we are what we eat, then I want to be a piece of angel hair.”

 

In essence, these fleeting muses are just a fraction of the myriad thoughts that pass before my conscious daily; however, collectively they form a bigger picture, both personally and professionally.  Many of us may use words such as goals and dreams, vision and mission, pursuits and profession, passion and perseverance, interchangeably to describe our being, our profession and our avocation.  And luckily, the majority of us can honestly proclaim that our passion is our avocation; however, have we ever sat and drafted our personal or professional mission statement?  Many of us may have written a bucket list, but have any of us compiled a life list- a list of what we want to embody in our day to day?  Probably not for the toughest principle of interpretation for novice interpreters to harness is the exploration of intangible meanings and universal concepts, and successful ways to create opportunities for emotional connections between the resource and the audience.  To talk about oneself and to be in touch with our inner feelings enough to express them in a concise couple of sentences is as tough as it is for most, non interpreters, to be confident public speakers.

 

I charge you to be with your inner self; to analyze your values and beliefs, ideas and ideals; and to fashion your own personal and professional mission statements.  Not only will it help guide your every day routine, shaping choices about your actions and attitudes, but it will also provide a purposeful, mindful profession.  Then, think to yourself- do my personal and professional mission statements align with that of my agency?  If not, why not; and if not, how can they?  In order to be a successful interpreter, to get at the hearts and minds of our audience, and to instill a passion for the resource, we must first know ourselves and our own passion.

 

To affect positive change; to be the change we want to see in the world; and to inspire and cultivate a field of professionals, we must first take a look at ourselves, fearlessly delving into introspective self-analysis.

 

Accept the mission.  Be the change!

 

April Welch

Tennessee State Coordinator

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