Monthly Archives: June 2013

Paddles Up!

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.  Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

This past weekend, my husband, a long-time canoeist but first-time kayaker, joined a gaggle of us experienced kayakers on a day-long river trip.  Watching my husband during the day – as we got ourselves ready, as we paddled down the river, as we stopped for lunch – reminded me that interpreting for kayakers is, pardon me, a whole other kettle of fish than interpreting for a stationary group on land.

How does interpreting for paddlers differ from interpreting for landlubbers?  William J. Lewis in Interpreting for Park Visitors offers some tips.

  • Safety will be a primary concern.  On our kayaking trip, we wore life jackets and carried whistles.  The leaders instructed us not to wander off by ourselves, and shouted “River right!” or “River left!” to gather us on one side of the river so that oncoming motorized boats had plenty of room to navigate around fifteen kayaks.
  • Tell the group what to expect, but anticipate the unexpected.  Before launching our kayaks, the leaders showed us a map of our route and suggested a shorter route if the group wished or a thunderstorm arose.  But the leaders couldn’t know that we would chase herons down the river or spot an osprey nest sprawling atop a buoy.
  • Plan for a shore activity.  We had lunch midway along our route at a historic site, with outhouses and picnic shelters as well as displays of artifacts.  The lunch spot was a much-needed chance to stretch our legs, and learn some history as well.

Lastly, have fun!  Paddling is a great way to get exercise, fresh air and sunshine – and one of the few outdoor activities suitable for summer in the Sunny Southeast.

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Randomness Creates Possibilities

 Have you ever received a random comment, note, or email? Maybe an out of the blue song, a happen chance personal contact, or peruse an odd publication while waiting at the doctor’s office?  Most likely you have said ‘yes’ to at least one, if not more, of these random, unplanned moments.  When it has happened, have you ever benefited from it?  Well, I did and now you can too.

In case random events happen that seem to be beneficial, the old fashioned person in me sticks to pen and paper to jot it down, or I make a note of it electronically if it’s through the computer interface. Either way, I encourage all of you to use the method that suites you best to take arbitrary moments and make the best of them.  Here is what happened to me: I received an email!

I received this email right about the time I was brainstorming the blog I needed to write for the Sunny Southeast. This random email has now provided the content of this blog. I opened the email to glance at its contents.  I discovered that it is an international heritage interpretation e-magazine. Not just any newsletter, it claims to have “a readership of over 5000 interpreters, organizations and agencies located in 24 countries, it is the most widely read of all the interpretation magazines and journals!” Whether this is true or not, the articles with in it can provide valuable information on interpretation. Download the issue that I received. InterpNEWS May June

To enhance the field of interpretation is to communicate what is out there. Be it from a haphazard email or our scheduled blog, we all can benefit.  So, take notes of the random occurrences for future use, share the world of interpretive information, and spread interpretation to the world.  Lastly, every so often, be random yourse. . .

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Interpreting Interpretation

Most people don’t know heritage interpretation exists, even if they have been affected by it.  If we can change that, they could use interpretive principles to build greater connections with other people.  These connections, like connections to nature and culture, add richness to all our lives.


Two new Education Department interns didn’t know the distinction between Environmental Education and Natural History Interpretation. Luckily, there was a passionate interpreter there who was excited to share. 


The explanation was knowledgeable, focused, and geared toward the audience.  The interns looked underwhelmed.  They were not engaged or withdrawn.  They said “oh” almost in unison in the same mundane tone and walked away.  The description of interpretation was not enjoyable.  It was not interpretive! 


I am very interested in this idea of successfully interpreting interpretation because it is challenging and has great potential to help people.  The difficulty is concepts and techniques are not charismatic like national parks, animals, and historic places. 


There is no innate appeal or intrigue in the interpretive equation but if we can use it on itself, and get people to care enough to want to learn more, anyone who deals with the public could use aspects of heritage interpretation to better get their message across. 


I introduce the ideas of interpretation to participants in a wildlife rehabilitation workshop.  In order to help injured or orphaned wild animals, rehabilitators must be able to connect on some level with the people who have or will encounter the animals.


I have received lots of positive feedback from participants in this workshop about how helpful it is to know that interpretive principles exist and how they can’t wait to try them out.  It might help that I have more than ten seconds to grab the audience’s interest and use a live owl to help demonstrate the concepts. 


So if we only have one brief interaction (and no owl) with which to light the spark about lighting sparks, what is most effective?  The intern story happened last week.  The interpreter was me.  Clearly, I am still trying to figure this out.  Please share any ideas.


If we can successfully interpret interpretation, it would aid non-interpreters and help professional interpretation get the recognition it deserves. Sorry for the lengthy post.  Hopefully I made it interpretive enough that you wanted to get this far!   Thanks for reading, Eli



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