Interpretation in the rain

How is your site affected when the weather turns gloomy?

Falls - Dupont State Forest

Waterfalls can be at their best during rainy years. What’s your favorite “silver lining” to above-average rainfall? (Photo: Dupont State Forest, North Carolina)

Here in the mountains of North Carolina, 2013 has been a soggy one…to date we are 24 inches ahead of our normal rainfall. It seems there hasn’t been a sunny day in the forecast for weeks. While attendance may be up at indoor museums and exhibits, campgrounds, outdoor interpretive sites and public lands may see a downturn in casual visitors. How can we, as interpreters, draw folks out to our programs and activities despite the drizzle?

Rather than attempt to answer this question, I’ve listed some ideas below. Which do YOU find yourself using the most?

  1. Advertise! Get the word out that programs are still going on – many folks seem to have the mindset that everything is cancelled on the first sign of clouds. Make it clear in your program promotion what the contingency plan is if it rains.
  2. Special offerings – if you’re flexible, perhaps you can offer some special programs on the importance of rain to your area. Highlight natural occurrences that will be especially visible in the rain or during a very wet year – mushrooms? Shifting habitats for certain creatures? Engage school groups in citizen science monitoring to measure rainfall or infiltration. The cloudy sky’s the limit!
  3. Teachable moments – along the same lines as number two, what can you do to point out interesting features that the rain brings to the forefront to visitors? How about placing a roving interpreter near a creek that’s out of its banks, or near the site of a lightning-caused forest fire from a previous year to explain the role fire plays in the ecosystem?
  4. Get indoors! – Take advantage of the wet weather if you have indoor activities and exhibits, as folks may be flocking your way with their families.

Catching up on planning and other “behind-the-scenes” tasks can be great for the occasional rainy day – but when that rainy day turns into a rainy year, it’s time to break out the umbrellas and get creative!

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