Monthly Archives: December 2013

Interpretation and the Latest Fad

I work at a zoo for non-releasable native wildlife.  At our red fox exhibit, on a guided tour, a third grader asked: “what does the fox say?”  I gave him a straight answer and his friends laughed hysterically.  Young boys being goofy- that’s not unusual.  I forgot all about it.  A week later, another staff member mentioned giggly kindergarteners and asked if I had seen it?


Almost a quarter billion people watched the official video for “What Does the Fox Say” on YouTube by the time I heard about it.  Related videos have millions of hits. It didn’t occur to me that the nine year-old might be making a tongue in cheek pop-culture reference.


I missed a golden opportunity to connect with my audience.  I didn’t have my finger on the pulse.  So, in case you have no idea what I am talking about, the dance song by a Norwegian comedy group illuminates a pressing dilemma.  It tells us, insightfully, “cow goes moo, frog goes croak and the elephant goes toot” (who knew); but what does the fox say?


If knowing that elementary students love it does not inspire you to watch the music video, the costumes and dance moves are worth the 3:45 of your time.  The surprise ending is just gravy.  Plus, you never know when it might come in handy.  I had a parent raise his hand during a program for fourth graders and ask, completely off topic, “What does the fox say?”  I shared my story of being clueless and said I am practicing the dance moves.  Everyone laughed and it got my audience engaged.  Next time someone asks, I may just bust out those dance moves.

Categories: General | 1 Comment

Warming Visitors – Inside and Out

Hot chocolate

A little something hot to sweeten the deal! Photo from

In most parts of Region 3 this time of year, the weather outside is…not necessarily frightful, but certainly chilly. The short final days of autumn leave little time for daylight activities.

In the cold months, people may need a little extra motivation to spend time outdoors, especially in the dark. That’s where “bribery” comes in. A crackling campfire, crunchy snack, and steaming hot mug of something can make attending a cool-weather event ever so much more enjoyable! I’m sure most readers have at some point or other lured visitors to linger with the promise of hot cocoa and cookies.

As someone who particularly enjoys hosting cozy holiday parties, I’ve come across plenty of delicious winter food and drink ideas. Why not break from the norm and offer a themed or unusual treat at outdoor winter events, too? Here are some ideas (traditional and not):

  • Hot coffee and scones for a morning event
  • Mulled cider and marshmallows for caroling around the campfire
  • Snack-sized portions of hearty mushroom soup after a trek in the woods
  • Hot tea themed around your program topic or the culture you’re interpreting
  • Cups of dried berries and seeds for a winter bird walk

Do you offer certain refreshments to guests this time of year? What’s your most unique combination? Happy holidays, and a cup o’ good cheer!

Categories: General | Leave a comment

Interpreting Tradition

The traditional disrobing of deciduousness creates a laboratory for winter study. This cyclical custom bares witness to patterns and mannerisms within nature and her inhabitants, but also within ourselves. Behaviors are altered as weather reroutes winged travelers both at airports and along nature’s migratory landmarks. Stark silhouettes shadow crystalline litter which reverberate crunching paws, hooves, and hands. Warmth originates at its trophic sources both for man and wildlife. And, tradition creates community, camaraderie, and continuity throughout the changing seasons.
Interpreting tradition takes many forms whether it is the patterns and behaviors evident in nature or those that dictate our everyday lives; however, tradition is not always inherent. Many times, traditions are borne from our subconscious- from our thoughts and beliefs, attitudes and ideals. These ultimately direct our behaving and our doing. Just as interpretation is borne from a deeper sense of connectivity, so too is tradition; therefore, during this season of thanksgiving, of winter’s solstice, and holiday greetings, interpreting traditions from a natural, cultural, and historical perspective provides communion with your audience no matter the institution.
Traditions bind us together; connect generation to generation; and instill in us a love for the past we can experience in the present. May this holiday season be filled with tradition and may each of your interpretive products be gifts from the heart, creating traditions for our future, for as Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “every heart that has beat strong and cheerfully has left a hopeful impulse behind it in the world, and bettered the tradition of mankind.”

Categories: General | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: