Interpretation that makes SENSE

We all know what interpretation is… a form of communicating in an effective way. How you do this is the big question. There are a variety of ways to interpret. At the South Carolina Aquarium, one way that we interpret is during our formal programs, usually using visuals while verbally communicating about a specific topic. Props, pictures, and live animals are things that make our programs “interpretive.” Even though every audience is different, I feel that we’ve mastered interpretation in this form. However, what happens when your audience can’t hear? or can’t see? What good is your microphone, pictures, and props? Then, you’ve got a challenge.

This coming Sunday, the School of the Deaf and Blind is visiting the South Carolina Aquarium. It will be my first time leading a program for this kind of audience. I am excited, intrigued, challenged, and humbled! 99.9% of the programs that I develop are for audiences, that even though are dynamic, have the ability to hear and see. So, how do I effectively interpret for an audience that can’t?

Although they don’t have the senses of sight and vision, we can focus on the senses that they do have… touch, taste, and smell. Tapping into these senses, you can still effectively communicate your topic. I think the key sense to focus on is touch. We all know that kids LOVE to touch things. I know that everyone’s favorite spot in the Aquarium is always the touch tank. Touch allows us to connect with an item or animal which in turn helps us to understand it a little better. Using touchy feely props will be the focus of my program. I am going to guide the students through the Aquarium, from the “Mountains to the Sea” with a variety of sounds and items to touch. With the help of a guide book written in brail, hopefully these kids will leave the program knowing what regions are in South Carolina, what animals live in these habitats, and what they can do to help them. I will have sounds of each habitat (birds, babbling brooks, ocean waves) as well as live animals and props they can touch and hold next to their word in brail.

This is a new form of interpretation for me, but it is a challenge that will benefit myself and others. Forcing myself to think outside of the box will allow me to become a better interpreter and reach more audiences. Being creative is a huge part of being an interpreter and I am humbled to be able to experience this new art form while creating a unique experience for students that are unable to participate in other programs. Interpretation that makes “sense!” 🙂

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