Monthly Archives: March 2017

A Future Interpreter May Be In Your Next Program

I attended the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream workshop this past weekend. One of the sessions I attended was about citizen science. There were several points that were discussed through the session. The first was that citizen science IS science and not to feel that scientists look down on volunteer participation in the project. The second was that as people participating in these projects, it is our responsibility to get people involved, especially the younger generation. Not only get them interested in the project but train them to be future leaders. As I listened to the discussion, I thought about how relevant these points were to the field of interpretation. This post will review how interpretation is available for everyone to participate and that it is our responsibility to train our future leaders.

I feel fortunate that I can use interpretation as part of my career. Like the citizen science structure using trained volunteers, there are many volunteers involved with NAI that dedicate their free time to be involved in an organization that they feel connected. It is important for those of us that are employed to welcome and support these volunteers. We need to make sure they are receiving training opportunities and resources to learn the skills of interpretation. Often times our budgets barely cover the employees to participate in these opportunities so how can we support our volunteers with these opportunities? Perhaps you have in-house training that can share these resources with volunteers. We can take time to teach them what we have learned. If they have the desire, encourage them to attend NAI state meetings that usually don’t have a fee to attend. If you do have room in the budget, provide them with a whole or partial scholarships to a regional workshop. It is important to make sure they feel that their role as a volunteer is just as important as those that do it for their career.

The second point of the session was to train our future leaders. When I was growing up, I never thought about the possibility of working in the field of interpretation. When I visited zoos, nature centers, museums, or parks I didn’t think about those people doing it as a career. I was fortunate enough to stumble into it. After working and being a part of NAI for over 10 years, I have the responsibility to help cultivate future interpreter. Being close to the University of Georgia, I occasionally work with college students interested in a career doing what I love.

children in garden

Future Interpreters

I encourage them to volunteer or find an internship to open the wide range of opportunities they can find as interpreters. This training can begin before college level though. We have a teen volunteer group at the nature center that allows them to learn all the aspects of working at a nature center, including how to use interpretation skills to teach the public about our animals and natural resources. We can start shaping the future leaders earlier than high school too. When the elementary aged children visit our centers, it is our responsibility to light a spark in them. They may not learn about interpretation directly but they should leave with a positive impression and the desire to return another time to learn more. We need to foster that desire when they return and find ways to get them involved past a quick visit to the center. Connecting them to your resource will be the start for those future leaders.

The next time you are using your interpretation skills with an audience of kindergarteners or senior citizens, think that one of them could be a future interpreter. What will you do to encourage and inspire that future interpreter?

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You are an influencer!

By Pepe Chavez
Every time I teach a Certified Interpretive Guide Course is exciting to see excited faces about interpretation and better understand how to connect people with the resource in hope that they will care.

Last month I attended a session by my friend Brian Forist, he went on to explain that sometimes we should let people create their own themes along the interpretive program and what it looks like in his experience.

Interpreters are influencers! We try to create connections to influence people’s opinion and ultimately change behaviors. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do this by nodding out head like a genie out of a bottle?

This morning listening to a presenter about influencers he identified the “social influencers”. People that are not on a leadership position in any organizational chart but people look up to them. These are very powerful influencers since they are natural leaders and people will look for their approval or advise to make decisions.

If you want to become a better interpreter think about becoming and influencer yourself or interpret to the influencers so they can carry your message to places or people that you can’t.

1.- Identify the result you want and measure it. “Get better at some point” is not a measure. When you have measurable objectives you will be able to know what you are looking for and also when you get there.

2.- Find the behaviors you want to change. There are key moments when you can influence people to make a long-lasting impact. Take advantage of those moments and make them count.

There is a lot more to learn about this topic than the length of this post but keep this in mind. We are always influencing people around us, let’s start a conversation by replying to this post or on the Sunny Southeast Facebook page. How are you engaging people to drive change?

Categories: Discussion topic, Jobs / Professional Development | Leave a comment

Reflections on the 2017 Regional Workshop: Rooted in the Land

by Wren Smith, Whitney Wurzel, and Dan Pascucci, Bernheim Education Team

What a week it was! Thanks to all who participated in the 2017 NAI Sunny Southeast Regional Workshop: Rooted in the Land. Hosted by Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest’s education team, with support from fellow interpreters near and far, the workshop provided a great opportunity to explore our shared network of roots in the land while strengthening our interpretive skills.

Our planning committee owes much to all who stepped up in support of this effort. Some of you presented sessions, others helped organize the silent and live auctions. Some of you helped make the field trips run smoothly, and others of you added helpful insights, good humor, and a willingness to lend a hand throughout the workshop. We are grateful for the encouragement and guidance we received along the way.

Keynote speaker, Martha Barnette, was a highlight. The Louisville native, who now calls San Diego home, is a noted linguist and host of the NPR show, A Way with Words. Her enthusiastic discussion of words and their meanings and origins encouraged interpreters to reconsider the power of language and how to hone it as a tool in making positive changes. Martha also shared a moving story about her beloved linguist professor, reminding us that when we pay it forward by mentoring and sharing with others we produce fruit and the journey continues as new roots sprout and spread. In addition to the powerful address, Martha provided a fun-filled session on Improv for Interpreters. We all learned new ways to loosen up before a presentation, and how to tap into our more creative and spontaneous selves.

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We were delighted with the range of workshop sessions that were offered. They ranged in topic from learning additional methods for interpretation (like using sign language, mastering Facebook, interpretation from an invertebrate’s perspective, interpretation for people with developmental disabilities) and on many more topics, from birds and trees to climate change.

Participants were also able to experience the beauty of Kentucky, through tours in Bourbon Country, a visit to Mammoth Cave, Lincoln Birth Place National Historic Site, Shaker Village and more. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to show off Bernheim, Bullitt County, and Kentucky for these enthusiastic workshop attendees. It was deeply nourishing to share this time together, but it was also a blast!

A great time was had by all who attended the final evening’s Sunny Southeast Awards Banquet and Auction. After honoring some of the top interpreters in the region, folks came together to raise an impressive $3,209 for the scholarship fund through live and silent auctions. The evening was capped off with dancing, music, and new friends coming together to network, socialize, and celebrate a successful workshop and a wonderful week.

If you were unable to attend this year, mark your calendar for the 2018 Sunny Southeast Regional Workshop in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, taking place Tuesday, February 27 through Friday, March 2. Anyone interested in planning, attending, or volunteering should contact Rhana Paris at (252) 475-2344 or

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Jaw-some Sharks

The South Carolina Aquarium is reaching a unique audience of students next Wednesday during our Homeschool Day. We do these days quarterly during the year with various themes. Next Wednesday we will be focusing on jaw-some sharks! Everyone knows sharks… some love them, some fear them, and some love to fear them. There is a lot of information out there about sharks, but our goal is to find a way to communicate properly with our homeschool audience about why sharks are so important and what problems they are facing in the wild.

At one of the activity stations, kids will learn about shark finning and conservation of sharks. Over 100 million sharks are killed every year, mostly due to shark finning. Luckily, in the United States, shark finning is illegal. We want kids to know that it’s okay to eat shark, as long as it isn’t imported. Asking before you order is a great way to spread awareness that people want to know where their seafood is coming from. Sustainable seafood is a huge topic at the Aquarium. To help interpret this, we just installed a new interactive fishing exhibit where kids have a chance to “fish.” Once they pull the fish up, they place it on a ruler and a screen will tell them if it is a good catch or if they should release it. It teaches kids that you have to pay attention to what fish you’re catching and eating to ensure that our oceans are healthy.

It is sure to be a very exciting and fast paced day next Wednesday as we teach hundreds of homeschool kids about the reality of sharks. If you look at your watch and think about what’s happened for the last 20 minutes. Over that 20 minutes, 4,000 sharks have been killed. It’s things like this that will make lasting impacts on our visitors and inspire them to be more aware of the problems that sharks are facing.

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