Discussion topic

When an Interpreter Gets Tongue-tied


Have you ever had an experience in which you are confronted by a situation in your own life that you talk about “on the job” all the time, yet in this more personal context you find yourself tongue-tied?

This happened to me the other day, and it made me think.

To set the scene, my husband and I live on a pleasant street in Murray Kentucky that dead-ends at the city cemetery and runs parallel to the boundary of the city park. We love our street because even though we live in town, it is so surrounded by green space that it feels like we are kind of out in the country. We’ve seen all sorts of wildlife right by our house, including Red-shouldered Hawks, Barred Owls, foxes, coyotes, deer, box turtles, several kinds of snakes, many different songbirds, and even a bald eagle. We live right across the road from the entrance to the park, and our neighbors across the street have a beautiful wooded backyard that backs up to a wooded section of the park with walking trails through it. On the side of this neighbor’s house, between their driveway and the driveway that goes into the park, there is a sloping hill that has been kept wild and “weedy” for years, full of plants such as elderberry, blackberry, jewelweed, Queen Anne’s Lace, wild petunia, violets, beardtongue, mayapples, green dragon, and a variety of other shrubs and forbs.

Or, it was, until a few days ago.

A couple of months ago, new neighbors moved into this house, and they’ve decided to start doing some landscaping.

Earlier this week, I was coming home from a run through the park, and I saw the husband, a young guy in his early 30s, mowing the wild hillside between his house and the park. It’s a fairly big space, filled with tough plants including shrubs and vines, so I was pretty surprised that he was attempting to do this, especially because he was just using a small push-mower. When I looked up and saw him clearing what I considered to be a beautiful wild patch of land, I almost wanted to cry. It seemed so sad. He was getting rid of this little patch of wonderful wildness in the mostly-suburbanized town of Murray. And why?

Now, maybe I wasn’t thinking completely straight after running for an hour in the 90 degree weather, but I looked up at my new neighbor and bluntly asked, “Are you mowing that whole area?” He looked at me tiredly, wiped the sweat from his forehead, and replied with a smile, maybe thinking I was in awe of his ambitiousness, “Yeah.” All I could think to say back was, “Why?” To this, he answered, “We’re trying to improve it and make it look nicer. We’re going to put down grass.”

I was just tongue-tied. All I could think to say was “Oh” and continue walking home.

In my professional life, I’ve spent years talking with visitors about native plants and gardening, wildlife habitat, the importance of backyard habitat, and other related topics. I was so used to getting excited with like-minded people about how we can help wildlife in our own yards. And I loved where I lived because it embodied these ideals.

But now, in my personal life with a neighbor acting so differently from what I value, I didn’t know how to respond. It didn’t feel right to thrust my opinion upon him. It’s his property, and it’s not really my business what he does with it. Yet at the same time I felt so disappointed that the messages I try to communicate all the time are evidently still not widely shared. And of course I didn’t want to offend or alienate my new neighbor, who I’m sure is a nice guy. Why create tension or bad feelings just because I was sad that he was mowing plants that I liked?

After I came home, I wondered if I had handled the situation okay … Was it better to be polite and quiet? Would a different, maybe better interpreter have known how to communicate the benefits of backyard habitat in a friendly and non-critical way? Where is the line between trying to convey messages that you believe to be important and being considerate and agreeable to other people you interact with?

And then this made me think … Isn’t this sort of an encapsulation of the kind of dilemma we face all the time as interpreters? It’s always easy to preach to the converted. Conveying ideas to people who don’t readily agree with them is the hard part. And part of being able to do this effectively is to walk the fine line of making people with different opinions feel accepted and not alienated, but still being able to communicate thoughts that they might not agree with.

I couldn’t figure out how to do this with my neighbor. I chose maintaining pleasant relations over voicing my opinions. Is this okay? And how do you know when this is okay, and when it’s not?


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Middle Schoolers are the Best Field Trip Groups: A Defense of an Unpopular Opinion

I’ve been asked in a few interviews which type of visitor or grade level of students is my favorite to work with.  Every age and group type has its own charms and challenges, but, if I have to choose, middle schoolers are my favorite.

The looks I get when I say that are priceless

To be fair, middle schoolers have a bit of a reputation.  While the younger kids may be in awe of the uniform (especially those with a silly hat), middle schoolers are well past the “because the ranger said so” stage. They’re also often trying to prove how cool they are by not caring about things, especially nerdy things like school.  While a lot of visitors come to museums, parks, and historic sites with a sense of reverence for the subject and, maybe, respect and admiration for the guide, middle schoolers often don’t want to be there and don’t care what you know.

But that’s actually part of their charm.


I hope by the end of this post you will … maybe agreeing with me is too much to hope for, but I hope, at least, you no longer think I’m suffering from heat stroke.

Sarcastic Comentary

With middle schoolers, you can use a touch–but only a touch–of sarcasm.  You can’t be sarcastic at them or about their answers, but you can make little jokes about how we would all definitely still go to school every single day if it was only a three-mile walk there and another three-mile walk back *shakes head*.

Humor, done well, has this amazing way of bringing people closer to what they’re talking about and who they’re talking to.  Kids at this age are also just starting to understand and embrace sarcasm (and boy do they embrace it).  It’s a new joke form for them and they feel clever for recognizing it.

If they’re not going to arrive in awe of the resource–and they’re probably not–you can still pull them in with a more relaxed feel to the program and by setting them up to feel clever in the discussion.

Class Comedians

Middle school kids also bring their own jokes.  Whether you want them to or not.  And with little understanding of when it’s enough.  You could seriously spend half your program drowning in snide comments and corny puns and miss the actual substance if you’re not careful.

At the same time, who wants a tour with a boring fuddy-duddy who won’t even let you make jokes?  No point in even paying attention, really.

In the interest of both making the teacher happy (curriculum goals!) and making the kids happy (fun!), I have found the following rule to be invaluable.

Keep the Smart in Smart Alec

Keep the SMART in Smart Alec

If you’re going to take up class time with a joke, it had better be on topic, clever, and funny.

I have found that this rule saves valuable class time by weeding out 90% of joking–no one wants to look foolish in front of their classmates by making a lame joke, after all.  It also helps with focus.  If your jokes have to be witty and topical, you have to listen and think.

And the jokes that are made are hilarious.

Yes, I’ve stolen a joke from a 13-year-old to add to my public programs.  And I stand by that theft. It was a great joke.

Asking the Real Questions

Now I love talking to people and helping them discover the park. And Stump the Tour Guide is my absolute favorite game. But, your average visitor does have an awful tendency to ask the same 12 or so questions that everyone else asks.

Every day.

All the time.


Until death.

And that’s cool. They don’t know they’re the umpteenth person to ask what that weird tool on the wall is and it’s not even lunchtime (it is far more boring than it looks and I’m sorry).  So you hold in the sigh and curse the person who chose that location for something so mundane and you answer it like no one ever thought to ask you that before.

Cape Lookout National Seashore: Lookout Bight

Please accept this picture with my sincerest apologies. Image courtesy of the NPS.

But middle schoolers?  They’ll come up with some off-the-wall questions.  And they’re dedicated to it.  Often, they’re testing you–that authority thing again–to see how much you actually know and if you deserve their attention.  They’re also showing off their intelligence and creativity to their classmates and their teacher (and hopefully their tour guide!).  While younger students also strive to ask questions that gain your approval, they aren’t quite able to match middle schoolers in depth.

These things combine into a perfect storm of unusual, thought-provoking, just warm-your-soul Grade A questions.

In short: Middle schoolers know how to play–really play–Stump the Tour Guide.

Winning Them Over Is Everything

Elementary school kids are so sweet and deeply excited about learning. High school class trips are rarer and usually tied to a club the kids belong to or an upper level elective: if they’re there for it, they are there for it.  Middle schoolers don’t really care about being there and don’t care if you know it.

But if you do your job well?  If you win them over? There is no greater feeling.

I will never forget this one kid in a 6th grade tour a few years ago.  He started off, before I’d even started the tour, by saying how boring history was and how he hated old houses.

Challenge accepted, my dude.

He cracked a sarcastic joke about an artifact in the first room from his place at the very back.  “Nice.”  A bit of shock and then a smirk. It became his mission to make at least one good joke in every room.  And with each room, he positioned himself closer and closer to the front.  He would hurriedly scan each new room, looking for something to make a joke about, then smile and look to me when he’d chosen–waiting, listening for me to mention it.

In the last (and best) room, I pulled one of my favorite artifacts and told its story.  He leaned in closer, in awe of this small, complicated tool.  “Cool.”  He hadn’t meant to say it.  He startled himself, even.  He never meant to show interest in school, in learning, in history.

And I have never been so proud.

So as the semester winds down and you start courting teachers as they do their summer planning, don’t forget the middle schoolers.

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Who’s in charge here?

After attending the NAI National Conference in November, I came back to my Nature Center and dove headfirst into the hardcore planning for our annual Fairy House Festival (February 10th, 2018, you know you want to come!). As I lay awake the other night, trying to turn off the “Festival Brain” and actually rest, it occurred to me…

Planning and running a special event is like caring for a 2 year old. No, really, it is! Think about it for a minute. Things are going to go wrong, you just accept that fact and move along with your life. And when they don’t, you freeze and look around suspiciously. You are constantly braced for the barrage of questions: Why are we doing this? Are we there yet? HOW much did you spend?!? You provide answers again and again and again: Because it’s good for us. It’ll help us grow. Because I said so! Your pour time and energy and a little pieces of your soul into “raising” this beast…and then you see how wonderfully it turns out. You watch the happy faces of the participants and they see all your hard work. Every day working with a special event is a learning opportunity, I promise. Just make it a mantra: I am growing as an interpreter and this is good for me. Ommmmm.

A few things I’ve learned along the way (and am still learning):

  • Delegate! Whether your event is for 30 people or 3500, delegate those responsibilities! You’ll lose less hair!
  • The budget never works. Plan on that.
  • Don’t let your wings get stuck in a tree (doubly important if you’re a fairy). Have a Plan B! And a Plan C. And a Plan D, E, F, G…what does that spell? Backup!!!
  • Doesn’t matter what time of year it is, the weather will be wacky. Especially if you live in North Carolina. Plan ahead and have weather contingencies. I’ve worked festivals in rain and snow, wind and tornadoes. Be prepared!
  • You are not going to please 100% of the people 100% of the time. Nobody’s perfect and that’s okay!
  • Glitter never truly gets cleaned out of anything. Consider this before creating signage or activities. Also consider if your signage is legible and your activities accessible. And really, really avoid reaching for the glitter.
  • Stop. Breathe. Have a little fun yourself at the event. Walk around and enjoy it! If you’re not having fun, then what’s the point of doing it?

Now, I’m still learning and I love hearing from other event coordinators. Have you run a special event lately? What about sometime in the past? What have you learned???


Image result for funny event planner

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Summer Reflection

August is here and summer is slooooowly drawing to close. Some of you may be done with summer programming and others may be still working through a few more weeks of camp (schools starts soon, right? RIGHT?!?). As we wind down what is, for most sites, an incredibly busy season, take time to rest, recharge, and reflect. This might mean going on a staff field trip to celebrate surviving the summer or hiding under your desk for a well-deserved nap (for my managers who may be reading, I promise I have almost never done this). Be sure to take some time to think back on camps and/or summer programs. This is your one chance to remember and write it all down before diving into the Fall season! Consider….

  • Which programs/camps worked?
  • Which did not?
  • Why didn’t they work the way I wanted them to? Should I change my parameters (age, space, time) or my focus (the topic rocks but do I need to address it differently)?
  • Why did they work the way I wanted them to? How can I duplicate this radical success next year?
  • Did I remember to lock up all the canoes?
  • How did my totally awesome co-workers support me this summer? How can I plan to support them next year?
  • After I planned for everything, what issues came up that I didn’t plan for?
  • What was the best part of the summer for me? How can I try to replicate this feeling next summer?

Every day(camp) offers a new learning opportunity, even for the most jaded interpretation professional. Take what you have learned, use your experiences, and create something even better for next year!

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Investing in the Next Generation of Interpreters

When you were getting started in the field of interpretation, did you have a special person who inspired you and helped you gain confidence in yourself? Someone who took the extra time to show you the ropes, share advice, and give you encouragement? For me, it was my first professional supervisor, Wendy Rhoads, who served as Program Director at the Weis Ecology Center in New Jersey, where I did a 1-year internship.

Almost 20 years later, I am still working in the field of interpretation, and without a doubt Wendy is the reason. These days, I find myself doing a lot of introspection about whether I am paying Wendy’s gift to me forward. Am I taking the time and energy to invest in the next generation of younger interpreters? Am I passing down the gifts that Wendy so generously gave to me? If you have worked in this field for several years, maybe you have pondered similar questions.

It can be easy to go about our daily routines and focus on the tasks at hand — what needs to get done for this program, which areas of our site need to get cleaned next, etc. — and overlook the thing that actually needs the most care from us:  our interns, seasonal staff, and others who are embarking on their career journey. Are we going to be the person who invests in them, gets to know them, gives them attention, and inspires them with the confidence that they can be a great interpreter? Or are we going to just make sure they’ve completed the day’s checklist of tasks? These folks are daring to take a plunge into a new world, and the way we help shape their experience could literally determine their future path.

From the moment I started working at the Weis Ecology Center, Wendy took me under her wing and supported me. Even though I know she was very busy, she took time to train me, show me the ropes, and make me feel welcome and comfortable. She took me out on the trails and ran through mock programs with me, gave me ideas for different activities to do with the kids, talked with me about concepts such as child development and inquiry-based learning, taught me natural history basics such as tree identification – generally investing her time and energy into helping me become good at my job. She even invited me to go hiking with her after work and showed me a variety of the nearby trails. I remember feeling astounded and grateful that she felt it was worth her time to do all of this for me.

Not only did she invest in me to help develop my skills, but she also invested in me by helping to develop my confidence. When I would be preparing for a program, she would often say things like, “I know you’re going to do a good job” or “The kids are really going to enjoy being with you.” I should mention that I came to this job with virtually no background in either teaching or biology – so I was constantly perplexed at why she had such confidence I would do a good job. She dared to invest in me without really knowing if her investment would pay off.

But it did. It had a huge impact on me. I had never experienced an adult treat me this way – go out of their way to give me personal guidance, tell me that they had confidence in me – this was just such a new experience. And you know what? I DID start to do a good job. I found that I LOVED this job. Her support triggered a self-sustaining positive cycle for me. Now, it’s not that she never had suggestions for improvement or constructive criticism. It’s that the overriding feeling she gave me was that she was “on my team” and working to help me succeed. Wendy showed me how meaningful it is to nurture, mentor, and build confidence in the younger people who come to work with you.

So today, I ask myself, am I doing for others what Wendy did for me? Am I taking the extra time to help them do a good job and build self-confidence? Am I making them feel that someone is “on their team” and wanting them to succeed? Am I doing everything I can so that our interns and entry-level staff have a first job experience that makes them want to continue along the path of interpretation? Are you?


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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?

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Your profession is a 2-way street

905593_10156238454060564_6815222464763559734_oAs a your professional I was always looking at professional organizations to improve my skills, knowledge, networking opportunities, and at times, their perks. Time has gone by and I have learned that being a professional also means to be part of a community, with peers that often times learn from each other along the journey that we call our career.

I still look at professional organizations for personal and professional benefit but I also look for opportunities to “give back”, to share what I have learned along the way and give other the same opportunity to be involved.

NAI has been the perfect conduit for me to do so and I would encourage you to do the same thing. There are plenty of opportunities to contribute to our profession and here are a few that I can think of:

  • Donations: It could be some money as a direct donation, a contribution through our scholarship auctions, or other means. We can all donate a buck or two and it could mean that another young professional can attend a regional or national conference.
  • 1498908_10154852110865564_6834254784530283653_oVolunteer: Sometimes we don’t have the cash to make a donation but we can always find some time to help. You can volunteer at the next Regional or National Conference, be Perky’s Guard, Assist the planning committee to the next conference (great way to attend), or run for an elected position.
  • Supporting vendors: Organization support NAI and what we do. Some of them are event sponsors, commercial members or just donate a portion of their proceeds. Like Amazon Smile, select the National Association for Interpretation and support NAI by shopping.
  • Planned giving: At one point we will stop to be residents of this planet, you can plan to donate what you leave behind to your professional organization. This is a bit uncomfortable topic sometimes because we never want to think about death but nobody will escape it.

I am sure you will find the best way to support your professional organization just as much as we as community have supported each other.

Have a great end of the summer and I can’t wait to see you in Corpus Christi, Kentucky, or anytime in between.


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Setting Course

By Helena Uber-Wamble

More than 25 years ago, I started my job in interpretation as a part-time park naturalist. This wasn’t just a job, it was a way of life. There were many topics, subjects and skills that I knew about and practiced not just for my job, but for my weekend adventures. One of those very important skills was map reading and orienteering.

Road MapIn today’s day and age, who needs a map with Siri telling us exactly where to go, or Google maps giving us a turn by turn directions to our next destination? GPS is in the phones we carry, the Fitbit we wear and the camping gear we choose to carry when we are out on extended hikes. We are on technical overload! What happens then when the batteries die and need recharged and there is nowhere in a 2 mile walking distance to plug-in? What happens when gear gets wet and totally shuts down? Then what?

There is nothing as sweet as looking at a map, orienting the compass and finding our way to the next campsite, trailhead or nearest road. Reading the curvy lines on a topo map also help us find the easiest route, this may not always be the most direct, but it can be the least strenuous. The skill of reading a map, especially a topo map is key to truly enjoying an outdoor adventure. Reading a map in general, a road atlas, zoo map or museum map is key to planning your day and making the best use of your time at destinations…. Who wants to go to Disney without map skills, only to find out that the show that starts in 10 minutes is all the way across the complex and you will never make it on time. Rather by reading the map and schedules, one can plan to be on the correct side of the Magic Kingdom just a few steps away from the show you want to see without the rush and stress of trying to get there.

When my nephew was just 4, I took him on his second camping trip (ok, his first camping trip out of the backyard) to a nearby campground. I highlighted the route on the map and I had him follow our progress by tracing his finger along the map and orienting in with each turn we took. He was able to keep up with the journey as we went along and it taught him some very important skills. He learned what the rest areas looked like along the way, and how close we were getting.

By the time he was 7, David was picking out parks for us to go hiking in. We would look at the trail maps together and see how long the hikes were and what interesting features were out there for us to see. We went many places and he visited Alabama for a few days one summer. You better believe when it was time to drive him back home to Ohio we looked over the map and picked the best route. I asked him to read signs and keep me on track. It was a good way to pass some of the time on the long drive north. I say long, because by then David was around 14 years old and he picked a few destination spots to stop at along the way including Ruby Falls. It turned out to be a great trip even with the extra stops.

This year we gave my other nephew a compass for his eighth birthday. We told him if he started using his compass with his maps we would take him on a camping adventure. We will be setting up small compass activities for him to help him hone his skills. We will also teach him to read those curvy lines on the map while helping him pick the best route to hike. David has entered the adult world, and drives his own car, but he is never without a map. Jake is just learning and thinks it is a cool “game”. I hope he too will learn to master the skill of map and compass reading.

As part of a search and rescue team, each member must have his map and compass skills mastered before they can participate in searching for those that are lost. It is a vital skill, one that prevents searchers from becoming part of the problem. It is fun, and it doesn’t take tons of money or time to learn how to use these tools. Learn what a bearing is, mark your parking spot on a map before you head out on the trail, take a back bearing, and learn your pace. Start small and set your compass on the map to find the elephants at the zoo and then plan your best route. Then try larger areas and parks by walking a course while heading to a distant hill or odd tree. Setting your course can make for a hassle-free day and create many memories too.

This generation needs to know these skills before they become lost to cyber-space altogether. With all areas in our life, we should have a destination and plan accordingly. Happy trails and safe travels!

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“LEED”ing the way….

by Brian Thill

Each day we have the opportunity at our centers to lead the way. It may come in the form of mentoring others, our educational programing, taking care of our staff and volunteers, or our facilities.

While attending the NAI National Conference today we saw an example of a facility that’s “LEEDing” the way (credit to Drew Heyward on that word zinger). The Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach is a LEED Platinum certified center that was on the Interpreters Road Show that showcased how they’re leading the way in efficiency and resilience.

They look at their building as an experiment, and vetted nearly every material or process that went into creating and operating it. Here are a few highlights of a center that uses what the sun, wind, water, and reusables give them to operate.

LEED photo

Brock Environmental Center, Virginia Beach

  • Car free site/No parking lot….when you access the site it requires a small hike to get to it.
  • Recycled materials throughout the building:
    • Recycled glass for donor wall.
    • Local high school bleachers recycled and used for the trim (complete with words carved in the wood from high schoolers and re-stained).
    • Recycled gym floors, sanded down, stained and reused as flooring.
    • Recycled fence posts from the Virginia countryside used as flooring.
  • Rainwater is captured and used as drinking water.
  • Compostable toilets, solid waste turning into compost and urine made into fertilizer sold to the public.
  • 2 wind turbines producing about 30% of their energy.
  • 100+ solar panels producing 70% of their energy.
  • “Vampire” settings that come on at night to reduce energy consumption from electronics that might be on.
  • Natural ventilation.
  • Natural lighting.
  • Elevated on pylons well above sea level to prevent damage from future flooding.
  • Landscaping the prevents runoff and promotes filtration.

Should you be looking into building with efficiency, balance, and resilience in mind this is one site to check out.
Check out their energy use dashboard at cbf.org/brockdashboard and the cbf.org to learn more about this facility.
How will you lead the way?

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Animals in Education: Why Do We Pet Turtles But Not Possums?

Do you work with live animals at your site? Does your site have rules about how you use these animals in your interpretive programs that sometimes make sense and sometimes don’t?

I have worked for 15+ years at a nature center in western Kentucky that has over 40 captive wild animals on exhibit. These animals have been either injured or orphaned and imprinted, and are considered “permanently non-releasable.”

Some of the biggest questions you have to deal with when you have live animals at your site are how you want the public to be able to interact with them. Can they pet them? And if so, which ones? Can they feed them? Do they have names?

At my nature center, we let visitors touch many of our snakes and turtles. But visitors can not touch our other wildlife, such as our larger birds and mammals. We also tell visitors that we don’t name the animals because they’re not pets. The lesson is supposed to be that wild animals are not pets and therefore don’t have “pet names.” These animals are wild and so should not be treated like pets.

When I was younger and just getting started in this field, I pretty much parroted these lines. But the older I get, the more I seem to question the logic. For example, why is it okay to pet a turtle but not a deer? Is the turtle somehow less “wild”? Is the deer more? Would naming our coyote really make someone more likely to try to keep one as a pet? Maybe, I just don’t know.

Obviously, some animals should not be touched because there is a safety issue – no one wants to see a visitor get hurt. But what about the value of giving people the experience of an up-close connection with an animal? The main reason that we let people touch snakes is the hope that an up-close experience will lead to less fear and more appreciation of these often-misunderstood creatures. Why does this logic seem to stop with reptiles? Would it be terrible to let visitors touch an opossum, another often-disliked animal?

Currently, we have a deer at our nature center that is very people-friendly. She comes right up to people and sniffs at their hands. Even though we have signs saying “Please don’t pet the deer,” it is way too tempting, and people pet her all the time when our staff aren’t watching. So far no one has been bitten, but many have been awestruck. Is this bad? I don’t know.

More and more, it seems like people in general are having less experiences with wildlife in their regular lives. But there is a hunger for it out there. People are watching animal YouTube videos like crazy, watching animal shows on TV, following bird nest web cams. But real experiences with real animals? Those seem to be few and far between.

In interpretation, we often say that we need to get people to feel a connection with something if we want to motivate them to protect it. If this is true, maybe getting people to feel a connection with animals is a goal we should think more about. It sounds so simple, but many of our rules often work contrary to this.

I’m not sure this is right, it’s just a question I’ve been pondering lately. What is the harm in letting a child pet a deer if it is a safe situation? Or an opossum? Do we lose something if we let kids call a coyote “Campbell”? Or do we create something? Which is the bigger issue, getting people to think of wild animals as wild, or getting people to feel a connection with them in the first place?

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