General

Please be kind with your signs?

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Nobody likes them but ya gotta do it. Yep, I’m talking about those awful “DO NOT….” signs that we have tacked at the front of our facilities. Unfortunately in our day and age, these are the ones that our facility is required to post on every front door at a place of higher education:

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After all, these are litigious times. Some places have to post a long laundry list of “THOU SHALT NOT’S”, to the point where it starts to resemble a legal contract

23. BSEACH RULES.

We have to post them, but if we aren’t careful we can easily turn off the reader from getting the main points by using tacky, tacked-on rules. Here are a few hints to help your code and behavior enforcement:

  1. Explain to the visitor why it’s importantIMG_9713It might seem like common sense and you shouldn’t have to remind people, but sometimes sense isn’t so common. In the case of this sign, some folks might not know that oils on hands can cause damage to historic furniture, and that it shouldn’t be touched. Teaching visitors the difference might result in positive behavior modification.
  2. Use a civil tone instead of a terse one.school-security-001jpg-fa5228681d61a41dNo one enjoys being threatened or scolded, after all, this is the civil South. Using terms such as “please”, “welcome”, and “thank you” is like adding sugar to your iced tea
  3. A little humor goes a long waywUcWcn7

    If you DO have to make your point clear, at least make it enjoyable to the reader. After all, a little humor does go a long way

    3bfe165d3abb903531825c2f23f5560e--wild-hogs-funny-signs

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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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My Dream Trip

By Kate Mowbray

I am planning my dream trip to Africa this September. I have wanted to go since I was a little girl and fell in love with elephants. I remember watching an animal program that broke my heart to learn of people killing them for their ivory and that their numbers were depleting rapidly. I feel the need to go is even greater now than 30 years ago when I watched that program because of similar issues that have been on the rise in recent years. So, I decided this is the year and I am going to make it happen.

With all the planning, it has made me think about what people research about my town and things to do when visiting. Athens, Georgia may not seem like a top tourist destination but with the University of Georgia in town, we have many visitors/future students that visit from other countries as well as all around our own. Even locals like to keep up with what is happening. Having easy to find, well organized information is important to keep people up to date on what to do when they visit.
Take a look at your facility’s website. Does it give clear information about what there is to do, what hours you are open, if there is a fee and if you have to register for anything in advance? Does your local visitor center direct out of town guests your way or at least display your information? Do you have any other social media outlets that are easy to connect visitors to what’s happening on a daily or weekly basis? These are all important details that may help visitors to find you! Who knows, you may be included on someone’s dream trip!
P.S. I have another blog due after my trip so I will let you know how my dream trip goes!

P.S.S. If you have been to South Africa, I would love to hear from you!

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What is your legacy?

This year NAI is celebrating 30 years of inspiring leadership and excellence to advance heritage interpretation as a profession. I don’t quite remember what I was doing 30 years ago. Most likely riding my bike, playing tag with my friends and attending 6th grade.

At work we have a mission that we use as bearing to focus our energy and resources. My personal mission aligns with what I do at work, yet my professional legacy will be very different than my organization’s. As I put my actions at work through my professional values I am unintentionally building what will be my professional legacy. I hope it is something people will remember but it is something that I very proud and satisfied with by the time I retire if I ever do. Being purposeful is always important so next time you are building your work plan, choosing professional development opportunities or seek ways to grow professionally think about how you are using them as building blocks for your legacy.

NAI30NAI has not changed it’s mission since 1998 and it has built a strong foundation of principles, and leaders in our profession that is our Association’s legacy.

Take a minute to think about your professional legacy, what does it look like? what is it that you want to be remembered for?

Luckily for us the website has changed for the better in the past 30 years and I don’t know exactly where I will be in 30 years but hopefully this blog and the NAI website will look a bit different.

Happy summer!

Pepe

 

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INTERNNNNpretation

I feel like I’m always writing about the interns at the South Carolina Aquarium, but it’s just because I love them so much! Twelve smart, creative, and inquisitive 16/17 year olds just started working at the Aquarium this past week. They have been training for this moment for four months, learning about the wildlife and biology in South Carolina. We went canoeing, crabbing, and built an oyster reef with the Department of Natural Resources. Our hope is that they can use the valuable skills learned during these training classes to be able to interpret the exhibits and animals to our guests this summer. So far, they are blowing me away! One girl surprised us by pulling out a pipette at the Touch Tank to interpret Sea Star tube feet. Another girl got down on a little boy’s level with an alligator puppet to interpret our albino alligator, Alabaster. Seeing the light bulb go off when our interns finally grasp what interpretation is all about is one of the highlights of my job. After that click, you can see the information and excitement translate over to our guests. Kids get excited to feel the “wet mushroom” at the Shallows (our 40 stingrays), they can’t wait to see our Bald Eagle figure out her version of a rubix cube, and they learn how the health of our oceans directly relates to us. Interpretation is such a magical thing that spreads like wildfire once ignited. It’s so fun to be able to pass on my passion for education to the interns who then pass it along to each and every guest that enters our building. 🙂 Happy summer interpreting, everybody!

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Les Stéréotypes

When I was preparing for this year’s NAI international conference in France, I received a certain amount of advice. “Oh, those French. They’re going to be so rude, especially if you try to speak French. They’ll be even worse if you just speak English, though. So snotty and superior. I’ve heard all about it.”

Spoiler alert: literally everyone I met in France, from the airport and train station in Paris to every passer-by and shopkeeper in Reims (a city whose name I managed to pronounce correctly perhaps 30% of the time), was friendly and welcoming. Strangers would event approach our groups, both in pubs and on the street, politely asking which countries all our fascinating accents come from and sharing their interest in our cultures. Does that mean there are no rude or condescending people in the country? Of course not, but like most people who visit the United States won’t be verbally assaulted by someone demanding they speak perfect “American” or leave the country, the mysterious French citizen turned out to be more often than not a perfectly normal, nice person. On the contrary, I and some of the other interpreters felt a strange twinge while using the bits of French we had learned because of our own cultural associations. In American pop culture terms like, “excusez-moi” are only spoken by either Miss Piggy or an insufferable snob (or an American comedian calling out an insufferable snob) in a sitcom or rom-com. Even attempting a credible French accent brings out an uncomfortable feeling that you’re being rude to the listener. What a sad realization to have, that I had spent most of my life absorbing the hallmarks of an entire country as something comedic and insufferable.

When I returned to the US and reported on the lack of rude French people, I was met with either surprise or the reassurance that this wasn’t the normal state of the people there, or that, “It’s really Paris where everyone is rude, not so much in the countryside.” So I checked with my friends who spent time in Paris. Nope, still no glut of sneering shopkeepers and haughty hoteliers. In addition to a wonderful conference that strengthened the bonds of heritage interpreters across the globe, we seemed to mostly just experience a wonderful country that had been through a great deal of turmoil and growth and is doing the best they can to process what that means to them as a people and on the global stage.

Thinking about how this relates to interpretation, I was being constantly reminded of an experience I had as a nature center coordinator in California, back in 2005. A field trip class of alternative high school students was set to arrive, and everyone from the education coordinator to the teachers warned me that they were going to be a miserable bunch. “Those alternative school, kids, you know.” Well, actually, I did know. My father was the founder of an alternative high school in the northeast the year I was born, and I was raised with this community. I saw some of the smartest, most generous and compassionate teenagers put down as low-lives, druggies, losers, and criminals by people who never took ten minutes to get to know them, frequently by school and city officials, at that. When that class walked in the door, I was waiting with a smile and genuine excitement to see them. Why? Because I knew these kids had been through more than most adults have, had learned to see more than people expect from them, and have been processing their lives in ways that most people think they’re incapable of. That when you gave them something to get into, to really sink their mental teeth into, they got into it. We had some of the best lessons and discussions ever that day. Their teacher was astonished, which was honestly one of the saddest moments of the day. She acted like this was a miracle. It wasn’t.  I just had the experience seeing these kids as people, and of knowing that if you shove a stereotype at someone, it can be very difficult to see past that screen to the person beyond it.

Very often as interpreters, we don’t have the luxury of time to get to know our visitors, especially when they come as a class or touring group. Categorizations happen because that’s how our brains efficiently function to make sense of the world. None of us are evil for reacting initially to the categorizations our brains present to us when we receive a cue of an accent, an age-range, a type of outfit or look. What we are is responsible for our actions from that moment onward, though. “Oh no, a group of Brazilians are walking in; they’re going to be loud and pushy.” “Ugh, not another bunch of teenagers. Make sure you watch them extra closely, they’ll probably try to steal something.” “Oh, what a nice-looking bunch of suburban ‘gifted and talented’ students. I’m sure we won’t have any problems with them.” “Oh, uh, we have some ‘urban’ students visiting. How can I simplify this lesson so they get the basics, at least?”

Studies since the 1970s have shown that teachers often have conscious and unconscious biases towards or against students, based on race, ethnicity, gender, economic or social class, etc., and that those biased sets of expectations get imprinted onto the student, affecting their entire school experience and ultimately the opportunities they are exposed to by that system. It’s a hard, long road to undo the damage those sorts of stereotypes can do to an individual, but we can grasp every moment we can to do so. My hope going forward is to do my damnedest to catch those moments where my brain offers a stereotype instead of reality, and to push back against it. Interpretation is about finding that relevance, that moment of inspirational connection between the individual and the cherished resource in our care. How well can we do that if we can’t see the actual person in front of us?

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Interconnections are Fun. And Filled with Interpretive Opportunities

Interpreters are lucky! Mostly, I think, we love what we do. We get to share the great stories, the great ideas, the great cultures, with an audience. We get to inform, educate and shape the views of our audiences. We get to dive deep into the backstory of “our” place and know more and more about it. And diving deep is one of the great ways I’ve learned as much as I have about birds and their habitats.

But one of the other benefits of interpretation is the interconnections between almost everything we do. And that’s why I love the re-certification process for Certified Interpretive Guides (CIG). Understanding that, as long as it makes sense in the grand scheme with what you do in your field, there is a wide, wide world out there.

Re-certification is actually pretty easy. The easiest way to keep up with re-certification, of course, is to go to a National NAI Conference. But, as I discovered last year, there are other ways as well. My personal favorite: attending the Birmingham Audubon Society’s annual Mountain Workshop. The 3 day event has taken place for the last 42 years in Alabama’s mountainous northeastern region, attracting people from across Alabama and as far away as South Carolina.

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Botany is an important skill when the birds aren’t flying!

Why? Because the classes offered provide something for everyone. Why are they good for CIG? Because they offer information about the wider world of nature. From bird photography (who doesn’t need to brush up on being a better photographer?) to fossil hunting and using a map and compass, the skills offered here have always enhanced my ability to impart information to an interested (hopefully) public. Sure, there are bird walks. There are also multiple classes on birding–by ear, by habitat, beginning bird watching, etc. But there are also classes on Alabama folk pottery, Native American culture in historic Alabama and more.

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Learning to use a map and compass

And one of the most important jobs of an interpreter is to take the many details of their specific interpretation task and make it interesting. As an interpreter, I’ve always found that, as John Muir once said, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” These interconnections are what makes my job–and the job of all interpreters–even more exciting.

So, if you are wondering about how to keep your CIG certification up, remember, learning is the key. Learning scuba diving if you primarily do mountain interpretation may be a bit of a stretch, but there are lots of areas to see how nearly everything is attached to nearly everything else.

Birmingham Audubon’s Mountain Workshop is unique in the Southeast, but I’d love to hear from others about their experiences with workshops and collecting hours for their CIG re-certification efforts too.

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Early morning bird walk

 

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Who can hear my voice?

A short story written by Courtney Long

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Photo by Courtney Long

Just a few towns away there once lived a city boy who had many things to say. Whenever he tried to speak he found it hard for his voice to be heard over the masses of busy, city people. “Nobody listens,” the boy thought to himself. “There are so many voices out there, maybe nobody wants to hear mine.” And so, in time, he dampened his thoughts for only himself.

During one pleasant summer the boy’s family vacationed and camped in a forest just outside his city home. The boy learned to love filling his day and evenings exploring the forests and streams and their many wonders.

On an early morning the boy woke to a cacophony of songs. Stepping outside his tent he gawked at several kinds of birds, emboldened by the rising sun. “Good morning, birds!” he greeted them. “Good morning!” a bluebird twipped.

“Why are you all singing?”

“Because for birds the loudest is the strongest,” a goldfinch offered as he zipped by.

“Any why so many different songs?” the boy pressed further.

“There are different kinds of us,” an eastern towhee answered. “Each type of bird has its own song. That way when I sing drink your teeeea, all the other towhees know where to hear my voice.”

The boy smiled at this. He continued to play in the forest for the rest of the day.

After dinner, the boy wandered into a meadow blanketed in twilight. Here he witnessed a spectacular sight. A series of tiny lights sparkled in the settling darkness. He observed that some lights flashed quickly three times followed by a brief pause, but some flashed five or six times before halting. Most shone yellow but some were amber. “Beautiful!” the boy gasped.

“Thank you,” he heard a small voice as a tiny light appeared next to him then quickly vanished.

“Why do you light up?” the boy pondered.

“To find each other in the darkness!” The boy realized the small voice came from a firefly hovering near him.

“But why so many different kinds of flashes and colors?” he pressed further.

“We don’t have voices like the birds or the frogs. Each kind of firefly has its own light pattern to speak with one another,” chimed a firefly with a lingering glow.

“So your flash is like your voice!” The boy brought out his own flashlight as it was now dark. He was careful not to turn it on until he had left the meadow so as not to disturb the fireflies’ conversations. In the woods the boy heard a croak, then a light bark, and then a high trill. He followed the sounds and walked upon a small pond. He shone is light and revealed dozens of frogs surrounding and swimming in the pond.

“Why are you so loud?” the boy asked as he covered his ears.

“It’s dark! We can’t see each other,” a toad rumbled. “If we are loud then we know where everyone is.”

“But there’s so many of you. How can you possibly hear each other?” But as he uncovered his ears the boy listened. Some of the frog calls were high while others sounded deep.

“Do different types of frogs have different calls?” The boy had caught on.

“Why yes!” a peeper cheerily chirped. “When I hear a high pipPIP pipPIP, I know that isn’t the voice of the green frog’s low jug-o-rum and I listen.”

The noise reminded the boy of the busy city life. He fell asleep that night with the conversations of the forest animals in his dreams.

Once summer ended the boy returned to the city full of voices. He thought back to the birds, fireflies and frogs. “My voice is important,” he thought. “I just need to find the right person who hears it over the others.”

_____

This story is not to say that we should only listen to people who agree with us.  But that individually we speak, listen, learn, play, and live differently. That individually we each have our own perspectives to offer to the multitudes of voices give through speech, writing, or art.

Interpretation is a treasure that invites all voices to the conversation.

 

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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.

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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.

Forever.

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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A Healthy Dose of Levity-Infused Interpretation

“So, this duck walks into a bar…”  How would you finish that style of joke? Family friendly or not appropriate for young audiences? Sometimes presenting a program can feel a lot like performing stand-up comedy, and depending on the situation it works like magic, creating a happy well-informed audience but in other situations comedy can make a presentation uncomfortable. Think about latter one of those presentation styles…scary and awkward, right? Well, what if I told you that you could respectfully infuse your programs with something called levity. Many experienced Interpreters I know already have this charismatic, friendly trait nailed, but new interpreters can find it hard to find the balance the between serious topic and making it more approachable.

So what exactly is levity? In Latin levis, the root of Levity can mean light or a lightness in weight, and by today’s definition of it can mean light or humorous but for interpretation, it can make a difficult subject more approachable when used respectfully. Using some degree of levity helps to create a connection between the participant, the interpreter and the resource. We know as interpreters that many topics and resources that can be difficult to interpret may actually be the ones that need it the most. Without proper interpretation, these resources can be lost due to neglect or destroyed out of ignorance.

When subjects like death, murder, mayhem or other gruesome anthropogenic subjects need to be interpreted, humor can seem out of place and offensive, but levity or finding a way to lighten the emotional toll can help visitors remain open to the interpretation instead of shutting off. A great interpreter will find a way to share smile and a sense of peace for the visitor even when the topics or ideas can be hard to handle. These resources and information is essential for people to learn about but visitors need to leave with a sense of empowerment and not depression. Empowerment is what will help to protect and provide continued funding for and general care for the preservation the resource (or topic when a resource is not available).

Levity can also increase the personal connection with resource especially when fear is involved. Levity about something a person fears can help eliminate the some of the anxiety that a visitor may feel toward the topic or resource, it can even release tension and provide comfort. When something becomes humorous, it is hard to continue to find it scary. For example, showing how a “frightening” creature faces the same challenges as a human can help make that connection between the resource and the audience. Adding in the levity of how they meet those challenges can make the learning more accessible, fun and take your interpretation to a more impactful level. It is important to remember however that as an interpreter we should never point out/ highlight someone’s fears or pain, but rather use levity as a tool to take away the general discomfort.

Levity can be used in all interpretation; it makes it memorable and enjoyable. Sharing a smile can be the first step to infusing levity into your program. Once someone smiles at you and has made that comforting connection, they are more likely to return that smile each time you encounter them.

A great article on the “Talent Economy”  webpage(http://www.talenteconomy.io/2016/12/15/jerry-seinfeld-fear-failure-levity/) highlights how Jerry Seinfeld uses levity to make his career a success.  As you research more on the subject, you’ll notice articles and scientific journals that highlight levity as one of the top qualities of a great leader.  Levity is about learning to be flexible/ adaptable, friendly, caring, open to new ideas and thoughts, fun, playful and empowering.

If any of you have some examples of where and how you use levity in your programming, I would love to hear about them.

“In my experience sometimes the darker the material that you’re doing, the more necessary it is to have some sort of levity around. I’ve worked on more lighthearted pieces that have been more brutal and tougher to make.”– Nick Stahl (actor)
“The body, she says, is subject to the force of gravity.  But the soul is ruled by levity, pure.”– Saul Bellow (playwright, author)

Image result for seinfeld meme

 

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