Regional Workshop

Create a Legacy of Empathy-Building

Are you planning to attend next week’s regional conference, “Tuning Our Interpretive Instruments,” at Montgomery Bell State Park, Tennessee?

If you haven’t yet registered, you can still do so through March 28: click here to register online or click here to download the paper form.

One reason to attend…Stephanie Vickers will give an excellent plenary session Wednesday morning about empathy and its role in interpretation! The description is below. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday April 3, 2019, 8:00- 8:45AM

With the increase of discussion and study into the concept of empathy, and the consensus that it is a fundamental moral element in the creation of a stronger society, it is important that those of us who interpret history harness the power already at hand in our unique role as empathy creators. Living history programming offers the greatest amount of human-to-human connection, the essential element and greatest contribution to empathy-building. Bringing the humans of the past “to life” creates a chain of empathy: if we can engender empathy for the people of the past, we can extend empathy to each other in the present and create a legacy of empathy-building for the generations in the future.

Stephanie Vickers, plenary speakerStephanie Vickers is an independent public historian and interpretation specialist who combines storytelling and performance techniques with academic research to transform museum/site programming into dynamic visitor experiences. She has a B.A. in Theatre (Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, MI) and M.A. in Public History (University of North Alabama, Florence, AL) and has worked professionally in the entertainment industry (as cast and crew) for over twenty years in theatre, film, television, commercials, voice over, and video games. She is known for her video game roles as Major Greenland in Battlefield 4 and Professor Mary Sue Ellington in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. Her museum work includes Donor and Alumni Relations Manager for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and as a historical interpreter, either as staff or volunteer, at Mankser’s Station (TN); Martin’s Station (VA); Historic Ramsey House (TN); and Alvin C. York State Park (TN). Her mission is to breathe life into the humanity of past peoples and her current work concentrates on the pathways between empathy, costumed historical interpretation, and strengthening our shared human connections.

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Registration Now Open: “Tuning Our Interpretive Instruments”!

NAI’s Sunny Southeast Region invites you to Tuning Our Interpretive Instruments in Tennessee. Interpreters are the keepers of history, storytellers, entertainers, resource protectors, and we all need a tune up to keep these skills sharp. This workshop will give participants the opportunity to sharpened skills and experience to the natural and cultural beauty of Tennessee while learning and sharing with our interpretive colleagues.

Tuning Our Interpretive Instruments - logoMontgomery Bell State Park is located seven miles east of Dickson in Dickson County and is approximately a 45 minute drive west of Nashville.

Click here to register online
Click here to download the schedule at a glance

Call for Presentations – Deadline Extended to February 11

There’s still time to submit your presentation proposal! Our theme, “Tuning Our Interpretive Instruments,” focuses on improving our skills as interpreters, finding creative ways to tell our stories, and finding ways to support our missions. What skills can you share to inspire others? Here are a few ideas for presentation topics: Administration/Management, Career Development, Programming, Volunteers, Creativity, Expertise, or any POETRY you want to share. Presentations will be in the mornings of Wednesday the 3rd and Friday the 5th.

Click here to download the submission form. Email completed proposals to by February 11th!

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My experience at the NAI regional workshop

by April Byrge

Attending the NAI regional workshop seemed pretty far-fetched to me last November. I’m sure many NAI members can sympathize with the plight of working seasonally. Although seasonal positions can provide some really neat experiences, they can also make finances tight. It’s a necessity for a National Park Service career. In addition to this reality, I’ve become the sole earner in a two-person household due to a medical condition. Needless to say, when I found out I got a scholarship to go the conference, I was super pumped.

My NAI experience began with an amazing trip to Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge. Mike Campbell from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission showed us around the refuge, giving us the opportunity to view a ton of waterfowl. Literally thousands of tundra swans take refuge at Lake Mattamuskeet during the winter. We also saw many duck species, a few hawks, and a black-crowned night heron. For someone who is just starting to learn to identify waterfowl, this was a perfect outing.

I was scheduled to present during the first concurrent session on Wednesday. I wasn’t really nervous until about a week before, when it finally hit me that it was a regional conference and I was going to be presenting to professional interpreters from all over the southeast. I was describing the digital storytelling project I’ve been working on, which involves guiding students in the creation of mini-documentaries focused on a Smokies-related theme. I was impressed with the brainstorming participants did as they thought of ways to incorporate digital storytelling at their sites.

I attended Julia Gregory’s session on Becoming an Edge-Walker, which was totally fascinating. She discussed coyote mentoring, which is based on the book Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature. This mentoring technique is meant to enlighten outdoor educators as well as those they are guiding out in nature. It is recommended by Richard Louv and David Sobel (my personal hero), so I am very interested in learning more about it.

Friday’s sessions were really eye-opening for me. Joli Reynolds and Ariel Lowrey’s presentation, I’m No Expert, changed the way I look at interpreting certain topics. We talked about topics we had issues with interpreting because of a lack of deep knowledge. For many people, these were things like geology, weather, and history. The line that really stuck with me from that session was that we are experts at interpretation. Because of that, we should have the confidence to present on topics that we aren’t necessarily a specialist in. We can learn alongside those we are teaching.

Corey Sperling’s session about employing conscious discipline when working with young people really blew my mind. I’m sure we have all had experience dealing with disruptive students, and it’s often our first instinct to act negatively towards them (lecturing them, not allowing them to participate in activities, etc.). Conscious discipline is a model that helps students learn to identify their emotions, explain them, and think of solutions. For instructors, it’s a different way of framing questions or requests. This is definitely something I will share with the Parks as Classrooms team at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

My NAI regional conference experience was inspirational to me on several levels. It gave me new ideas to explore and share, gave me insight into how other interpreters are using different techniques at their sites, and allowed me to experience several amazing sites on the Outer Banks. I’m definitely looking forward to sharing these things with my team at the Smokies when my season begins. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to the NC coast and meet and learn from amazing interpreters.


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Register NOW for the 2017 Sunny Southeast Workshop

by Wren Smith and Whitney Wurzel, workshop co-chairs

Registration is open for the 2017 Sunny Southeast Workshop!

On behalf of the workshop planning committee and Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, we invite you to visit the workshop page to review the workshop schedule, registration fees, lodging information, and more. Options to register online and by mail are available, but everyone is encouraged to download the registration form for full details.

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest – Rock Run Creek

The Paroquet Springs Conference Centre in Shepherdsville, KY, the site for most workshop events, is a convenient 25-minute drive from Louisville and less than a 10-minute commute to Bernheim. Workshop participants will have ample opportunities to socialize and optimize in the spirit of camaraderie that always prevails when interpreters congregate to share ideas, research, and interpretive tips.

We are thrilled to offer a terrific line-up of special guests, concurrent sessions, and field trip options. Among them is Keynote Speaker Martha Barnette, a Kentucky-native turned nationally-acclaimed writer, radio host, and word-origin enthusiast. As Wren describes:

Martha’s love of wild lands and language, and her passion for word roots and all things etymological fits well with our workshop theme: Rooted in the Land. I got to know Martha over two decades ago when she was researching her book, A Garden of Words; now I often listen to her NPR program, A Way with Words, on my drive to work each Saturday morning. Each episode leaves me with a deeper understanding of where and how our language moves, evolves, and reflects our changing times.

In my last Legacy article, Observations Ecology (March/ April 2016) I wrote, “Most interpreters have a world view shaped in part by the vocabulary or the language of the places we love. This place-enriched language forms a positive feedback loop that helps us experience details and underlying processes that we might otherwise miss.” I also ponder what happens when our observable world is reduced to a flat screen and devoid of sensory rich encounters and the words that root or etch those places in our hearts. The words we use are chocked full of history, linage, stories and interpretive potential.

In addition to her keynote address, Martha has also generously agreed to lead a concurrent session on using improv as an interpretive tool. Details regarding this and other sessions will soon be added to the regional website. In the meantime, we can confirm over 30 engaging sessions, lead by a variety of skilled presenters from across the Sunny Southeast and beyond, including NAI Deputy Director Paul Caputo.

Bernheim Visitor Center

Bernheim Visitor Center

While the workshop kicks-off Tuesday, March 7 with an evening reception at Bernheim* and continues through mid-day on Friday, March 10, participants are welcome to arrive early or stay late to explore the Bluegrass State. If your travel plans won’t allow for that, no worries; the workshop includes six unique and affordable field trips. Participants should register early, though, as spaces are limited for many excursions.

Mark your calendar, make your plans, and register soon! We can’t wait to see you in March.

*Whitney notes: Our opening speaker is the Sunny Southeast’s own award-winning and nationally-celebrated Wren Smith. Don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind address, set at the LEED Platinum Bernheim Visitor Center during the twilight hours. Paired with local food, Kentucky spirits, a bonfire, and interpretive programming, it will be a night to remember.

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It’s Dangerous to Go Alone. Take This (Awesome Map of Region 3 Interpretive Sites)!

You have to admit that the Sunny Southeast is a pretty amazing region. We’ve got everything from lemurs to fortresses, beaches to museums, lakes, rivers, mountains, and nature centers galore…all waiting for the intrepid explorer (you!) to visit them. To assist you on your journey, we have have been building a member map on the Region 3 website to show you the exciting details of the who, what, when, and where of your colleagues’ sites. One of the many benefits of an NAI membership offers is a strong community, and we want to keep growing that community beyond the conferences (like our annual workshop being held this very week in Atlanta!) and other special events.
Perky and map
Last year we sent out a short survey that gave members the opportunity to participate in the creation of this resource map, and we now have about fifteen sites up on the map. That’s a great start, but we can do so much better! This is a purely voluntary map that, aside from some required basics, can include as much or as little as you’d like about your site, business, program, etc. (it isn’t required that you have a physical site to participate). The map is a great tool to use for exploring the area, learn about members’ upcoming events, find volunteer or job opportunities, or even contact another member who may be doing similar work and could help you brainstorm some ideas to make your program or exhibits even better.

To all of our wonderful members who jumped into the pool first: thank you! We couldn’t have gotten this community project off the ground without your enthusiastic support and participation.

If you’d like to be a part of this resource and open your doors to new friends and allies, follow this link to our short and sweet survey page:

You can find the map under the “Contact Us” tab on top of the intro page on our regional website: (, or go directly to

*There may be some formatting glitches in certain browsers, and we’re still working on the best way to incorporate photos into the mapping process. If tech-savvy people would like to volunteer to help out with this project, please drop us a line at*

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It’s Workshop Time!

If you haven’t made your travel plans yet, what are you waiting for? It is time to reserve your hotel and register online for the upcoming regional workshop being held at Stone Mountain. Regional workshops are smaller than the national workshops and give you a great opportunity to get to know other interpreters and learn about their organizations. Like other workshops, you have the opportunity to attend interpreter led sessions, offsite visit, and network with other interpreters during social events.

Stone Mountain is on the outskirts of Atlanta. Many of us live in areas that are developing and changing to adapt to the growing populations moving to our neighborhoods. Opening speaker, Hermina Glass-Hill, will share with us about interpreting in urban spaces. Our keynote speaker, Jerry Hightower, is one to not miss. He is entertaining and a wealth of knowledge. He works in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area which is a natural area that runs through an urban environment.mountain from Commons Side (1) small

We have great sessions scheduled for our upcoming workshop. Topics include citizen science, telling difficult stories, interpretive techniques, natural and cultural issues, technology and more. A full list can be found on our region website, here. There is something for everybody to learn. Take an opportunity to visit the grounds of Stone Mountain during guided programs. Offsite trips are a great time to bond with fellow interpreters with similar interests and backgrounds. You have the opportunity to see places in a different light than you would as a regular visitor. Offsite visits will take you to the MLK National Historic Site, Zoo Atlanta, Woodruff Center for Puppetry Arts, Atlanta History Center or the Wren’s Nest. Space may be limited so reserve yours today.

Don’t miss our evening socials and entertainment. Socials are a great time to catch up with old friends, make new ones and enjoy being interpreter nerds with your own kind. On Wednesday evening, Tracy Sue Walker, a local storyteller, will spin a tale for the ages. On Thursday, our silent auction will come to an end and we will hold our live auction. When you pack your bags, make sure to include items for the auction and your checkbook! The auctions support our scholarship program that gives our regional members the opportunity to attend regional and national workshop. We like to have a few higher priced items for our live auction. Some of our highest bid items from past auctions include various forms of alcohol, visits to different member’s facilities and a half-eaten chicken! That last one is not recommended as a regular auction item.

I encourage everyone to be part of the upcoming workshop. It is a time to get recharged and gain new ideas for the upcoming year while hanging out with some of the coolest, most interesting people. If you haven’t registered yet, the early bird deadline is January 25th and workshop discount on lodging is only guaranteed through January 27th. Get online to register and start packing your bags. I want to see you in a couple of weeks!

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Upcoming opportunities to get involved in the region!

There are several ways that YOU can step up and get more involved in the Sunny Southeast Region of NAI, or simply attend events to gather with fellow interpreters near you!

First, nominations are still open for regional elections until this Saturday, August 1st! Two positions are open within the Region: Deputy Director and Secretary. In order to run for one of these positions, you must be a member in good standing and keep your membership up-to-date through your elected term.

If you would like to run for one of these positions, prepare a short biography (including why you are running) and photograph and submit them to Region Director Pepe Chavez at by August 1, 2015.

Perky at Sandy Creek Nature Center

Perky’s already in Georgia and making friends. Will you join her in February?

Secondly, it’s time to start planning to attend our Regional Interpreters Workshop in Stone Mountain, GA, February 3-6, 2016. We hope you can come, and also invite you to share your talents and knowledge in a concurrent session!

We are seeking 45-minute and 90-minute presentations for concurrent sessions in the general topic areas of interpretive programs and techniques, natural/cultural resources and current trends in parks. Other topics may be considered. All presenters will be asked to forward handouts, presentations, and other supporting materials in advance for electronic duplication to workshop attendees. To submit a proposal, go to and fill out the form. Deadline: September 15, 2015.

Finally, keep an eye out for state gatherings in your part of the southeast! There are two coming up for North Carolina interpreters, with details below:

These meetings are hosted by the National Association for Interpretation Sunny Southeast Region, and open to anyone working with the public at a cultural, natural or historic site. Please invite your friends and colleagues who aren’t members of NAI yet!

August 26, 2015, 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM
WNC Nature Center, Asheville
No Registration Fee

Join the Facebook event

Join us for a look at the Center’s new grant-funded natural play area, behind-the-scenes access, networking, roundtables, and potluck lunch. RSVP by August 12 to Eli Strull at or (828) 259-8084.

September 15, 2015, 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Greensboro Science Center
No Registration Fee

Join the Facebook event

Join us for behind-the-scenes / special programs with the Center’s education staff, networking, roundtables, and lunch (bring your own or buy onsite). RSVP by August 25 to Eli Strull at or (828) 259-8084.

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Puerto Rico recap coming soon

The workshop in Puerto Rico was a big success! Thank you to everyone for being a part of it. Watch for a full recap soon. In the meantime, enjoy a few photos and click here for a link to the Facebook photo album by the Departamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales (more than 90 photos!)

Please save the date for our next Regional Interpreter’s Workshop: February 3-6, 2016, Stone Mountain Park, Stone Mountain, GA. Details to follow!

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How professional are you?

kayaking 010When we graduate from college we are all ready to take over the world, implement all the great ideas that we have, “improve the world”, make a change, be the best professional that we can be based on what we have learned.

Some students don’t know exactly what they want to do with their degree, their life and how to channel all the energy, some drift through a few jobs trying to figure out who they are and what they want to become.

There are some impressions about being professional and there is more to it than acting and looking professional. Getting paid is not one of them, there are too many volunteers doing a professional job for non-monetary retribution.

In the upcoming weeks we have great opportunities for professional development, a chance to further your knowledge and credentials on the field of interpretation.

The first week in February The Sunny Southeast will hold the 2015 Regional Workshop in Puerto Rico and at the end of the month there will be a Certified Interpretive Trainer workshop in South Carolina

Both are great opportunities to show that you are a true professional and will take advantage of professional opportunities to network, hone skills, further knowledge and hold a professional certification.

I hope to see you in Puerto Rico.


Jose “Pepe” Chavez

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Countdown to Puerto Rico: Scholarship Applications, Award Nominations Start Now

Applications are now available for scholarships to attend the Sunny Southeast’s Regional Workshop Feb. 2-5, 2015, in Humacao, Puerto Rico.

The deadline for both scholarship applications and award nominations is December 21st, so act now!

Scholarships are available to attend the workshop!
Application form (PDF)
Deadline: December 21st, 2014. All scholarship applicants will submit a short writing that can be posted to the Region’s blog or in our newsletter! All materials should be submitted electronically to Steve Dimse at

Who’s that interpreter you just know needs some extra recognition for their amazing work? Please consider nominating them for an award, which will be announced at the Regional Workshop in Puerto Rico! The award categories include Outstanding New Interpreter, Outstanding Interpreter, and Outstanding Service to NAI Region Three.
Nomination form (PDF)
Deadline: December 21st, 2014. Submit electronically to Steve Dimse at
2015 RIW Scholarships

Don’t miss these opportunities to get your applications and nominations in by December 21st, and be sure to save the dates to join Perky in beautiful, sunny Puerto Rico February 2-5!

Perky in Puerto Rico

Come join me in Puerto Rico!

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