Case Study: Seeing the Familiar with New Eyes
Great Smokies National Park, NC
May 2017

Within a days drive of many urban centers, this park is one of the most visited in the nation. Their staff of rangers and volunteer rangers and interns is extremely dedicated and knowledgeable. Some staff have been there over 25 years, other had returned multiple years as a seasonal ranger or volunteer. There were also several interns who had only been there one week. While many of the staff at this park already possessed a wide breadth of resource knowledge and interpretive training (with several rangers holding more than one academic degree) our goal was to bring a fresh creative perspective to their programs.

Their personal goals for the training included:

  • Gain new perspectives and techniques
  • Learn better ways to tell stories & engage visitors
  • Become a better speaker
  • Hone interpretive skills
  • Learn how to make programs more interesting

The park brought me as part of their seasonal spring training to inspire fresh ideas for their programs. During our a two day training , our time was focused on honing interpretive skills, working on program development and getting a creative reboot.

Introducing Erica, the staff was told "For those of you who have had the more traditional interpretive training, we brought Erica here because she is going to make you think  in ways that you didn’t expect, and you’re going to think of new and creative ways to tell these stories.There’s incredible skills here in this room now, so it’s not that anything you're doing is now wrong, but we can take it to a whole other level.”

“[Erica] is fantastic at bringing out the right-brain in people."


1. Build Sensory Awareness Skills

"I want to help people better connect with the park. I think adding in senses and reflections will help do this."

"The reflective, sensory activities allow more time for the visitors to become even more aware of what is around them."

"Using sensory information and colorful language can really improve the visitors experience. I also learned that reflective moments can really strengthen your program."

2. See the familiar through new eyes

"In addition to the structure of programs that we have learned in the past, it is also important to think outside the box."

“I would recommend this program as an opportunity to move beyond and build on the traditional interpretive building blocks.”


3. Hone Presentation Style

"I definitely feel more confident in my skills as an interpreter.
I liked finding my “sweet spot” because it made me feel like I have my own personal delivery style as an interpreter.”



4. Individual Program development

This segment provides time, thought-provoking worksheets and laser coaching from Erica.

" Even cut & dry program parts like intros and info can have soulful moments. You can turn generic reflection into reflective questions"

"To make a concerted effort to deepen the emotional impact of my more straight-laced programs that lean more toward science education.”

"I learned new ways to draw the visitor in, which has gotten the wheels turning in how I can incorporate creative techniques into my programs.”


5. The Collaborative Program

"The collaborative program was what I liked best because of the all the feedback and fine tuning involved.”

"The group program gave an opportunity to work collaboratively with co-workers. It was a first, and enlightening.”

“My favorite was working with my future group to come up with a program. It allowed us a chance to get a feel for each other. I liked bouncing ideas off of each other and bonding with my team.”

"I liked building a program with my team to learn from their ideas of how a program should be designed. I also enjoy watching the programs from the other teams and comparing and contrasting different styles.”

[This training helps you] "learn to think more outside of the box, better engage your audience, and get to know your fellow co-workers."

"This training was great. Very engaging and I feel like it provoked me to think about my own natural skills and how to use and improve upon them.”

"Thank you. I have learned so much."