Within a days drive of many urban centers, this park is one of the most visited in the nation. It holds many cultural stories as well as natural resource stories. 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 generating program ideas, honing interpretive skills, team-collaboration and a creative reboot.

Attendees ranged in experience from several decades to just a few days. While many of the staff at this park already possessed a wide breadth of resource knowledge and interpretive training (with several rangers holding multiple advanced degrees) our emphasis was to bring a fresh creative perspective to their programs.

    Before we started the training:

    "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.”

    Participant Feedback

    "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.”

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

    "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.”

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

    Build Sensory Awareness

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

    "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."

     

     

    Design a Collaborative Program

    "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 team 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.

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

      Next Steps

      "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.”

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

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

       

       

      Follow up Feedback

      "I've been using some of the techniques you taught us for sensory engagement and have actually gotten some really good feedback on them. In particular, I make a point of having people focus on being present in the moment and really taking in their surroundings while we walk between stops... I then ask people to share what they notice or feel, and it makes for a perfect segue into my discussion of how people in the Smokies were in tune with nature and used natural phenomena like phases of the moon to guide different aspects of their lives."