retro park ranger

Level Up Your Guided Walks

Those who fail to learn from the 1970s are doomed to repeat them… …and I’m old enough to tell you it won’t be as much fun as pop culture would have you believe, ABBA soundtracks notwithstanding. I was recently transported back to that era against my will, in the form of an interpretive walk. It was a classic stand-and-deliver, interpreter-as-teacher tour. There was no through-line […]

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Hikers on a mountain top

Interpreters in the Experience Economy

Every great travel experience has three parts: the anticipation, the realization, and the recollection. Those of us who deliver interpretive programs—guided walks, talks, workshops, dialogues, and the like—have long placed ourselves squarely in the second of those three phases: the delivery/realization of the visit.  With the shift in recent years to new communications tools, it’s time for interpreters to take our place within the other […]

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Of Bats and Myths (and sloppy interpreters)

Myth Making From time to time in my career, I have seen interpretive myths that seem to propagate from interpreter to intepreter. I have seen some doozies over the years. Some day, ask me to tell you about the lobsters running each fall up the Miramichi River. Here’s one circulating at the moment: “We need to conserve bats in Canada because they are important pollinators!” […]

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What is Experiential Interpretation?

In the fall of 2020, I will be offering a workshop in Experiential Interpretation. Thinking ahead to the course, I’ve been spending a fair bit of time researching and pondering what that actually means. Interpretation is experiential when the interpreter uses a recognizable activity as the structure of the program, and imposes passive listening on the audience less than 10% of the time. It uses […]

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VERSUS: Debate Club meets Wrestle Mania

Welcome to my new series, Innovators. With this project I’m hoping to highlight people who are pushing the boundaries of interpretation, science communication, and educational visitor experience. And I’m pretty excited to feature, as the first instalment in the series, something about which you may have only dreamed until now: cabaret for total science nerds, otherwise known as VERSUS, brought to you by Dustin Growick, […]

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The Art of Constructive Feedback

I had an opportunity to revisit my old stomping grounds this spring: I gave a keynote presentation to Alberta Parks interpreters in Kananaskis Country, where I began my career in 1982. It was a wonderful, nostalgic experience, and it really brought back to me the value of the training I got from that organization. So much of what I know about family programming, theatrical programming, […]

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What Is Dialogic Interpretation?

… and why on earth would anybody want to do it? It seems that recently, in my travels where I meet colleagues from the USA, the topic of conversation often turns to the rise of dialogic interpretation: interpretive programming that places an emphasis on getting visitors to talk to each other about the subject at hand. Here in Canada, dialogic interpretation isn’t even on the radar. […]

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To script or not to script? An interpreter’s dilemma

A great presentation requires a great script. We’ve been talking a lot lately about the decline of classical stand-and-deliver interpretation, and the rise of experiential, inquiry-based or dialogue-based programming. I think it’s a healthy dialogue. For decades, sage-on-the-stage programming was the default interpretive medium. You took an interpreter, put her in front of an audience, and made people listen to her. Simple. But it wasn’t always effective. […]

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scary Halloween image (church in Rome)

Is Your Halloween Program Off-Theme?

Surely we can accomplish more with a valuable new audience then just jump out of a dark corner and go “boo.” Are you planning a thematically vapid Halloween event? Are you busily training volunteers to jump out at people from behind half-closed doors? Are you dusting off your wacky grave stones and firing up your howling-and-cackling sound systems? And are you completely ignoring your site’s history and […]

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