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  • 14 Jul 2020 12:45 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Bill Reynolds, Interpretive Coach, Experiential Interpretive Design

    The following summary notes were compiled by the author based on a session he conducted during  the highly stimulating 2019 IC conference in Winnipeg, at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

    Facilitator Bill’s note: This workshop modelled the dialogic interpretation principles of facilitate, listen, acknowledge and connect. My intent was to stretch the concept of dialogue in different directions and to help all heritage sites see the benefits of interpretive dialogue in other situations than just when dealing with difficult topics and human rights issues. The aim was to explore approaches to different mission-based dialogues, including non-sensitive topics, that would stimulate the exchange of ideas and elicit visitors’ reflective reactions.

    After a quick self-assessment of participants’ familiarity with and experience employing dialogic interpretation (DI), it was clear that most participants had limited knowledge of and few experiences with it. The session explored the whys, who, whats and hows of DI.

    Why Dialogue?

    Deciding whether to incorporate DI into an interpretive toolbox requires coming to grips with “Why Dialogue?” Our keynote speaker Sarah Pharaon, International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, presented these four key outcomes:

    • ·         provoke thought,
    • ·         inspire compassion
    • ·         build acceptance
    • ·         compel action

    Participants shared DI techniques that had been used to spark attitude & behaviour change, to build bridges, to transfer information, to gather opinions, and to challenge assumptions (e.g. snakes). Additionally, DI was helpful during collaborations between neighbours and sites as well as supporting visitor acceptance of management decisions.

    Who is involved?

    Once you know why you are doing DI, then knowing your audience, the who is critical. Five options were shared:

    • ·         Visitor’s Internal Self
    • ·         Partner/family
    • ·         Strangers
    • ·         Groups (e.g. school, corporate)
    • ·         Community/Global

    The first option, visitor’s internal self, posed the possibility that dialogue does not always have to be face-to –face, it could be with yourself? Internal dialogue can be powerful when encouraged. The middle three are examples of visitor –visitor interactions. Community/global examples were supplied of centres using the internet to communicate with other centres and classrooms to have live discussions. The challenge is how to consciously set the stage for site visitors to enter into one (or many) levels of DI.

    Types of Visitor Dialogue

    DI situations can involve a range of topics and not just around sensitive and emotionally strained DEEP talk. We explored examples of who or what the visitor could converse with when visiting a site:

           Real Life Individual

           Person from the Past

           Inanimate Object

    “Real Life Individual” is fairly common and is usually an interpreter or artisan demonstrator. Exploring beyond the normal choices, a site could enlist a curator, a local celebrity or historian or a storyteller.

    You don’t need to be a living history site to use “Person from the Past.” For example, your site could have a “time machine portal” allowing certain Messengers of the Past to appear with questions for visitors to compare the past with the present.


     structure (barn), a natural feature (a river), or an artifact (a door handle), are all objects that would have witnessed many events or been touched by many people. You might need to inflict your visitors with a pinch of fantasy to make this work with interpretive staff having certain auditory and linguistic powers able to decipher specific object “language.” Alternatively, the object (e.g. barn) could direct the visitor to take action by directing them to “go around the back…” or “drop to your hands and knees to look for…”               

    Maybe challenging the visitor to create a conversation between objects that do not have an obvious connection (e.g. a slave shackle and a silver tea set placed together) could have evocative power.

    Recommended Dialogic Stages

    Stage 1: Pre-Dialogue increase receptiveness of the open mind

    Stage 2: Focus Thoughts and Feelings

    Stage 3: Post- Dialogue Share with others

    Stage 1 Opening Minds

    This stage has 4 parts:

           Welcoming – Receptiveness

           Feeling Comfortable

           Creating a safe, supportive space

           Perceiving in new ways

    The session focussed on the first and fourth parts, the second and third were presented in other sessions.


    Being open and receptive to various viewpoints is critical to setting the stage for dialogue. Isn’t the beginning of a dialogue with nature a way to form a new connection with the earth - the start of a regenerative relationship?

    Generating different points of view, at a natural history site, could come from coaching people to be good receivers and providing them with new perspectives. New perspectives are aided by exposing visitors to sensory awareness exercise; seeing something from a new position -- in a wheelchair, from the ground (roleplaying an ant), or walking with a mirror held horizontally at shoulder height to view the canopy. A great resource would be the Earthwalks book created by the Institute for Earth Education. http://www.ieetree.org/education-tree/earthwalks/

    Perceiving in new ways could be as simple as evaluating one’s language and comparing cultural differences. The use of the word “resistance” versus “rebellion” when discussing Métis history sets up a totally different mindset. Words do affect perception. Perhaps one word, “mindbodyearth” without separation could change our point of view and impact our land relationship. By thinking this way would you ever perceive that land could be owned?

    Stage 2 Focusing Thoughts and Feelings

    As several conference sessions were dealing with questioning tools, we pursued setting up the concept of walking in someone else’s shoes (or paws). An apartheid museum utilized two turnstiles for visitors allowing them to choose different perspectives during the visit – either as a white guard or a black prisoner. At a natural heritage area, the visitor could experience life as a predator or a prey? DI would be initiated after the experience to compare feelings and thoughts.

    Fundamental to mission success is the evaluation of the visitors’ sense of a site’s reasons for being. DI could probe, “Why is this site significant?”  What if visitors were asked to create a display (crowd curate technique) by picking one thing from an assortment of representative options and share why they chose their item.

    Images from the past and present representing reality, propaganda, and discrimination helped conference attendees realize that photographs/paintings could be used more often as DI conversation starters. Similarly, quotes can be used– like this inscription on a sidewalk in a Canadian multiracial community.


    Stage 3 Share with Other

    Visitors need more opportunities to post thoughts and feelings beyond the shallow comments in guest books. The Canadian Human Rights Museum (CHRM) has a recording studio for audio sharing and has dedicated a large attractive space for visitors to write their reactions to the museum’s content.

    Cards were used to kickstart the visitors’ voice, with phrases like:

    • ·         Respect is…
    • ·         Inclusion is…
    • ·         I am inspired by…
    • ·         I will…


    In a less controversial setting like a heritage park, a starting phrase could be “I never knew…” where promoting curiosity/environmental understanding is the purpose.

    Posting these cards on a wall is a quick way to share visitors’ responses. This is a kind of silent dialogue where visitors read what others wrote and add their own. The Canmore library, decided to share quotes from a local artist survey about the creative process by writing them on “birchbark” paper strips, creating a canoe.


    Reflecting on our dialogue about the whys, whats, who and hows, we must consider whether the visitor experience has challenged assumptions, motivated visitors to learn more or inspired them to act.

    Did this session’s treatment about the whys, whats, who and hows of DI succeed in challenging your assumptions, motivate you to learn more or inspire you to change in any way?

    Bill Reynolds’ Bio: For over 40 years Bill’s life work has pivoted around creating enriching experiences for people. Bill possesses a diverse background in heritage interpretation, visitor friendly site design, leisure attraction feasibility assessments and strategic planning. Presently he is an interpretive coach and co-writer of the Experiential Interpretive Design blog at www.eidcoaching.com  which he hopes you check out for interpretive insights.

  • 13 May 2020 9:54 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    • Dialogue through Ice Breakers!

      By: Ian Martens

      Icebreakers can be used to energize, build bridges and begin dialogue. Your host Ian Martens will take you through a few of his favorite icebreakers and share how he uses them to assess prior knowledge and tailor his tours. Contrary to popular belief trust falls are not the place to start.  

      Types of Icebreakers


    • 1.     Energizers
    • Energizers are great to get a group moving, especially if the group has been sitting on a bus for a while.  The goal of energizers is just that - to raise the energy in the room.  Often, students who come on tours will be very nervous when arriving in a new place with new people and new expectations.  Energizers are great for putting people at ease and quickly breaking down walls.
    • 2.     Let’s Get Talking Games
    • The tours and programs at the CMHR are dialogue based and in reality, all programs no matter the site are better with some dialogue.  Nobody wants to ask and a question and get crickets!

    • 3.     Deeper Meaning
    • Some icebreaker activities can be used as a way to build a deeper meaning.  These are activities that are best used in settings where you have had a group for more than one tour or day.  They can be a great way to build bridges from one program to another and really hammer home big ideas.

    • 4.     Whole Group
    • If you have a group that is already energized and the volume level is approaching Stanley Cup Win levels, Whole Group icebreakers can be just what the doctor ordered.  These can bring the energy down or up depending on the audience.

    • 5.     Simulation Games
    • Simulation icebreakers are probably the most complex because they require more preparation, but with the right group can skyrocket the depth of conversation.  We want to keep them short but still have some depth. We won’t be doing simulations today but they are a great way to build teams.

      What can icebreakers tell you about your students?

    • 1.     Who is reactive and who is more contemplative
    • 2.     Who friends are and who enemies are
    • 3.     Language level
    • 4.     Prior knowledge
    • 5.     Dialogic strengths
    • 6.     Who the ‘cool’ kids are and who might need some one-on-one support
    • 7.     What point students are at within an academic unit
    • 8.     Who are the specialists and who are the students who think this is a day off
    • 9.     Behavioral issues
    • Types of questions we can ask:

      Green Questions

    • ·      These are instinct questions (least risk)
    • ·      Ex. What’s your favorite food?  Favorite color?  Favorite movie?
    • Yellow Questions

    • ·      Questions that require some thought, but with moderate risk
    • ·      Important to be bounded so people are overwhelmed.
    • ·      Ex. “How many human rights can you name?”
    • ·      Ex. “Dinosaur Provincial Park has 30 species of dinosaurs.  How many dinos can you name?”
    • Red Questions

    • ·      The content and you questions. 
    • ·      Ex. “What would you do in this situation?”  “What is a human rights problem that makes you angry?”  “What is it about it that irritates you?” “What kind of things prevent you from realizing your human rights vision?”
    • Purple Questions

    • ·      Self-directed/introspective
    • ·       Ex. “After everything we have experienced today what will you do to make a difference in promoting human rights?”
    • ·      Ex. “What could you do in your community protect the environment?”
    • ·      Ex. “How can you work to get out the vote?”
    • Icebreaker Examples

    • 1.     Rock Paper Scissors Cheer (Energizer)
    • Best for: Large groups, the bigger the better

      Participants are engaged in the World (or insert your program’s name here) Championship of Rock Paper Scissors. Have participants find a partner to play against.  If they win then they keep going, but if they lose they become the cheering section for the winner. This continues until there are only two players left and they have two giant cheering sections.

      Be aware this one can get very loud.  The largest group I have done this with is 100.

      Things to watch for: Participants in the corners, who jumps right in, who looks overwhelmed, anybody left out, anybody going out of their way to include outsiders. 

    • 2.     Square Dance (Let’s Get Talking)
    • Best for: Groups of 6+

      Have each participant find a partner. Once they have a partner, have participants form two lines with each pair of partners facing each other. You will ask a series of questions of increasing complexity. After each question the A group moves down the line so that there is a new partner. Between questions I usually zigzag to get answers. Sometimes for younger groups I might pass a ball through the line to get answers. For a Human Rights program where I want people to think about Human Rights Defenders I might ask:

    • 1.      What is your favourite breakfast food?
    • 2.     What are the human rights you can name?
    • 3.     Who is a person who has defended human rights that inspires you?
    • Ex.

      A1        A2        A3                    A2        A3        A1                    A3        A1        A2

                                          ->                                             ->        

      B          B          B                      B          B          B                      B          B          B

                 

    • 3.     Super-Heroes (Deeper Meaning)
    • Each participant gets a piece of paper and a marker

      Have participants draw their own super hero, name them and give themselves a superpower.  Have them share this with people at their table or in a small group. 

    • 4.     Inside-Out (Deeper Meaning)
    • Each participant finds a partner and a wall or poster paper.  The partners trace each other’s outlines.  Ask the group the question of What values are the most important to them.  Have them write these on the inside of the shape.  Now that they have reflected on their values ask the question of how can we use our values to change the world.  Write all the possibilities on the outside.  Have participants circulate to each others drawings and put check marks beside all the causes they feel they could see themselves helping the person with.

    • 5.     Snowball (Whole Group)

    Each participant writes a hobby or interesting fact about themselves and throws them into the middle of the table or the room. Participants pick a snowball and must try and find who it belongs to. 

    Other Resources:

    Museum Hack, The Only List of Icebreaker Questions You’ll Ever Need https://museumhack.com/list-icebreakers-questions/

    Fraser, K., Fraser L., Fraser, M., 175 Best Camp Games, A handbook for leaders, Boston Mills Press (Aug. 24 2009)

    Raphael, T.E., & Au, K.H. (2005). QAR: Enhancing comprehension and test taking across grades and content areas. The Reading Teacher, 59, 206-221.

    Ultimate Camp Resource, Ice Breakers, https://www.ultimatecampresource.com/site/camp-activities/ice-breakers.html

    Ice Breaker Ideas, https://icebreakerideas.com/

    Ian Martens is a Program Interpreter at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and joined the CMHR in 2014. Ian is a museum educator with over 15 years of experience working in interpretation at both museums and Parks Canada. He is a youth leadership facilitator and is driven to inspire the next generation to make a difference. He has also taught in the classroom from Kindergarten to Grade 12 in both Thailand and Shamattawa, MB.  You can contact Ian at immartens@gmail.com.


  • 15 Apr 2020 1:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By: Jennifer Dick, Interpretation Officer, Royal Botanical Gardens

    For the past few years at Royal Botanical Gardens, we’ve been making simple videos for social media using cell phones. This fun side-of-the-desk project has become critical in the past month as we move from interpreting our gardens and nature sanctuaries in situ to entirely virtually. RBG closed temporarily in mid-March due to COVID-19 to help keep our community safe. At the beginning of April, we launched RBG at Home to connect with our “visitors” by providing videos, activities, and videoconference programs.


    In preparation for creating more videos than we ever have before and from our own homes and yards, I put together my top tips for filming. A few of these tips come from Karin Davidson-Taylor’s March blog post on delivering webinars. Given that interpreters around the world are facing similar situations and working on new ways to connect with their audiences, I wanted to also share these tips with you. As with anything, this gets easier with practice. After a few videos, you’ll feel more comfortable in front of the camera and you’ll appear more natural. You’ve got this!

    I’d love to hear some of your tips and some of the things you learn-by-doing in the weeks to come. Share in the comments below. Please take good care of yourself!

    1.     Plan Ahead: Be prepared

    a.     Be an interpreter: Plan your video much like you would plan a personal interpretive program. Even though this video is a “non-personal” interpretive product, you still want it to be engaging, inspiring, organized, and relevant. Make it personal! Don’t be afraid to ask your audience questions, get them to do an action, ask them to participate. Even though you can't see them, they’re watching you being the awesome interpreter you are.

    b.     Message: Have a clear message (theme statement!) so viewers understand your point.

    c.     Draft an outline: Take the time to write a great theme, identify your target audience, and set your objectives. Ask yourself what you want your viewers to know, think about, and feel. Outline your content, and the order you want to cover it.

    d.     Write a script: If scripting is helpful for you, write it all out. What are you going to say to get your theme and objectives across to your viewers? How are you going to introduce and conclude your video?

    e.     Flow: Have a clear intro and conclusion and use obvious transitions between points so it’s easier to follow the content.

    f.      Timing: You probably won’t be able to do as much as you think you can in the time you are planning. Less is best so be clear and concise to get your message across.

    g.     Storyboarding: For videos with multiple shots, angles, and images, it can be helpful to map out a storyboard to plan your shots, timing, and delivery.

    h.     Reviewer: If possible, have someone else review your outline to make sure your plan makes sense.

    i.       Platform: Consider where your video will be posted. Platforms like Facebook have algorithms that give priority in feeds for videos of certain lengths. Instagram cuts off the sides of your shot, so you need to keep everything centred.

    j.       Text: No matter what platform you plan to use, you’ll need to draft text that will accompany your video. Write a catchy title, use an active voice, keep it short, and make it fun. Try writing this text like you would an advertising description for a live program.

    k.     Responses: Ideally your audience will engage with you after watching. What do you want that to look like? Are you going to ask them to comment or use a hashtag to post their own photos or videos? Be as specific as you can with how you’d like them to respond.

    2.     Equipment: Gear up

    a.     Cellphone: Most cellphones have great rear-facing cameras. Don’t film in selfie-mode since the resolution isn’t as good. Always film in landscape.

    b.     DSLR: Cameras also take great video but check your specs. My cell phone has better resolution than my older camera.

    c.     Tripod: These are really valuable if you are taking still videos. You can also get creative and rig up a stationary stand or prop up your camera. Selfie sticks can help with this too.

    d.     Camera person: If you’re planning a moving frame, recruit someone (preferably from your household) with a steady hand to help.

    e.     Gimbal: If you want really smooth looking moving shots, try using a gimbal. It’s not critical for low-budget filming and most viewers are forgiving if your camera person has a fairly steady hand.

    f.      Props: Have everything you need close at hand and in front of you if possible so you don’t need to turn your back to the camera. Props should be large enough and have a simple enough form to show up well on camera. Showcase them on a white or neutral background if possible


    3.     Filming: Take the shot

    a.     Keep it simple: Start with videos that you can film straight through in one shot. This is much simpler than trying to edit together multiple shots.

    b.     Rehearse: Go through your planned content several times, at least once with a camera in place to make sure the view will work.

    c.     Take 2: Film two to three takes; it’s good to have options to choose the best one.

    d.     Beginning and ending: wait a few seconds after recording starts to begin and let the recording run a few seconds after you’re done so that nothing gets cut off.

    e.     Pace: Slow your speech down a bit so the mic will pick each distinct word.

    f.      Keep going: If you stumble, stutter, or pause, push through. It’s not as noticeable as you think.

    g.     Eye on the prize: When not looking at your subject, keep your gaze on a single focal point to avoid wandering eyes. A good rule of thumb is to look next to the camera lens. If you have a camera person, look at them. If you don’t, try adding a dot or picture an inch or two from the lens to look at.

    4.     The View: Admire the scenery

    a.     Background Indoors: Make sure the space is tidy and as stark as possible. A busy background is distracting. You can always ‘hide’ a busy background with a solid tablecloth or sheet.

    b.     Background Outdoors: Again, make sure the space is tidy. Is there anything that doesn’t belong in the landscape that can be moved/removed such as litter or equipment?

    c.     Clothing: Ideally wear your uniform shirt if you have one. If not, wear solid coloured clothing in blues, greens, dark reds, and preferably not bright colours or very dark colours. Patterns, stripes and dots are not a good idea since they distract the viewer and may even make them dizzy.

    d.     Position: Make sure that the camera is at your eye level, so viewers aren’t looking down on you or looking up your nose. 

    e.     Moving: A changing view is less static, can make the video more interesting, and keep people’s attention longer. This needs a steady hand with the camera, and you need to plan the route (including lighting and sound) ahead of filming. This can be done in your rehearsals. The “walk and talk” works well but make sure that you are always facing the camera which sometimes means walking on an angle or walking backwards (or your camera person walks backwards).

    f.      Staying still: Moving isn’t always appropriate and a static view works best for instructional or short videos. If possible, use a tripod to film since camera shake is more noticeable in a still shot.

    g.     Framing: You don’t always need to be centred in the shot. Try using the rule of thirds or leading lines to create visual interest. Do try to keep the content towards the middle of the screen though since Instagram cuts off the sides of the frame.

    h.     Orientation: If filming on your phone, always use landscape. This matches the orientation of most video viewing platforms so your video won’t be stretched or appear with black bars on each side.

    5.     Lighting: In the limelight

    a.     Outdoor: Where’s the sun? Where are the shadows? If it’s early or late in the day, is there enough light? Are both you and your subject(s) lit well enough? Consider the lighting for your whole route if moving.

    b.     Indoor moving: Similar considerations to outdoors. Where are the windows, light sources, and shadows? Is there enough light for both you and your subject(s)? Consider the lighting for your whole route.

    c.     Indoor still: If possible, place a soft/diffuse light in front of you so that you are well lit. This is especially important for still shots. Try to make it so that you are evenly lit and do not have shadows on one side of your face. If you are in a room with a window, face the window. If you must have your back to the window, use curtains; otherwise cameras will adjust to dim the entire image resulting in you being a dark silhouette.

    6.     Sound: All ears

    a.     Background: Take a moment to listen to the ambient sounds. Insects and birds add a nice soundtrack. Traffic, fans, running water, and other background noise (such as aquarium filters, dogs barking, people talking) are distracting and are more obvious in a recording than in person. Can you move to another location or eliminate the sound temporarily?

    b.     Wind: Even a light breeze can make a lot of noise in the microphone. Wait for the wind to die down or film in a sheltered location.

    c.     Voice: Always face the microphone. Depending on the quality of your mic, it may or may not pick up your voice if you turn your head. Use inflections and intonation to make your voice more expressive.

    d.     Energy: Use more energy that you would for a live presentation to make it engaging. Your normal presentation energy won’t translate the same way on film so amp it up and don’t be afraid to be a bit over the top.

    e.     The word: Most interpreters have a word or phrase that they use more than any other. Your word might change over time. If you don’t know what your current word is before filming, you probably will after because it’s more noticeable on video, at least it is for me. My current word is “now”. It used to be “excellent”. Don’t feel like you need to re-film because of it, but I encourage you to watch/listen for it so you’re more aware of it.

    Jennifer is Royal Botanical Gardens’ Interpretation Officer where she manages interpretation in their 11 square-kilometres of gardens and nature sanctuaries. Her interp adventures began in Ontario Parks in 2001. A Biology degree and graduate diploma in Science Communication have benefited her career working for museums and not-for-profits across Canada. She joined Interpretation Canada’s board of directors in 2015.

  • 15 Mar 2020 7:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Karin Davidson-Taylor, RBG

    So you’ve been asked to do a webinar?  You want to make a good impression while presenting an engaging, informative program. Here are some helpful tips for how to position yourself, the technology to use, and your presentation format.

    First of all, where you are in a room and your surroundings makes a big difference.  You are in the spotlight; both figuratively and literally. Place a light in front of you so that you are well lit. Try to make it so that you are evenly lit and do not have shadows on one side of your face.  If you are in a room with a window, you can sit facing the window. If you have to sit with your back to the window, then try using curtains; otherwise cameras often adjust to dim the entire image – including you – which would result in you being a dark silhouette.  Take a look around and behind where you will be sitting. Is it a busy space? Is there a messy bulletin board or bookcase? You want to create a professional atmosphere, and this might be distracting for participants.  You can always ‘hide’ that with a tablecloth or vertical blind… or change the position of the camera so that your background is neutral or not distracting.  Is your phone off? Are there pets or other potential noises in another room? Do you have a clock close by to keep track of time?


    Can you spot a few webinar errors in the image above? 

    Next consider how the camera and you are positioned on your desk and room. The placement of the camera can also influence how participants react to a webinar. You want to make sure that the camera is at your eye level.  How often have you seen presenters looking down or you’re looking up into their nose? When we interact with visitors onsite, we want to make eye contact; the same applies to doing a webinar.

    The technology that you are using also makes a difference. Make sure you have a strong stable Internet connection. That means being hardwired (ethernet cable) or having a very robust WiFi. This will help avoid streaming delays so that you don’t become frozen… it’s very disruptive to see the presenter mid-sentence with half-opened eyes. It’s also helpful to close any unnecessary programs since they can consume bandwidth. Make sure you’ve tested your video quality. Depending on the age of your computer, you may have a good built-in camera and microphone; otherwise invest in a webcam. This will make a world of difference in the quality of what participants perceive. You’ll also need to test your audio to make sure your microphone works and produces a clear sound. A fuzzy, low volume can ruin a wonderful presentation. It is always a good idea to have a headset (earbuds/headphones and microphone) handy in case you are in an office situation. A video test is also a good way to determine the correct placement of your camera. If possible, do a connection test, too with the event organizer. You can review your presentation at the same time. Rehearse how the switch from moderator to presenter happens as well as discover how your presentation will be shared and who will be advancing slides. Some applications are very clear about this while others take a little practice.

    What you’re wearing influences how people perceive you and consequently your presentation. You don’t want what you wear to take the attention away from your message. Consider solid coloured clothing in blues, greens, dark reds, and preferably not bright colours or very dark colours. Patterns, stripes and dots are definitely not a good idea since they distract the participants and may even make them dizzy.  

    Finally, your voice and how you use it can make or break this very visual presentation. Make sure your audience can hear you clearly by placing yourself in front of the microphone. Depending on the quality of your mic, it may or may not pick up your voice if you turn your head to check something on another monitor. Secondly, don’t forget to use inflections and intonation – change the volume, the ups and downs of your voice to make it more expressive. Pictures are lovely, but if participants cannot hear, understand, or stay awake because you are using a very monotone voice, your message is not going to get across. Much like with a live program, put some energy into your voice and it will translate into an energetic and engaging presentation.

    The Presentation

    During webinars, your presentation is the main visual compared to doing an in-person presentation when you are the focus. Depending on the application and the far-side set up you may be visible as a PIP (picture in picture) in one corner of the screen or you may not be visible at all when you are sharing your slide presentation. Just in case you aren’t visible during the presentation, it’s always helpful to have a picture of you (and other presenters) at the beginning since it adds a personal touch. Have a slide that gives an overview of the presentation to let participants know how the content will be arranged.  And make sure you end with a slide that thanks the audience and notes next steps — handouts, recording, surveys.

    One of the biggest issues is text versus pictures. Use more visuals!  Your message is important. Pictures (and simple animations) will help reinforce that as well as keep your audience engaged and reinforce the message you are trying to make. You are serving both the ‘left’ (logic) and ‘right’ (appealing to feelings) brain of your audience.  But don’t fall into the trap of having a slide up for just a couple of seconds; twenty to thirty seconds is ideal.  You also don’t want the slides to be reliant on a perfect synchronization with what you are saying in case there is a time lag. 

    Other design components of your presentation will impact the engagement of your presentation. Find out what the display ratio is – 4:3 or 16:9; the latter provides a better view. The placement and size of the pictures also influence participant engagement. Consider one important point per slide or if you have to list points, create an attractive slide using “SmartArt” in PowerPoint. Use a plain one-colour background throughout your presentation. If you want to use animations, make them as simple as possible since it might slow down your presentation while your slides load. Consider “building” an animation. You can achieve the same thing using 4 slides by gradually adding components to each new slide to create the appearance of an animation. Don’t use transitions since they often slow down the webinar. Prezi, which is great for an in-person presentation, doesn’t work well for webinars because of all the transitions and animations.

    Chat, Questions and Polls

    If “housekeeping” isn’t done at the beginning of the webinar by the moderators, remind participants how to participate in the chat and how to ask questions. Ask them to tell you and where they are from since this might be information you can refer to during the presentation which will help build a connection. Are you able to incorporate a poll into your presentation or some other activity? These are always great ways to add an interactive element to your presentation to get participants involved.

    Silence during a webinar is the presenter’s worst nightmare, but it can happen. There are times when silence will be important, but participants need to know what you are doing. Build in some micro-pauses, too, since the participants might need time to finish jotting down a point that you just made. If you are going to be silent because you need to take a sip of water, let your audience know. You don’t want them to think they’ve lost audio.

    When it’s time for questions, having a slide up is a good idea with the word ‘Questions’ on it to remind people that is what’s happening at that point in case they joined while the presentation was in progress.  Depending on the application, you may or may not be able to see the questions and will have to rely on the moderator to state the question for all participants and you to hear. Don’t end your presentation with questions. Your last slide should be a Thank you slide so participants can identify the clear ending.

    A webinar is not just a bunch of pretty pictures, but so much more. How your room is setup, the technology used, the placement of your webcam, what you wear, how you sound will all influence the engagement and reception of your participants.  But don’t forget that your presentation needs to be active and stimulating to engage to make it impactful and memorable. Finally, have fun!

    Karin Davidson-Taylor, B.Sc. (Guelph), B.Ed. (Brock). Education Officer, Royal Botanical Gardens

    Karin joined RBG in 2006, coming with 17 years experience with the Upper Grand DSB in both children and adult education. She has been responsible for establishing RBG as a Canadian leader in the world of interactive videoconference-based virtual field trips. She develops and delivers interactive distance education programming to schools and life-long learners around the world, working in coordination with other staff and partners.  

    www.rbg.ca/videoconferencing



  • 4 Mar 2020 8:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Wendy Niven

    If you are looking to up your theme writing game, Jon Kohl’s Interpretive Theme Writer’s Field Guide is a must-have. Written to complement and build upon another essential ingredient in the heritage interpreter's toolkit - Sam Ham’s Interpretation: Making a Difference on Purpose - the Interpretive Theme Writer’s Field Guide is dedicated to the art and craft of writing great interpretive themes. 


    This isn't a book that one reads once cover to cover. There's too much in it to absorb in one read-through. I remember learning the basics of exhibit design from Jim Todgham, from whom I took over maintaining the exhibits at Jasper National Park's Icefield Centre. He taught me that interpretive exhibits need to appeal to three different types of visitors - Streakers, Strollers, and Studiers. In order to really get all the meat that's in this book, I think I one needs to do all three. 


    This is also not a book that one reads and files away. The intent is for your edition to become dog-eared as you bring it into the field with you - the place where inspiration and creativity are most likely to strike. It is a great tool!


    So, who is Jon Kohl? Based in the US and Costa Rica, Jon was introduced to environmental interpretation while working at the Costa Rican Simon Bolivar National Zoo and Botanical Gardens. A writer from an early age, Jon has been developing his interpretation skills since the early 1990s. In the book Jon maintains there are plenty of resources for an interpreter to learn the theory of thematic interpretation, but nothing that helps one hone their skill at what is arguably the most important aspect of the craft - writing a great theme.


    The Interpretive Theme Writer’s Field Guide is set up as a series of stations that take the reader through 7 distinct stages in order to dissect the theme writing process and connect it to the larger objective of interpretive program development. 


    It begins by setting a solid stage of what interpretation is - and what it isn’t. From this base, the field guide takes you through audience types (primary and secondary), big ideas (the precursor to your theme), the vehicles for your big ideas (your themes), igniting inspiration, and how to present your ideas to your audience in a provocative, meaningful way. 


    Wrapping up with how to create a theme-writing team (it takes a village to write a theme!), and how your theme fits into the bigger-picture interpretive framework, the field guide is full of quotes, examples, exercises, tips, tricks, and worksheets to help you understand, practice and dig deeper into how to create a really strong theme based on Sam Ham’s “fundamental criteria of provocation and power”.


    The knowledge, skill and insight contained within the pages of the Interpretive Theme Writer’s Field Guide is deep. For me, as a budding interpreter, this is a book that I plan on returning to often. I have already broken family rules (sorry mom and dad!) by folding over page corners to mark the spots that inspire or intrigue me. I hope my copy is well bound, because I think it is going to take a little abuse as I dig into it to develop my skills in creating compelling interpretive themes and programs.

    Wendy Niven lives and works as an interpretive guide in Jasper, Alberta. She is also an interpretation instructor for the Interpretive Guides Association and is always looking to improve her thematic interpretation skills. As you can see from the image, Wendy has already started to smash up her copy of Jon's Interpretive Theme Writers Field Guide.

  • 15 Feb 2020 8:07 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Sarah Rauh, Parks Canada, Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area

    When thinking of Dialogic Interpretation, we often think of the personal interpretation opportunities that it provides. However, dialogue is just as important “behind the scenes” and in non-personal interpretation. Over the last number of years, I have worked on a variety of projects with outside organizations to tell their stories. We had to work collaboratively and use dialogue to create meaningful stories and valuable visitor experience opportunities. But, how do we work collaboratively with these organizations who often have no background or understanding of interpretation?


    By incorporating dialogue, we can work effectively with these organizations to create an outstanding visitor experience. In this session, I shared some of the methods that I use as well as gathered suggestions from session participants. This is the resulting Collaborative Guide to Success that we created… collaboratively!

    Things to keep in mind

    Challenge your natural role

    o Some individuals will naturally fall into leadership roles; others will naturally feel more comfortable letting someone else take the lead. Remember to be open to this and step into the role that is needed by the group!

    o Be aware of what your natural role is in case it causes any misunderstanding of who is leading the project.

    Some stakeholders don’t want to be involved in the entire process.

    One of the key things that comes up in discussions is choosing stories. With some groups, you may need to act as facilitator or the “Interpretive specialist”, providing advice and recommendations on which stories to choose. With other groups, you can work with them to choose the stories. As you work with these groups, be flexible and step into the role that is needed.

    Snacks are key!

    Steps of Collaboration

    When working with a group you can use the following steps to help work through the process:

    Goal setting – what is the purpose? What is the final result?

    Determine roles – Who is responsible for what?

    The Plan – how will you get there?

    Negotiation – figuring out the “nitty-gritty”

    Collaboration – creating the final product

    Another strategy that you can incorporate is: RACI

    1. Responsible (Who is responsible for the project?)

    2. Accountable (Who are we accountable to?)

    3. Consulted (Who needs to be consulted?)

    4. Informed (Who needs to be informed about the project?)

    Tools of Facilitation for Interpretive Panels

    Here are some of the tools and strategies you can use when facilitating conversations around interpretive panels:

    Mind-mapping:

    o Take the topics related to the project and write them down on chart paper spread out around the room. The group then walks around the room and adds stories or information related to each subject. This allows us to see the breadth of stories that the group believes is important or were linked. Then in phase two, the group goes around again and votes for their favourite points in each grouping. Once this is complete, you can discuss and narrow down the stories from there into panels and themes.

    Physical mapping of ideas:

    o For a series of panels, take a map of the place and place the panels in locations on the map to visually see where they would be laid out. This allows a chance to determine if spots are too crowded, where stories can be told best, issues with locations, etc. This is also a useful step to use after the mind-mapping exercise.

    Matrix matching:

    o For groups that have multiple organizations involved, use this tool to make sure that the objectives or themes of each group are covered.

    o Put all the panel themes/subjects along the side bar and have each organizations objectives or must haves along the top. Then, go through each panel and see which ones match each objective. Then, determine if there are any gaps in the themes or objectives.

    Group Development

    When working with groups, there are some theories and information that can help you as the facilitator to keep the group moving and manage conflict. If you are looking for ways to assist a group, look into some of the following group development theories:

    - Tuckman’s Theory of Group Development

    - Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument

    - The “Iceberg” of Conflict (Cloke and Goldsmith, 2000)

    Dialogue is a key part of ensuring success in interpretation – both personal and non-personal. When we work with others, our collaboration can create meaningful connections, stronger bonds, and amazing interpretive products!

    Sarah Rauh is the Interpretation Officer/Coordinator III at Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area (Parks Canada). Sarah has worked in the interpretation field for 4 years within Ontario Parks and Parks Canada. She graduated from Lakehead University with an Honours Bachelor of Outdoor Recreation and a Bachelor of Education.


  • 15 Jan 2020 10:08 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    bJ'net Ayayqwayaksheelth, B.A., M.A.(One who gives away and still stands tall)

    As the Indigenous Outreach and Learning Coordinator at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), I get a variety of tasks to address grassroots interests in the museum. In 2016, we were faced with a unique conversation starter prompted by online Twitter comments. Stan Wesley,  a Cree Indigenous educator tweeted comments to invite the ROM to address an inaccurate Christopher Columbus Discovers America statement. This statement appears in the center of a slice of an old-growth Douglas Fir tree we have on loan from the University of Toronto that is featured in our Hands On Gallery across from the popular Bat Cave.  We discussed this with our Indigenous Advisory Circle (IAC) and we agreed that we could not change the intellectual property of the original artist  interpretation.

    Tree cookie on display at Royal Ontario Museum - an IC blog

    photo courtesy of Royal Ontario Museum

    Our IAC members did assert that we have a responsibility as a museum learning department to accurately interpret this outdated statement that reflected the beliefs for the 1920 era the specimen was made into an artifact. There is not much many of us can do with the pace of change within the museum sector. In time, by 2018, we were able to budget for a video project to interview Nuu-chah-nulth nation members from Tseshaht First Nation about the cultural significance of this old-growth tree. This was possible because practicum students from Fleming College Environment Visual Communications program work directly in partnership with the ROM.

    This was a significant continental collaboration. We hosted a formal reveal in the fall 2019 with Stan Wesley and his family invited to bear witness to the fruits of his grassroots efforts to speak the truth within our public institutions. While the wait was long, this act of reconciliation will live on with authentic voices included in real-time interpretation of living Indigenous cultures.  

    Close of view mentioning historical events marked on tree rings - an IC blog

    photo courtesy of Royal Ontario Museum

    Here is the link for the Tree Cookie story covered by my small hometown Indigenous newspaper called the Ha-shilth-sa:   https://hashilthsa.com/news/2019-11-05/old-growth-tree-slice-reinterpreted-through-nuu-chah-nulth-perspective

    J'net AyAyQwaYakSheelth (One who gives away and still stands tall) is the Indigenous Outreach and Learning Coordinator at the Royal Ontario Museum. As part of the Learning Department, J'net leads the development and implementation of relevant Indigenous content and perspectives in School Visits and community outreach programs. This work is designed to advance awareness, understanding, and appreciation for Indigenous cultures and heritage in both historical and contemporary contexts. J’net also developed an Indigenous Advisory Circle of knowledge carriers, elders, youth, and artists to assist the ROM with the authentic representation of Indigenous peoples in educational programming, youth programs, and outreach.

  • 15 Nov 2019 9:16 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By: Grace Hunter, Royal Botanical Gardens and Freelance Science Writer

    Being prepared before heading into the field seems like a no-brainer for nature interpreters. From packing water bottles to knowing how to read a map, having the right gear and knowledge reduces the risk of injury in the outdoors. When leading a group on an interpretive program, nature interpreters bear the added responsibility of communicating risks about the outdoors to an audience. One of the more challenging conversations an interpreter can have with program participants involves discussing ticks and Lyme disease. How can you communicate safe practices surrounding ticks, while still fostering a love for the outdoors?

    Walking in a forest with a risk of ticks - an IC blog
    Photo Credit: © Heiko Barth/Adobe Stock

    Interpreters seeking to tackle this question should first embrace Sun Tzu’s teachings and ‘know thine enemy’. The topic of ticks is rife with myths: from the notion that ticks should be removed with a lit match, to the idea that they attack by dropping from above onto unsuspecting victims. There are also many different tick species, each with their own environmental needs and associated risks. Don’t miss out on delivering crucial information to your audience by talking about the wrong tick, in the wrong environment, at the wrong time of year.

    “There’s so much misinformation about ticks and about Lyme disease,” says Dr. Katie Clow, Assistant Professor in the Department of of Population Medicine with the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. “It’s really good to get out there and provide people with evidence-based information.”

    Two types of ticks can spread Lyme disease in Canada: the blacklegged tick and the western blacklegged tick. Dr. Clow says the hotspots for blacklegged ticks in Ontario are along the north shores of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, in eastern Ontario down into the Ottawa valley, in the Rouge Valley and Hamilton and Niagara area, around Pinery Provincial Park near Grand Bend, and around the town of Penetanguishene. Not every blacklegged tick carries Lyme disease; however, the Government of Ontario’s online primer for Lyme disease notes, “while the probability is low, it is possible to find an infected tick almost anywhere in Ontario.” And thanks to climate change, the blacklegged tick’s range is expanding. Interpreters that lead programs in forest habitats need to be aware that the blacklegged tick is a forest dweller. The blacklegged tick “has high requirements for humid environments, so it spends most of its time in the leaf litter of the forest, and only really comes out when it’s questing,” says Dr. Clow. Questing ticks crawl to the tip of leaves, stems, and branches and wait for a host to pass by. “If we’re thinking meadows, blacklegged ticks aren’t going to survive out there for very long because it’s far too dry.” While it’s possible for a blacklegged tick to find their way into a grassy field, “they’re not thriving in those areas,” says Dr. Clow.

    Understanding tick biology can also help interpreters provide accurate information to an audience about tick risk management. Ticks need to feed during three of their life stages: the larval, nymph, and adult stages. Dr. Clow says larvae stay close to the ground and target small mammals and ground-dwelling birds. Ticks pick up Lyme disease by feeding on infected wildlife, so “if we’re thinking about Lyme disease, that stage doesn’t yet carry it because they haven’t had the chance to pick it up from a wildlife host,” says Dr Clow.

    The nymph stage quests a bit higher and is active in early summer. “This is what a lot of medical professionals say is the highest risk time,” says Dr. Clow, because nymphs are about the size of a sesame seed and can be challenging to spot. “In the spring, and particularly in the fall, that’s the heyday for adult ticks,” says Dr. Clow. Adult ticks are hungry, reproducing, and preparing for winter. They can crawl onto shrubs and bushes to find food, but Dr. Clow clarifies that they aren’t going to be scaling 5-foot tall trees and dropping down from above. “They don’t have overly high mobility.”

    “The main thing I try to convey is that if we’re worried about the blacklegged tick, where we’re going to encounter them is out in the woods and on brushy things where they’re waiting for you. They’re not going to come and get you,” says Dr. Clow. So interpreters should encourage their groups to stay on marked, well-groomed trails, and cover up in long pants and long shirts. Dr. Clow says the most important method to protect from ticks after being outdoors is to do a thorough tick check. Make sure “you’re looking around the hairline, the armpit, the warm moist places of your body that ticks like to hide.” Interpreters should instruct program participants to perform a tick check after being outside. They can also suggest that parents help children with a tick check when the kids are taking their nightly bath and putting on pyjamas.

    For Dr. Ryan Howard, Director of Director of Research, Risk, and Innovation with Alive Outdoors, tick checks are one part of a larger conversation that Alive Outdoor’s instructors have with students about proper hygiene in the field. “We’ve really tried to simplify what it means to talk about ticks and check for ticks,” says Dr. Howard. Alive Outdoors works with several thousand youths in a season, but conversations about ticks happen between instructors and small groups of students to maintain a personal connection throughout the talk. Tick talks are adjusted to fit the age of the students. Keep it simple for young students: “‘Hey we’ve just been out walking through the woods’,” suggests Dr. Howard. “’I want you all to take a moment, right now, just check your legs, check your arms. Look for anything that wasn’t there when you started. Something that’s not normal. Black dot, brown dot. Any bugs.’” says Dr. Howard. For older students, explain what ticks are and why it’s important to do a tick check.

    “We have two choices,” Dr. Howard sums up. “One, we could just not go out there. And two, we can go out there and be well-informed, and do our best to try and reduce the likelihood of students getting exposed to ticks, but also if they do, dealing with them appropriately.”

    This sentiment is echoed by Dr. Clow. “I have had parents come up to me and they’re like, ‘Why would I ever take my kids outside?’” Her response is, “Because the outside has so many good health benefits! My message is usually try to empower people so that they don’t need to be scared go outside.”

    Sources:

    Dr. Ryan Howard

    Director of Research, Risk, and Innovation - Alive Outdoors

    Dr. Katie Clow - Assistant Professor, Department of of Population Medicine, Ontario

    Veterinary College, University of Guelph

    Ontario Government - Lyme Disease: https://www.ontario.ca/page/lymedisease#section-1

    http://www.gracehunter.ca

    Grace grew up on the shores of Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada. Throughout her science communication career, she has worked across Canada and developed and delivered educational public programs and events for a number of organizations including aquariums, museums, and nature reserves. She also works as a freelance environmental science writer.

    She is passionate about science communication and connecting the public to stories about science and the environment. You can connect with her on Twitter: @GraceC_Hunter


  • 4 Sep 2019 10:41 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Karin Davidson-Taylor, Pollination Guelph

    “That’s amazing… all that way! I had no idea.” “I saw a Monarch Butterfly the other day.” “Look mummy, a caterpillar.”  These are the phrases that we love to hear when engaging people; sharing our joy of monarchs and what we can do to help them. 

    There are a variety of ways that we interact with the public – some actively, some passively.  We are often asked to attend events to promote pollinators and their habitat. We always have Richter boxes with preserved specimens, especially useful with comparing or pointing out a specific feature. If possible, we will bring some living specimens (livestock) and this is when we get a lot of engagement. 

    To provide other opportunities to engage the public and various generations, I’ve produced a cart with a variety of images and maps to help people understand a year in the life of multiple generations of monarchs. They are welcome to look at these images and ask questions. I let them lead their exploration.A group of people around each other Description automatically generated

    For younger ones (and older if they want), there are a series of images that illustrate the life cycle of the Monarch. To engage these younger ones, I ask them to put them in order. If it’s a larger family group, I might get each person to choose a card and get them to stand in order – Total Physical Response (TPR). Exploring the life cycle this way has been very interesting, too, when interacting with non-English speakers since there are no words for them to read; a wonderful opportunity for them to participate.  

    I also have specimens of milkweed with caterpillars on them. We’ll count the caterpillars and with any luck, I’ll have a variety of sizes for people to see. It’s interesting to see the astonishment at finding a caterpillar that is smaller than the top of your little finger. We observe them eating and then discuss how they eat.  It’s fun to compare the up and down motion of our mouths with the side to side motion of caterpillar mouths (and other chewing insects). Everyone that wants to can role play being a caterpillar munching on a leaf… discover how are we the same; how are we different.

    The migration of the monarch from Eastern Canada to Mexico is pretty amazing and people are fascinated to hear about their journey, using maps to help explain it, many not realizing that it is the same butterfly that starts that journey in September and finishes in Texas in March after spending the winter in Mexico. We tag them and release them sometimes with the help of the visitors – some positive; some negative responses to having the butterflies placed on their hands or noses – with their permission of course.  I always need to be ready to take it off before a hand swipes it away.

    I love questions and one I often get is: “What can I do?”.  Again, I have either living plants or images of plants that they can plant in their garden reminding them that they need to consider all life cycle needs.  I’ll also tell them about some citizen science opportunities, such as Mission Monarch, a Canadian database of monarch and milkweed sightings. I’ll have a list of resources that they can take a picture of to find out more.

    There are times when I have to be careful, especially with little ones who want to hold or grab the caterpillars, but on the whole it’s a matter of being vigilant, both me and the parents. I’ve also had to be cognizant of my enthusiasm not to get the better of me. Information is good to share, but they don’t necessarily need to know it all. I try to encourage questions, to help me focus what I want to tell them.

    Resources:

    Citizen Science: 

    • Mission Monarch – 

    http://www.mission-monarch.org/

    Learn, observe, report milkweed and monarchs that you see in your neighbourhood

    • David Suzuki Foundation: The Butterflyway Project: 

    https://davidsuzuki.org/take-action/act-locally/butterflyway/

    The Butterflyway Project is a citizen-led movement growing highways of habitat for bees and butterflies across Canada

    Workshops

    • Teaching and Learning with Monarch Butterflies workshops 

      • Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA)): 

    https://trca.ca/learning/professional-development/monarch-teacher-network-canada/

    Great 2-day workshop. First day – learn all about Monarchs, ecology, care, concerns, status… Second day (optional)– experience integrated curriculum activities that can be used with a wide variety of age groups.  For Ontario participants, you can apply for collector’s permit under TRCA umbrella licence. You will then be able to raise and tag monarchs 

    Activities:

    • Monarch Butterfly Teacher and Student Resources

    https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/Monarch_Butterfly/teacherandstudent/index.shtml

    Great list of resources and activities for grades Pre-K through 12 and offers activities that promote conservation of the Monarch Butterfly.

    Books:

    Great books to read with younger children

    • Gotta Go! Gotta Go! by Sam Swope – 

    • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

    How to Raise Monarch Butterflies by Carol Pasternak

    Karin Davidson-Taylor is a director for Pollination Guelph, which is a group of individuals dedicated to the conservation and development of pollinator habitat for current and future generations. We promote awareness and understanding of the role of pollinators in achieving local and global environmental sustainability goals and showcase pollinator projects that are a model for citizens and communities throughout Canada and internationally.


  • 12 Jun 2019 2:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Munju Ravindra

    From the very first interpretive program I did over twenty years ago (where an audience member called out “relax, we’re on vacation” as I fussed breathlessly with a burnt-out slide projector bulb), to the night walks when I lost the trail, my life-as-an-interpreter is littered with “gulp” moments. Looking back, I like them all; mostly because of what each taught me about how to be a better interpreter, and a better human being in general.

    My favourite disaster story is the time when I almost drowned my audience.

    I was four seasons into interpretation and only one season into interpreting Fundy National Park on the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. The park’s specialty was daily ‘tide walks’ - taking advantage of the world’s highest (and lowest) tides to expose visitors to cool animals, such as tube worms and crustaceans. I loved doing the walks, and over the course of my first season at Fundy had become totally engrossed with the flight plan of the Semipalmated sandpiper, the mechanics of a fish weir, and showing people how to lure periwinkles out of their shells by whistling. But, I was always a little jealous of the senior interpreters I emulated. They. Knew. Everything. And, they got to do the special guided walks on the bimonthly spring tide – when the gravitational influence of moon and sun overlap, causing a particularly high (and particularly low) tide. My own programing schedule meant I was never able to attend one of these special walks, but I heard tales of magic and mystery and of creatures resplendent with colour! Groovy as I found them, the mudflat critters were resplendent in shades of, well... brown.

    Fast-forward to my second season at Fundy. My supervisor told me that since I was now a 'senior' interpreter, I was to give the spring tide walk. The route was more or less predetermined: I would lead visitors out to a normally underwater reef on a falling tide, look at all the cool stuff, and head back before the tide started to rise again. Having never actually attended this special walk myself, I had no idea what we might find. And, while I was by this time an expert in the sex lives of barnacles, I wasn’t sure I would be able to identify anything more exotic than a starfish (which I was trying to remember to call a ‘sea star’). So, I loaded up my backpack with every intertidal field guide I could find, some magnifying lenses, and a plastic container to temporarily house our finds. My mother was visiting, so I brought her along to help, because you never know when you’ll need your mother, and she was still fascinated by the fact that I knew about things that lived in the sea.

    We eagerly set off with a group of about thirty visitors (including five or six young children). After walking across slurpy mud and a few damp barnacle-clad rocks, we arrived at the designated spot - a rocky outcrop with small pools fringed with rockweed. We got right into it: exploring, exclaiming, puzzling, and looking up all this wonderful stuff we encountered in my field guides. There was beauty everywhere: clumps of blue mussels clinging to the edge of the outcrop, saffron-coloured sea stars, prickly sea urchins, endless bizarre worms, unidentifiable clumps of egg-seeming goop, and our big prize – a silver spotted sea anemone.

    We were all seriously into it. So into it, in fact, that I didn’t lift my head up even once to look around at our surroundings, until my mother materialized at my side, tugging on my shirt and whispering, “Um, I think you should look at the tide.” Oops! We were stranded on a rapidly shrinking rock that had gone from outcrop to island during the hours we’d been delightedly ogling sea creatures. Trying to sound as if this was entirely part of the plan, I told the group to gather up the field guides and magnifiers, and to get their backpacks on their backs and ready to go. As they looked goggle-eyed at the rising water, I realized it was time to act. As in theatre. “We’ll need to wade!” I said cheerfully, trying to keep the question mark out of my voice. “I think we should carry the kids. The water might be a little deep. Ish.”


    Illustration by Allison Roberts


    And, off we set, children precariously balanced on various sets of shoulders, my field-guide-laden backpack held high above my head. We waded slowly through rising tide with water up to our thighs. Everyone stayed very focused; there was no talking, no laughing, and we made it back to dry land without mishap. No one slipped, no one drowned, but everyone got thoroughly soaked. I was horrified. I said goodbye to my now-shivering visitors and staggered back to the office, chagrined, to explain to my supervisor that I had almost drowned an entire group of visitors. Under the circumstances, she was gentle: she gave me a talking-to, warned me to prepare myself for some negative comment cards, and we put the matter to bed.

    But, the negative comment cards never came. Instead, we got card after card of positive comments about the visitors’ wonderful experience, how their children were inspired to study marine biology, how valuable a place this Bay of Fundy was, and how ‘wow!’ A week later, the park superintendent received a letter raving about the extraordinary experience that this family had with me (Me! Clueless, disastrously dangerous, un-knowledgeable me!). In particular, they enthused, their children had loved how we had to get off the island at high tide. It was an adventure, it was exciting, and they loved the creatures they had seen.

    I learned that a sense of danger (perceived danger, not real danger) can create a very compelling experience, allowing people to feel as if they have achieved something special. This sensation can be created by leading your group across a rushing brook, taking them outside without flashlights in the dark, or challenging them to hike to the top of a certain peak. Essentially, we are providing them an opportunity to transform themselves in the environment we are interpreting. I also learned that as the guides, we are the ones responsible for the situation, and we have to find ways to keep part of our attention on the logistics.

    Munju Ravindra got her start in interpretation in her home province of Nova Scotia, as a naturalist in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. She has since worked at Fundy, St Lawrence Islands, Gros Morne, and Auyuittuq National Parks, interpreting everything from the sex lives of barnacles to the story of plate tectonics. When she’s not with Parks Canada, Munju runs a tourism and interpretation consultancy, working with communities to create transformative visitor experiences. This has led her to projects in Albania, Costa Rica, Antigua, and all over Atlantic Canada, and into subjects ranging from Siberian tigers to the art of sock-knitting in rural Newfoundland. She is also an award-winning writer. 


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