Summer in the parks – Ana Karen Sánchez

During my first month at the park, I have developed activities and educational displays for our recurring Summer in the Parks event held every Thursday from 5:30-8:00PM. This free event is a revitalization of the original Summer in the Parks program that was established in 1968 by the National Park Service and ran until 1976. This was an opportunity for NPS to engage with the D.C. community and invite them to experience the many activities and sites within the park.

Close up of our NPS Rock Creek, Summer in the Parks table.

For the month of June the event was hosted at the Carter Barron Amphitheater box office. By July, we will be repeating the event series at a different location, more specifically, Fort Circle Park. Each week focuses on a different theme such as bikes, dogs, books, or recreating responsibly. NPS along with Rock Creek Conservancy also invite other organizations to host different activities during the event as well as a local DJ and food truck! 

Some of the activities that my colleague and Pathways Park Ranger, Alexi McHugh, and I have worked on include; an educational tri-fold focused on the creek water quality and why park guests and their furry friends should not go in the creek, a balloon display showing all the balloon scraps that we have collected on our park roves to highlight why balloons are prohibited in the park, a map with our recommended bike paths, and lastly, we created a Rock Creek Park Nature Journal filled with different activities for children and a front cover that I illustrated myself. 

Front cover of the Rock Creek Park Nature Journals that were created for our book themed events.

Aside from being able to tap into my creative side, these activities/displays have allowed me to speak with local park guests about important park regulations in a fun and interactive way. When seeking approval for our proposed ideas, my supervisor and Chief of Interpretation, Education, and Outreach, Dana Dierkes, always provides helpful advice. For example, making sure that our information meets the readability standards developed by the Flesch-Kincaid Readability test. Seeing as how I am an Education and Interpretation Intern, I have learned to always keep accessibility for individuals with disabilities in mind and how our instructions or information is interpreted by multicultural, and diverse communities and identities. 

Author and founder of @BrownPeopleCamping, Ambreen Tariq, reads her children’s book “Fatima’s Great Outdoors” to park and event guests.

One of my favorite things to see during these events has been returning guests. For example, there is a family of 4 with two sons who I believe attended all of our events for the month of June. They soon became more than just familiar faces and would regularly visit our NPS table to see what activities or information we had to share. My favorite interaction with them was hearing the two boys’ frozen yogurt toppings (from our event food truck) and the eldest son’s fascination with pirates and their ships. Even such a simple type of interaction between park employees and park guests reinforces trust within our community and also provides lasting impressions that allow for greater dialogues and input in the future. 

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