The Hike to Inspiration

First programs down, many more to go. The interpretive interns have officially started developing and presenting their educational programs to visitors. I’ll be done with my first try at all my topics by Sunday when I complete the guided hike to a place called Inspiration Point with 25 visitors following me. This is by far the most challenging part of the job because it relies heavily on public speaking and thinking on your feet. Things that both take some time to develop and feel comfortable with. My experience with these skills has been fluid–taking each push with a measure of grace. A few weeks ago I knew absolutely nothing about Grand Teton, or its unique environment, and now I can answer many questions from curious visitors easily. The comfort of being able to guide visitors along has enabled me to focus more on the quality of my programs and development of my presentation. In turn, I have found myself more and more intent on dissecting the programs of the seasoned rangers around me. What I often find is the absence of their words and explanations. Instead, many rangers prefer to skillfully hint towards their point–feeding information with a strong dose of critical thinking. Rather than tell visitors that the existence of the Grand Teton range is the result of years of remarkable thermal and glacial activity as well as unique plate movement, they layout the dynamics clearly. Simplifying complex geological processes into bite-sized lessons that allow for visitors to make the connection themselves between the process explained and how it appears in the landscape right in front of them. It’s a technique we have all seen before but not one easily conducted and one I greatly admire. For now, I’m immersed in learning more about the resources, characteristics, and balance that make up the Teton ecosystem and in what ways I could articulate these topics to people from all over the world. In many ways I feel as if I am pulling from my experience from my first year of teaching. It’s the same daunting task of evaluating your class–or audience, and catering to each learning style. Like students, visitors all learn and visualize complex topics, like geology,  in many different ways and come from different backgrounds of familiarity with the environment. So, designing a program for just the visual learners, or fluent English speakers, or even just American visitors is creating a disconnect from the start. As I move forward with my program development, I hope to hit all these points so that true understanding can take place. The moment I see something click for a visitor, and the look of awe on their face over something they have seen their whole trip but never understood, is the moment I recognize appreciation. It’s something that doesn’t always happen, but when it does, I feel warmed and energized. This has quickly become my job and my drive, and I’m learning each day how to better accommodate those around me and point them in the direction of the inspiration that comes from the beauty and stories that live in these mountains.

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