If you open the Smokies newspaper, you’ll see all kinds of programs for visitors – fllowers, birds, history. If you take a program, you’ll casually follow a ranger or volunteer as she/he talks about what you’re seeing.
But the program is not put together casually. It’s the result of working on themes, objective and goals of what ends up to be an hour’s walk.This interpretive program needs to be “place based”, i.e. it can’t be done anyplace else. It then has to be approved and maybe dry run. This all sounds like a lesson plan that you may have learned in your college education course. The only difference is there’s no formal assessment; you’re not going to give your visitors a test.
As a (retired) computer science professor at Kean University, I never had to write lesson plans though I certainly took many workshops on how to improve my teaching. Well, I’m going to create a “lesson plan” now if I want to do a program on a trail. Somewhere in the National Park Service, there are educators and interpreters (probably not the right word) who work on these guidelines. I’m sure there are Ph.D. dissertations on Park interpretation.
From the NPS website, interpretation is the process of providing each visitor find an opportunity to
personally connect with a place.
After my four-hour stint at the Visitor desk, I roamed Mingus Creek Trail. Fantastic flowers, no visitors – not a one. If you want solitude, go on the Mingus Creek Trail. I’m going to start suggesting that when people ask for a hike.
I then walked to Mingus Mill where I met several visitors who had questions before they got to Dave, the miller. Dave grinds corn as he talks to visitors but the flour he grinds is not sold because it is not FDA-approved. The Great Smoky Mountains Association sells corn from Pigeon Forge, which is pretty local.