We just completed our annual interpretation workshop. I was reminded at every turn how important and valuable this regular training is. The word? SYNERGY!!
We had 70 attendees from all types of interpretation positions – tour guides, gardeners, museum program assistants, living historians, interpreters and supervisors. And they were from all types of settings – recreation areas, nature parks, historic sites and museums. That’s a lot of minds in one place. It was wonderful to see everyone seeing and sharing. The interest, the enthusiasm, the ideas flowing thick and fast, and the synergy of ideas building upon ideas with the result being much greater than the sum of the parts. Ah – the value of training, of bringing like-minded people together and facilitating the sharing and growing of ideas – synergy!
Of course, the workshop had to include sessions that applied to the various type of sites, but equally important, and emphasized, each interpreter had to be mentally prepared to pluck from each presentation things they could be use. We can’t draw each attendee a map, they must seek and find, and that’s mental preparedness. It’s an attitude and an approach to interpretive growth. During the workshop I noticed one interpreter sitting by himself, writing. I asked why, and he said there just so much here that he had to stop and make notes so he could remember everything he wanted to try and people he wanted to contact once he returned home.
Immediately following the workshop notes and reports began coming in. Each shared new-found enthusiasm for their job and ideas they will use in their park programing. Sounds like success to me.
Some of the elements of good training:
- Meet your peers, learn who can help, who is nearby
- Find mentors and specialists to call upon
- Become a speaker, a leader
- See where you fit in the circle
- Share ideas at all levels
- Rejuvenate enthusiasm
- Build a community
There are many training opportunities out there. Of course, the mainstay of the interpretation community is the National Association for Interpretation and its excellent regional and national workshops. If you haven’t participated in one you have missed a synergetic opportunity.
In the southeast, the Southeastern State Parks Programing Seminar is outstanding, bringing together state park interpreters and managers from the southeastern states for a week of discussion of state park interpretation. This is the only organization of its kind in the country, and for 40 years it has created a remarkable opportunity for interpreters to share ideas.
In the area of living history and historic farms and villages, ALHFAM provides wonderful hands-on training and networking with the best in the field (I worked hard to get that pun in there – in the field!!). The Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums has excellent workshops, but also has committees on living history specialties including research clothing, objects, language, tools and equipment, developing a character and much more.
It’s wonderful to attend, it’s better to attend more than once, and it’s best to become a known person and a leader in the community of interpreters. I hope you’ll be taking advantage of training opportunities this year. Prepare yourself to be a part of INTERPREATION SYNERGY.