Managing natural resources in a park is a balancing act. Some days you are adding to the land and others you are removing from the land. I got the opportunity to do a bit of both this week! We started off the week planting everything we bought the week before for the garden outside headquarters. The park has a program called Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) which is a group of 10-15 kids below the age of 18 who work at the park over the summer and they came out to help us plant. It was fun getting to know the kids and learning about what they’re interested in and what brought them to the National Park Service. It was really great to plant everything and see the whole garden come together nicely where before there was nothing but a couple sad looking bushes. Here are few pictures of all of us really in the zone planting!
The next day I had the chance to join the team who monitors the water in the river that runs in part of the park. It was really interesting to learn about how to test water quality and what is ideal for fish species. They showed us how to understand the different things that are monitored such as pH, flow, and more. They even let us handle some of the equipment which was fun to try in different areas of the stream to see how different factors could change across the stream. I would definitely be interested in learning more about stream monitoring and how they interpret the data and degradation of water bodies.
Switching gears from planting, we worked with a lot of herbicide this week! We learned how to mix herbicide and were able to do it ourselves and understand the different substances that are added together to create the herbicide we put in our backpack sprayers. We used Rodeo herbicide which is non-selective and kills every plant it comes in contact with because we were clearing a parking lot of a lot of growth coming up in the cracks. We mixed the Rodeo with a dye and a substance that allows the herbicide to be a little stickier and hold to the leaves of the plants we spray. We measured everything out and mixed them to create a 2 gallon mixture. These were added to our backpack sprayers and we spent the next day spraying the entire area which only gets sprayed once a year. We were spraying for hours and all of our hands starting cramping but it was really fun and good to get it done.
Towards the end of the week, we worked to clear up a patch of wildflowers in front of our office. The patch needed help because all the wildflowers were in heavy competition that they were not looking as beautiful as they could. So we decided to transplant some of the plants into an area that was empty and was not growing grasses. By doing this we created space in the patch for other flowers to flourish and added flowers to an area that was not looking great.
Overall, the week was a good balance of adding and removing from the park. I was reminded that growth is great but it is important to find the balance and make room for new growth. Looking forward to another great week!
Time is just flying by and I can not believe we are already so close to mid season. I guess when you love what you do, you don’t realize where the days go. This week we had the chance to run a program out on Spectacle Island for the Mckay school called Buddy Bison. This program was organized by the National Park Trust Organization and funded by North Face, its main focus is to get kids out to their national parks. The group was fairly large so we decided to split in 4 subgroups of 20 kids. I was with Ranger Connor co-leading the “black panthers” group. We used visual thinking strategies to tell the Spectacle Islands’s tale of new beginnings. Our group was predominantly latino, and I was really happy to have the opportunity facilitate their experience in spanish if needed. It was really funny when the kids realized I spoke spanish, a few did not believe me and “tested” me by asking me questions in spanish. When they realized I was telling the truth I definitely felt that a connection was made. The students quickly became really comfortable with Ranger Connor as well as myself, asking us questions about the activity and telling us the information they already knew. Our group was truly amazing, they stayed very engaged and invested, even though it was a million degrees out.
Here is a 2 minute video that the National Park trust put together. I believe it captures our day pretty accurately! Full of Fun and Buddy Bisons!
A crucial part of successful educational initiatives and interpretation is the incorporation of feedback. Underscoring all we do in the Division of Interpretation here at Rocky is the role of our supervisors in monitoring, auditing and helping each of our programs grow. One of my goals for the summer was not simply to write my own interpretive programs and have them live up to my own standards, but also to take and successfully incorporate supervisory feedback.
This week was the first round of my program audits, in which my supervisor attended each of my programs as a visitor in plainclothes in order to take notes and lead me in a subsequent coaching session. I was nervous at first, even though this is an entirely normal part of this process – and something I am familiar with studying education. This position has felt so right and logical these past few weeks, it was hard to imagine that there was a potential for my performance to be evaluated in terms besides my own.
Scrutiny is never easy to learn to deal with and somehow I’ve never been terribly good at watching it happen, even if I’ve learned to take constructive feedback well. It was difficult at first to try to deliver children’s programming – and foster a welcoming, warm and relaxed demeanor – while keeping my eyes wandering toward my supervisor’s notepad. At some point, something in me clicked and I remembered a few key things – a) I like my job, b) I’m good at what I do, c) If I was going to do anything at all, it was to prove to my supervisor that all the weeks of me poring over paper and books and writing and re-writing my programs had indeed produced something worthwhile.
Breathing worked. I relaxed and my programs flowed smoothly and logically. Even a series of temper tantrums on my discovery hike for families on Saturday couldn’t damper my mood. My subsequent coaching sessions went well – they were validating and affirming to all the hard work that had gone into producing them. The suggestions from my supervisor were minor, but I am excited – in pursuit of my summer goals – to incorporate them and deliver even better programs this week.
Every summer, the Preserve America Youth Summit takes place in many states across the country. The Preserve America Youth Summit is a prestigious 4-day summer program creating opportunities for middle and high school students to learn about historical preservation out in the field. Students are given the opportunity to interact with community partners and present their ideas and suggestions for historical preservation in a culminating town hall with local leaders. This year, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument was the host for Colorado’s Preserve America Youth Summit. As a host, much planning was needed and Whitney Masten, our Education Coordinator, along with other local leaders, did an incredible job putting the event together. Our job at the monument was to host opening day and closing day. The other two days, students took multiple trips along the Gold Belt Scenic Byway in central Colorado. I was lucky enough to have been asked to join Whitney in acting as liaisons for the National Park Service (NPS) the entire week.
On the opening day of the youth summit, Dr. Meyer (paleontologist at Florissant Fossil Beds) and I gave an introductory talk on the discovery of Florissant Fossil Beds and it’s geologic and paleontological significance. Later in the day, I gave the three rotating groups of students a virtual tour of the paleontology lab so that they could get a behind-the-scenes look into fossil preparation, research and museum collection techniques. The day ended with dinner and a concert put on by Jeff Wolin (Lead Interpreter at Florissant Fossil Beds) and I. We were shocked to see the students enjoying themselves so much, considering the songs are more elementary based. We even had a group of students personally ask us to do an encore!
The second day of the youth summit took place in Fremont County. As liaisons for NPS, Whitney and I were able to join in on tours of many historic buildings in the cities of Cañon City and Florence. The highlight of the second day, however, was riding on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad. The sights were just incredible! Dinner that night was quite spectacular as well. The youth summit was invited to eat at Colon Farms in the city of Florence. All the ingredients used in making of dinner came from the farm itself or other nearby farms.
The towns of Cripple Creek and Victor were the main focus on the third day of the youth summit. Here we joined in on a tour of the Newmont mine, where gold is the major mineral mined. Being able to witness the immensity of the Newmont mine was an unforgettable experience. After the mine, we received tours of many of the museums and historic buildings in the towns. Despite the persistent rain we received that day, we enjoyed learning about the history of the towns and their struggle in restoring many of the historic sites to attract more visitors to the area.
Finally, on closing day, Florissant Fossil Beds was again responsible for hosting and I was put in charge of setting up the PA system. It had been years since I last worked with a PA system. Regardless, I enjoyed the set up as it took me back to my rock’n’roll days when I was playing gigs with bands just about every weekend. More importantly, the students did a great job expressing their concerns regarding historical preservation along the Gold Belt Scenic Byway. The local community leaders that served on the panel at the town hall were obviously impressed with the students’ knowledge and commitment to historical preservation of Colorado’s history. I am very grateful I was given the opportunity to participate in the entire youth summit as I became much more knowledgeable in the history of the area I am living in. I believe the group of students of this year’s youth summit will go on to become aspiring leaders in our community in the near future.