My job this summer was to make an education program seem straightforward. However, consider for a moment that you have been tasked with this objective. Obviously the fact that you are employed by a national park narrows the number of topics you would consider, but there is still a whole world of facts, conditions, positions, and disciplines that could factor into the direction you choose to go. The program could have been about history, science, art or culture. Within just one of those categories, science for example, the program could have focused on climate change, ecosystem services, food webs, species diversity, human influence in natural systems, plant ecology, phenology, animal tracking, orienteering, microbiology, micro biomes, altitude differences, soil composition, water quality, astronomy. You get the idea.
Never have I had this much freedom with a project (as an adult). With so many thoughts buzzing around my head the first few weeks of my time here in West Virginia, it was difficult to choose just one, or a few, areas of focus. I still feel as though I could stay here for years and never run out of program material for science education alone. It didn’t help that searching for pre-existing self-led education programs at national parks yielded only 3 results, none of which were structured the way I wanted mine to be.
What I have learned from my task of creating something from nothing is that you really just have to pick a direction and go with it. Really go with it. Flesh it out, put all the parts together, and then find what works and what does not. Take one thing at first and add onto it, keeping in mind that the world of science is connected in every way, with no two topics in complete isolation. You may start covering one concept and find that you are covering six others as well. This is okay.
Of course, trying to cover too much ground can lead to confusion and lack of retention. However, if you use the fact that everything in science is connected to your advantage, you can create a program that covers multiple areas of natural science but remains connected, continuous, and somewhat linear with an intuitive flow. Hopefully this is what I have been able to achieve during my appointment at the New River Gorge. We will be testing it soon!
Also, a baby deer showed up on our doorstep the other day. As cute as it was, the person who brought it to us was clearly not aware that the doe is now much less likely to take it back because it has the scent of humans on it! PSA: If you see a baby deer, please leave it where it is! The mother will often leave her babies alone for a while and come back for them later, but she won’t be able to find them again if they have been moved.