Today I went out with a group of cub scouts. It was both tiring and energizing. I work for a division within our park staff that has, probably, the most complex job in the park. I talk about things that are constantly changing (like the weather and glaciers) to groups of park visitors, primarily kids, whom I don’t know. I don’t know their prior experience, their ability levels, their deeply-held belief systems, their interests – basically everything that a classroom teacher might use to connect his or her students to the subject matter of any lesson.
As an environmental educator, my job today was to teach these boys (and their sisters and parents) about winter ecology concepts that apply to Mount Rainier: why we have so much snow and numerous glaciers, why the ptarmigan grow white feathers, what we can do to be safe in the backcountry.
As an interpretive park ranger, my goal is to connect these youngsters and their everyday lives to the natural resources we see around us. Did you know that mammalian hibernation habits are where we get the sleep vs. hibernation mode designations for our personal computers?
My first two questions of the day today, before we even left the education center building and headed up the mountain were, “Will we see dinosaurs up there?” and “Have you seen Bigfoot?”.
How would you answer such questions? While the parents snickered a little bit, and the questioning boys did too, the question of Bigfoot came up several more times throughout the day.
To be continued...