Interpretation Training

Last night I sat in bed and went over the manual I received from my first day of Volunteer Naturalist Training. The manual is about 1 billion pages long, all of which are worth reading. The training started Thursday at 8 am, with a person or two strolling in late. Once we were all settled in and the introductions and icebreakers were done, Jeff, a staff member of Boulder County Parks & Open Space, began his presentation on the history of Boulder County by showing us some old maps. He said he couldn’t help himself, he had to show us his maps. He loves maps and I can now see why. I’m not sure how many of us think about how people of the past used the lands on which we work, play, and live in today. I didn’t really think about it until Jeff showed me his maps. The class sat there, some astonished like me, others somewhat familiar with the maps and what they said about our history. The population of my region of Colorado boomed in the 1860’s with the Colorado gold rush and mineral mining era. Little establishments around the Gold Hill area sprang up, and also around  other areas and have become our mountain towns today, like Jamestown and Nederland. Out east, the towns of Superior, Louisville and Lafayette sprung up due to the soft coal mining and farming of fertile plains. Even our beloved Boulder came to be from this historic population boom, acting as a crossroads town, where  there was commerce, large ore processing and such.  So much can be shown, inferred, and interpreted from the historical maps of our homelands. I understood why Jeff loved his maps; there are a collection of stories in the lines, colors, and shapes of maps that give us a glimpse of where we came from.

So it’s not hard to see how Jeff’s maps could influence a person to take more time out of their day to do some independent research on the history of their county. That’s really what interpretation is all about. You want to make people excited about what you’re teaching them, and you want to provoke people to the point that they’re enticed to go out on their own time and be a part of what it is you are interpreting. Let’s face it, learning is great and all, but what good is it to learn something if you’re not passionate about it?

So as I sat in bed looking through my interpretation bible, I realized how blessed I am to have deep love of the outdoors, wildlife, and science. I hope that after my time with Boulder County Parks & Open Space is over, I will feel prepared to share and pass on some of my passion to the youth in my community, and in turn I hope they become just as dedicated to learning about nature as I have.

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