Going to the Dentist: Mountain Lion Edition

I was reading over notes waiting for the second half of my interpreters training last Thursday. Before Lunch, we spent that whole morning talking about water management in the state of Colorado and then more specifically in Boulder County. Now, while it was very interesting to me, to see how water is almost like gold around here, would that same intrigue translate over to someone who’s on a nature hike just to see birds? I wasn’t all to sure until we started our second session. With a belly full of coffee and Panera sandwich I dove into our exercise. Construct and interpretive program. Using a prop our instructor Larry assigned to us, we would construct a 45 minute interpretive program for any audience of our choosing. Lucky for my partner Jennifer and myself, we had a replica of a mountain lion skull!

We knew right away that school children would absolutely love seeing a skull. I remember during my early school years how we would sometimes have volunteers or staff of some agency come in with casts of wolf and bear tracks and talk about the wild animals of the rockies. And those always seemed to be the best days, because even though we weren’t outside we experienced nature in some way, and we didn’t have to classwork of course (wink). But the point is having visuals like a lion mountain skull will make the story you tell much more memorable.

So Jen and I decided to design an indoor interpretive program for a class of 5th graders about the teeth of mountain lions. We called it, Going to the Dentist: Understanding Mountain lion’s teeth and what they tell us about them and what they eat. Pretty clever right? That’s the great thing about interpretation, yes you want it to be educational and factual, but you also want it to be meaningful and relatable. Everyone’s been to the dentist (I hope) so people can relate to how our teeth have a lot to do with our health and our diet.

We focused our entire program on the teeth of a mountain lion, using are nifty skull we could teach about canines, incisors, premolars and molars. What the function of each kind of tooth is, why mountain lions have certain teeth and not others and how do teeth help them with what they eat. We thought of using a steak and butter knife as an analogy for molars and carnassials, asking children to feel their teeth to see what kind they have and relate it to what they eat and what teeth vampires have and what they use their teeth for as a way to make it all relatable to the student’s lives.

In the end we had developed what looked like a great program on something simple like teeth using only a replica of skull. So I thought back to how something “boring” like water management could be of interest to anyone. It can be as long as you make it relatable and meaningful to that person. While we probably won’t do water management programs at any school anytime soon, you could always tie in the importance of water or teeth or whatever it maybe as long as you can make it relevant!

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