The Golden Hour

The majority of my work as a Field Ranger Intern here on the Siuslaw National Forest is devoted to public outreach and education. During the busy summer months, the Forest Service organizes weekly programs, guided hikes, and special events. The events with the biggest turn out tend to be evening programs at campgrounds and guided hikes. These can be lots of fun and are really important for sharing key conservation messages with the public. This is where we get the chance to let our enthusiasm do the talking. It’s amazing what a difference enthusiasm and interest can make on both the presenter and the audience. When you get an engaged and interested audience, it fuels your presentation and makes it more of a natural conversation as opposed to a speech, you end up talking WITH people instead of AT people when they actually engage in the conversation.

I recently had one of those spectacular interpretive days, where the people that came to my hike and program were really interested, excited, and curious about what I was talking about. The first part of the day was spent at the Cape Perpetua Visitor’s Center where I lead a short, guided hike and shared the story of the marbled murrelet. This is one of my favorite stories to share because this bird is weird (in a good way!) and in dire need of protection. I spoke with my group on the life history of these birds and their connection to healthy old growth forest. It’s enjoyable to get reactions like, “what?!”, “no way!”, and “weird!” when I tell people how these birds go through life but to get questions that end up creating a fuller, more holistic story is what makes it really rewarding, for both the interpreter and the visitor. Later that evening, my program at the Honeyman State Park campground was just as rewarding. Generally, these evening campground programs tend to have more kids because most people are camping as a family. Sometimes you can get a child’s attention, and sometimes you can’t, both are fine and a part of life. Although, when you do get a child’s attention, and see them think deeply about how animals live and how we and they are a part of a web of interconnected relationships, IT’S AMAZING! Probably the most rewarding of all interpretive experiences, in my opinion. I live for that.

I never knew that I could be an effective interpreter, or that I could elicit any sort of curiosity in an audience. This internship showed me that was possible. I’m so grateful I’ve had the opportunity to figure it out.

Christine Smith
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