SUNRISE, SUNSETS, AND MUDFLOWS: LESSONS LEARNED FROM A SUMMER EXPERIENCE AS A GEOLOGIC INTERPRETER AT MT. RAINIER NATIONAL PARK
The National Park Service's Interpretive Equation (e.g. knowledge of the resource, plus knowledge of the audience applied with appropriate technique) is used by trained interpreters to provide an interpretive opportunity for the visitor. The interpretive equation provides a technique to visualize, analyze, articulate and balance the substance of any interpretive program.
My application of the Interpretive Equation was applied with great success in the summer of 2006 when I took a 3-month sabbatical from my professional job to volunteer as a full time seasonal geologic interpreter at Mt. Rainier National Park. There were many challenges in developing an effective interpretive program that would raise awareness of geologic processes and provide a personal connection to the visitor. These challenges included: limited geologic knowledge of the audience, time constraint of providing a program (i.e less than 30-minutes), too many geologically fascinating topics at an active volcano, and developing a program that connects resources to visitors and their lives. Two of the most effective interpretive geologic techniques that were developed over the summer were 1) interpreting geologic hazards to develop tangible relationships between the visitor and the park landscape and 2) simplifying complex concepts such as geologic time and plate tectonics. The volcanic hazards that were discussed during the programs to engage visitors included tephra, lava flows, lahars, debris avalanches, pyroclastic flows, and lateral blasts. All of these volcanic hazards could be related to landscape features that were all tangible along the ¼ mile interpretive walk program.