Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929
THE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM AND ITS PLACE IN NATIONAL PARKS ADMINISTRATION
WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF A “WELL ROUNDED” EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM.
By C. A. Harwell.
The following five elements occur to me as essential in developing a “Well Rounded” educational program in any national park.
1. Natural phenomena
2. Sympathetic visitors
Natural phenomena of outstanding significance of course are present in every park. These phenomena attract visitors. If the comforts of these visitors are adequately provided for we have sympathetic visitors. A staff trained in science is needed to study the natural phenomena. They should be trained in the sciences of sociology and education that the larger truths discovered may be interpreted through these studies to visitors. A program of educational activities requiring suitable equipment must needs be set up to accomplish this.
These elements need to be kept in balance. In view of this, the Park Naturalist whose duty this is must be much more than a scientist. The larger the park, the larger are his responsibilities in administrative matters. He must know much of human nature. He is often before the public. He is consulted in matters of great importance by the Superintendent and others of the Service, and must learn to refine his quick judgments. He must be able to understand quickly the problems and viewpoints of others and other departments so that in such matters as budget and meetings of department heads called by the Superintendent his own department is well represented. He must know men–how to select them for particular duties; how to build programs to use man power wisely; how to keep them a unified and well informed group by such means as regular staff meetings, etc.; how to train them on the job by conferences and by such means as assigning a younger man to observe some one who is more experienced. He must impress his staff with the importance of their work in the park and see to it that they are neat in appearance and courteous to the public. The Park Naturalist must apportion his own time wisely. I feel that his time for research should be scheduled for the slack season. He should have matters in shape by summer so that he can devote himself entirely to the big problem then in hand, which I consider to be interpreting the natural phenomena to visitors. He should take part in guiding, lecturing, making trips to observe other guides, and lectures, meeting the public in many ways, and in trying out new methods so that he has a first hand knowledge of conditions. In this way he can guide discussion at staff meetings and program more wisely. He must keep himself free enough from the program so that he can maintain a broad perspective of the whole program. This is the time the Park Naturalist should visit all the important outposts to see where new work needs to be developed and perhaps some activities changed. A study of all educational activities and facilities at the time of their maximum use is essential to any plans for his next year’s program.
The Park Naturalist should certainly be well trained in science. Natural phenomena needs to be scientifically studied. The truth needs to be pretty well known about them by him before he can lead a staff in their interpretation. He must meet and assist visiting scientists in many fields. He should be able to speak their language. I think it is growing more important that a Park Naturalist be able to use material from the scientific researches of others than it is that he carry on intensive research himself. This seems to me so because outside agencies are becoming more and more interested in our parks as laboratories for research and because scientific aids are being attached to the Service.
Following a detailed discussion of the above paper, Mr. Hall stressed the necessity of planning the educational program so as to interpret the major features of the park to visitors. Each member present was then asked to write the definition of “A major feature of a national park”. The following definitions were submitted:
“The major feature of a national park is an exhibit of some natural or historical subject which is of an especially fine nature, and which is of a calibre equal if not bettor than that of any other such exhibit displayed in the United States and so has extreme value in explaining and demonstrating a definite story. It should have inspirational, educational and scientific value.”
Edwin D. McKee,
Grand Canyon National Park.