Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929
THE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM AND ITS PLACE IN NATIONAL PARKS ADMINISTRATION
WHAT PART DO THE EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES FOR THE PUBLIC PLAY IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE PARK AS A WHOLE?
By C. Frank Brockman
Probably the answer to the question which titles this paper hinges largely upon the definition of “educational activities”.
Does this term take into consideration a rather narrow outlook concerning our particular park–or perhaps even the park system—or are the responsibilities of our job bounded by the broader confines of a wider outlook in the matter, that is, a more general understanding and appreciation of natural history and the outdoors as a whole? Personally, I like to think of it in the latter sense. If this is correct, we have a broader field of service to the public, for if we send our visitors away with a better understanding and a greater appreciation of the outdoors and nature that will continue to bear fruit after they have reached their homes by prompting them to become interested in their own particular regions, then we have accomplished a great deal. In doing this the parks themselves serve as a laboratory in which to conduct, and bring to a satisfactory conclusion, this experiment. They are all admirable examples of their kind and should, because of their outstanding features, serve as a fitting proving ground. In short, we are “salesmen of mother nature”—not merely dispensaries of information concerning our park or our national parks.
If this be the case, then the general administration plan and the educational policies will naturally go hand in hand, for the parks were created for the good and enjoyment of the people and we take it for granted that our visitors–the majority of them at least—have had some sort of incentive aroused or they would not be among the crowds who come. The general administration of the park makes available first the physical needs of the visitor and protects the area so that it shall be safeguarded in its virgin state for all time. Yet the educational activities are as much a part of the general administrative plan as the above mentioned features because they are primarily to enable the visitor to see with seeing eyes. It is not enough that the visitor look at a beautiful panorama and remark upon its beauty. He should be informed of the how and why of the features that brought about this certain phenomena. Just as an artists who intends to paint a picture of an animal can create a better interpretation of the subject if he is aware of its physical make-up–that is the muscles, bone structure, etc., which give it individuality–so the visitor can appreciate the forces of nature if he understands the structure of the scene upon which he is looking and the forces which brought about or are bringing about the changes.
So both the administrative plan and the educational plan, once the physical needs are taken care of, attempt to give the visitor some incentive to visit certain features. Then they attempt to capitalize upon this aroused interest by making the methods by which these features are reached easily accessible: i.e., trail hubs that serve as a central point from which to serve as a starting point for all trails.
The museum serves as an arouser of interest as well as a method of instruction on what to see; likewise the nature trails serve to give the hasty visitor a general idea of the features in the vicinity or possibly serve as a method of looking farther along the longer trails to more distant points; talks should serve as instructive features that will aid the public in making the most of every minute of their stay by telling the audience what to see, how to get there and what to look for along the way; nature hikes also key in with the desire to give the visitor some incentive for seeing and learning things for himself. In this connection might be mentioned pamphlets of various kinds given to each visitor at the entrances, nature notes, trail guides, timely nature topics mimeographed on weekly bulletins and all the artifices which are among the generally accepted methods for giving the visitor an idea as to what to see, hew to see it and arousing his appreciation of nature by making it easy to understand the various phenomena that greets his eyes as he follows his inclination to see these things.
To sum it up briefly, the educational and administrative features have a common objective–to utilize to the fullest extent the areas within the parks as a means of bringing natural history and the story of the outdoors closer to the general public.
The chairman stressed the fact that the educational activities of a park should not be considered as a distinct unit without relation to the work of the other administrative force of the park. Instead, the entire government staff has a common objective and it should be the effort of our division to work in closest harmony with individuals or departments with which our work should be coordinated.