Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929
LECTURES IN NATIONAL PARKS
By C. Frank Brockman
In preparing and presenting to the public (through the medium of lectures) the features of interest in the park, a consideration of the audience is obviously of vital importance. The material included in such talks, the method of presentation and the previous interest of the group in question depends largely upon the group itself, and the ranger naturalist must learn to apply his talk to the conditions which are thus encountered. Obviously a talk aimed to interest and instruct a group of botany students must be of a different type than a talk to an average camp ground audience whose interests are varied and who are more or less “at sea” regarding the features of the park.
So in planning a talk or a series of talks on the natural features of the park the speaker must keep in mind several factors.
- Major interest of the audience. Whether it be any special interest on any subject, on natural history, and in general whether there isn’t any chief interest, etc.
- Type of audience. Often times certain holidays, week ends, etc. will attract large numbers of people of certain general types for a very limited stay.
- “Class” of audience. Hotel and camp ground audiences differ widely in interest and understanding of natural features.
- Conditions under which the talk is given. Presentation of the program varies with the condition — is it at a camp fire, hotel lobby, community building or auditorium.
If the ranger naturalist is familiar with these features he can thus plan his talk to suit the group; that is, he can utilize their information in giving an interesting lecture which will serve to arouse appreciation and understanding for natural history.
As to method of approach and purpose of the lecture. I do not believe that it is the purpose to tell all about the park or all about a particular feature of the park — rather it should serve as a sort of “sales talk” that will encourage the audience to get out and see things for themselves. The interesting features must be brought to the audience’s attention but in a manner that will not drain them dry of interest.
Following the presentation of the two papers on park audiences the following points were brought out in general discussion:
Mr. Hall introduced the question of whether or not a lecture should be planned primarily to suit the interests of the audience. It was brought out that a general audience, not knowing of the educational service offered, might desire a vaudeville entertainment and that it is the function of the park naturalist and members of his staff to determine what material should be presented. The program should be suited to the audience but should be on a plane high enough to accomplish our objective of interpreting to the public the major features of the park.
Owing to the fact that in some parks the average stay of visitors is likely to be prolonged over several days, effort should be made to provide variety in lectures by presenting a new lecturer every night where that is possible, or when only one lecturer is available, a new subject. Where the latter is necessary there should be a series of at least three or four talks.