Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929



By H. C. Bryant

The national parks have several millions of visitors annually. What do these visitors seek when they go to a national park? Though there may be many answers to this question, certainly an answer in general terms might be: Self-improvement.

Many park visitors would be satisfied with a jazz program and with no urge to improve themselves mentally. Should an educational program in the parks meet this low ideal, or should it choose to have a program planned by experts? In ether words “what they should get” while they are in a park is not merely what they want.

The aims of educational work have already been discussed in this conference. Now is a good time to discuss how these aims are to be attained. In other words, what methods are most effective in actually teaching the visitor about the outstanding phenomena of a park and so stimulating his interest that he will continue to study nature? In general, we have used the following as methods: lectures, museums, field trips. Personally, I believe that the field trip constitutes one of the very best methods of attaining the objectives toward which we are working.

Originally an educated man was judged by the number of books he had read. A well read man was the educated man. During the last generation, the lecture method has been heavily stressed in our universities. The man who had attended enough lectures and showed he had assimilated what was said, was considered the educated man. Now there is a turn to an emphasis on experience, on doing or seeing rather than reading or hearing. Personally I think this is a splendid step in advance. The man with first-hand information is most useful to himself and to others. A study of the field trip as a method in education shows that here we have the finest opportunity to emphasize a study of the real thing rather than a study of printed or spoken descriptions of it.

Let us line up some of the advantages to be found in this particular method. They may be summarized as follows:

  • Opportunity to get a first-hand acquaintance with the thing itself.
  • Opportunity to study environment unchanged.
  • Personal contact between instructor and student is of the best because of informality. The student is not afraid to ask questions.
  • Facts regarding the living things most forcefully presented by field study.
  • Interest of the student easily secured.
  • Great concepts more readily explained and assimilated.
  • A method to which people are unaccustomed has advantages and arouses curiosity and therefore draws crowds.

Among the disadvantages which may be listed are:

  • Some people with physical handicap are unable to attend.
  • Number that can be reached limited.
  • Subject is mere or less limited by material at hand.
  • There is danger of dissipation of interest.
  • Inclement weather decreases effectiveness.

I am sure there are several geologists who are willing to say that two weeks of direct study at Grand Canyon will furnish a better under standing of geology than a year spent in university class rooms. To be able to utilize all five senses in comprehending a subject establishes usable concepts in the brain which cannot be secured by any one of the senses, particularly when the information is second-hand. In my opinion, the field trip constitutes the best method of attaining the ideals set in connection with educational work in national parks.


A round table discussion on the general principles of guiding followed the presentation of Dr. Bryant’s paper.


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