May 9-11, 2017
Because there is a new trend in the National Park Service for Ranger programs to involve visitors in more conversation several of us went to facilitated dialogue training last week learning some new techniques to help people share and learn from each other.
Three of us left the North Rim Monday morning at an unreasonable 6 am for the two and a half hour drive to Page. It was chilly and ground fog hung above the meadows and ponds. Dropping 4,000 feet off the Kaibab Plateau the temperature steadily rose. We joined other Interpretive Rangers from several Southwest park sites at the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area headquarters at 9am. After brief introductions we set to work.
Ranger programs are based on a topic and theme. For example at Grand Canyon we talk about California Condors, an endangered species who has met many threats yet defied extinction and continues increasing in population. Our content is based on current science and documented history. We try not to lecture but instead interpret the information to help visitors make an intellectual and emotional connection. Not always easy when talking about a bird considered by most to be ugly. Sometimes we address complex and often controversial subjects like captive breeding, and the elimination of lead ammunition that can be found in carcasses poisoning the scavenger Condors, and Eagles too. We encourage visitors to take action by supporting the endangered species act, recovery program, and using copper ammunition. Sometimes there’s a bit of entertainment value when a Ranger imitates a courting dance. I’m guessing many of you have attended a Ranger program while visiting a national park site. As a Ranger, I hope you do. And that you get something out of the experience too. It’s your park, so you should be included and have your say. How should we continue to protect the largest flying land-bird in America?
And that’s where facilitated dialogue comes in. Encouraging conversation in a safe and respectful environment. Rangers can still provide content while also engaging visitors with questions that stimulate dialogue between everyone who chooses to participate. Freely shared personal experience, beliefs, feelings, and opinions with no judgement by others. This type of conversation is not an argument or debate, there is no right or wrong. It’s about inviting people with varied experiences and often differing perspectives to engage in an open-ended dialogue, learning with and from one another.
We experimented with various techniques to invite dialogue. Broke into small groups creating short programs about topics ranging from public lands, climate change, geology, protecting resources, immigration, and more, while implementing some of the new techniques. As an audience we participated in the programs and provided feedback.
During break I’d step outside to admire the desert flowers blooming everywhere. A treat I enjoy because the North Rim bloom is still at least a month away.
As an extra treat we had many restaurant choices in Page enjoying Thai, burger, salad, and sushi choices for dinners and lunches. Plus one night went bowling but I just observed knowing that would not be good for my arthritic shoulders.
The last night a sprinkling of rain fell. The sky looked exciting from the hotel room so I rushed out to take photos, with my phone. Could have been a prettier location and backdrop, but sometimes you just have to settle.
What more could I ask for than a gorgeous sunset with crepuscular rays, a double rainbow, and a hawk sitting on top of a pole? Maybe not being surrounded by what felt like a prison fence as seen in the Foto Friday Fun 214 post.
We stayed at LaQuinta
After a grocery stop we drove back Thursday morning with a quick stop at Navajo Bridge and saw California Condors 30 and 01. (Look closely on lower girder to left.) Finished the day talking about schedules and programs. Then two days off and Sunday for most of us preparing to open the North Rim May 15th. I actually have three days off starting opening day, just fell that way. Because repairs were completed early on the broken water pipeline all services except for Deli in the Pines will open on time.
I’ve already started to plan for more facilitated dialogue in a couple of my programs and am excited about the prospects. How would you feel about joining the conversation?
The facilitated dialogue training was put on by Sites of Conscience for National Park Service employees.