After lots of talk and no action, I have finally been able to get out of my Pam Cave long enough to present my first iSWOOP program! I was scheduled for 2:00 so 15 minutes prior to program time, I set up the cart out in the VC near the 3-D map. My plan was to set up and have a captivating image on the screen that would draw people to the program as I roved the VC drumming up buisness. Well, things did not go as planned. I looked, for all the world to see, like the most tech defincient ranger on the planet. No matter what buttons I hit on the remote, all I got on the screen was snow or words that did not match anything on the remote. Over and over I hit buttons, first this combination, then that combination – all to no avail. At 1:55 a melodic voice came over the intercom announcing that the Natural Entrance to the cave will be closing in 5 minutes so if anyone still wanted to hike down they needed to begin now. Suddenly a herd of visitors, big and small rushed past me likes bats out of hell, flying through the doors so they could make it to the entrance before closing. Suddenly, I was surrounded by an eerie silence. I was totally alone in the VC – Elvis had left the building.
So as not to embarrass myself anymore, should a visitor walk by, I quickly unplugged the cart and wheeled it into a corner. I had a new plan. I would try my program again at 3:30, when all entrance to the cave is stopped for the day and visitors would be looking for something to do. In the meantime however I needed to figure out how to turn on the dang TV – THANK YOU ERIC!!!
Before 3:30 I had the cart set up and OH BABY! prominantly displayed on the screen. There were nearly a dozen visitors looking at the exhibits and I invited them to join me for the program. Immedietly four kids, ranging in age from 4 years to 10 ran over to the cart and plopped themselves on the floors. There were 4 adults with the kids but they hung back from the screen, although they were close enough to see the images and hear me. I introduced myself and launched in to the first question,”What did you all come to Carlsbad Caverns to see today?” Nothing… I switch to a slide of the cavern. “Did you all come to see this perhaps?” Nothing… The little girl nearest my feet looked up at me, her big blue eyes staring out through gigantic fake plastic glasses with no lenses…nothing. Time for a new tactic. “How many of you knew we had thousands of bats who live in the cave in the summer time?” This time there was a response! The four-year-old in the sparkling pink faux Uggs shouted, “I hate bats!” At last, a starting point! For the next 10 minutes I talked about baby bats, mothers milk, the weight of 800 Dunkin’ Donuts and how cool bats are. With the stage now set, I brought out the big guns – thermal imaging. “How would you count the bats?” “Where do you think it is the warmest in this group of bats?” Tiny voices murmered answers. Progress! By this time, more adults had joined the group to watch, but they too hung back with the parents. My guess is they thought it was a kids program because of the gaggle of kidlets at my feet. The tide turned when I displayed the image that shows how the bats are counted. I had blocked out the total number of and told the audience to see if they could count the number of bats that flew by. One of the boys shouted – “A million!” The little girl with the gigantic lensless glasses shly said, “A thousand?” When I revealed the actual number even the adults were impressed!
We wound up the program talking about why bats are important and why it is important for us to know what their populations are. The kids got up from the floor and I asked the youngest if she still hated bats. “Yes!” and off she ran, her pink sparkly feet fading off into the distance of the Visitor Center.
Next time I’m going to have the adults sit on the floor.