March the 19th…

…exactly one month until my last day at CAVE. I’d like to share a couple of noteworthy experiences I had yesterday.

I went to bat flight yesterday, the third time I’ve done so since the rumors started. This time, I had the amphitheater to myself. Quiet and cold, I sat, taking in the scene. I watched a sphinx moth feeding on the honey-scented algerita blossoms. I listened to a number of different birds hopping about, the distinctive canyon wren call, the last vestiges of cave swallows. I spotted a ringtail lurking above the entrance and was surprised by the bulk of a raccoon ambling up the trail. And then, the rushing brook of wings. Hundreds of bats, thin and steady, small puffs and clusters. Just me and the silence and the bats. I smelled the musk and watched for as long as I could bear the chill. Magic, as usual.

The foremost lesson I’ve learned from my time here is a lesson in silence. Relishing the quiet, observing the world about me and visitors alike. I’ve been practicing my lurking skills lately, creeping up on visitors in the cave, listening to their reactions. I’ve been practicing my lurking skills in my iSWOOP program, picking up on and responding to cues. I was involved in an interesting iSWOOP yesterday. Three adult junior rangers I baited with promises of a signature and two zookeepers, one a wildlife biologist who has engaged in bat research and used thermal technology in porcupine studies (!). At one point, I just stepped back and asked her to talk about her interactions with bats. She talked about bat netting and counting, I talked about Louise’s research presentation, everyone interacted and shared and enjoyed the videos and pictures. We even had an extensive final discussion about technology’s place in the parks.

A magic moment, a learning conversation… a good day.

5 thoughts on “March the 19th…

  1. Sounds like you had quite a night Christina!
    Your program sounds like it was also a great experience. Having visitors that are open and willing to share their personal experiences and knowledge makes for an awesome program for both the visitor and the interpreter alike.
    I enjoyed reading about your experience. πŸ™‚


  2. Let’s hear it for stealthiness. Christina, it’s like you’ve learned to be a bat–generally using echolocation to suss out opportunities for learning, lurking about undetected, hanging off walls and flying low to observe and listen in.
    I’m reading about what novices vs experts notice. Hearing about what biologists make of the images compared to unschooled people like me is fascinating and how we move everyone along that continuum to be able to make more sophisticated observations, to draw on schema and larger organizing principles and theories is what has me puzzled. I’ll try to share more on that soon. Need to reread the chapter so I can represent it well.

    When I see you in DC you can tell me more–what else did you learn about porcupines and thermal imaging?


  3. A very nice point, Christina. Sometimes as interpreters we are trying so hard to share share SHARE!!! Let me tell you why this place is awesome!! Let me tell you why you should care!! Let me tell you what we know! Talk to me! Talk to me! …. ah to inflict interpretation. It’s easy to forget that sometimes we just need to pause. Even in the middle of our programs, just find a moment to be present and to let the visitors think. With interpretive methods and inquiry based methods, it’s ok to just give that moment, embrace the silence, and let folks connect. When i ask the question, give it a moment….when i show the batflight video, I observe reactions and use that silence to see those subtle cues in body language. And it reminds me that I too, need to sometimes just be silent and reconnect as well – All possible in this work we do.


  4. Thanks for posting Christina! I’m glad the bats are coming back–sounds like a great evening. πŸ™‚ I agree with Eric about the dangers of inflicting interpretation and how sometimes we really out to just pause and “let the visitors think.” I think that’s especially essential in iSwoop programs–not to be afraid of letting the silence hang for a few moments after we ask a question. I know when I attend any learning-type program, if the facilitator asks the audience a question, but then doesn’t give us any time to absorb and think about it (aka silence!), I get really turned off. “Embrace the silence” as Eric said… I like it!! Sounds like your stealthiness is a great interp technique. πŸ™‚


  5. Christina, this is great. I still love sitting by myself in the amphitheater or in front of a lesser known bat cave and being still and silent. Like I’m the only person who has or will ever see this exact moment. Special.

    I too want to know what you learned about thermal imaging and porcupines.

    I often sneak up on my students and insert myself mid-conversation, yes I’m that professor! I can only imagine how many amazing things you will learn/experience putting your lurking skills to use on the National Mall.


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