Category: Josh N.


I have used the thermal camera on the iPhones twice now in Left Hand Tunnel. If you are not familiar, this tour is a historic lantern tour that travels down a passage where many bat studies have occurred (and some evidence of bats).

I found it ironic that the group made up primary of an older generation was very engaged with the use of technology whereas the younger group was interested but certainly did not latch on in the same manner.

I wonder is technology simply commonplace in younger society that we are not surprised by it…

Interesting Find

Hello everyone!

With connections now being made between the similarities of iSwoop and facilitated dialogue I thought I’d share some of the information I’ve found.

I have attached an interesting take on where interpretation currently is and ideas on where it should go in the future. I particularly like page 8… iSwoop I think is an ideal platform from which to jump when trying these principles in your programs. The title is striking, yet I feel to the point… “Leaving Muir and Tilden Behind – Visitor-Centered Interpretation Through Dialogue”.

Brian Forist attended one of my programs in Zion while he was working on his current research. After talking with him for some time I can say that the two examples he gives at the end are not made up… (Scary!) I think it can sometimes be easy to simply “give a tour” without really allowing ourselves as interpreters to engage with that particular group. I think it is always good to reflect on why we are even here… (For the visitors).

It sounds like the iSwoop programs over the summer have really been doing a great job of engaging visitors and allowing them to direct the conversation. I’m excited to read what the winter brings!


Links Between “Interpretation” and “iSwoop”


I just had an interesting opportunity that I think has a lot of relevance to the iSwoop program. When I was giving the programs I remember struggling with how to incorporate the visitor directed conversation style we were attempting to use with the more formal structure of an interpretive program. Basically how do I incorporate a theme while allowing the visitor leverage in crafting the experience?

During our one day of staff training for returning seasonals here at Zion we participated in what is being called a “facilitated dialogue”. A supervisor from Pipe Springs National Monument had just received training on this and was sharing it with us. A “facilitated dialogue” is just what it sounds like (maybe you have even heard of this already). It’s a discussion led by the interpreter but heavily relying on the group to move forward. It is the interpreter’s job to asking provoking questions that spark a conversation with others.

It struck me that this format is exactly what I was attempting to do with my iSwoop program. I also think visitor led discussion was a goal of the iSwoop program to begin with. I believe that the practice of “Interpretation” is in a stage of flux as we begin to understand more about how people learn. We will see changes in the future and maybe this is the tip of that iceberg. I think that “facilitated dialogue” will become a form of activity (or at least a tool to use within an activity) just as we have “interpretive talks” “conducted activities” and “illustrated programs” etc. now.

Maybe if this idea could be introduced to iSwoop it might help clarify how to achieve certain objectives for those participating because it creates that link between iSwoop and NPS interpretive training.

Here’s to you Josh Nelson

I am hereby recognizing the amazing contributions of one Josh Nelson who came to iSWOOP with lightning intellect, focus, and respect for visitors (the latter equaled by you all).

Josh is one who doesn’t back away from hard questions, who isn’t afraid to say somebody has the wrong idea. Without him, we all will have to fill the gap. Step up to say something controversial or personal, truthful but not immutable.

Josh, thank you! You’ll be the first but not the only iSWOOP interpreter from afar. Thank you for great conversations in and outside the cave, your many reflections on the process, and for testing out your bat persona. So memorable, your inclination to leave Carlsbad Caverns for life under a bridge. Enjoy wherever the Park Service takes you.






After my last (and final) iSwoop program I am left with a better grasp of how valuable it can be having a coworker observe. Pam watched my program and was able to see some nonverbal cues that I missed. For example the moment I switched to the slow motion bat emergence I heard people gasp but I missed that several in the group actually stepped forward.

I am taking this opportunity to encourage everyone to welcome observations from others. Ask others to watch a program of yours… communicate ideas that you have had both in person and on this blog. I understand that for some (me included) creating an interpretive product is an internal process. I think to reach the full potential of this program we need to break out of our shells and share ideas. Ask questions of others and create a dialogue. When you have a conversation with someone and it has value post a summery on the blog. For me the most productive process is discussing ideas in person but everyone will not get the chance to participate and the blog offers a place to compile those ideas and thoughts. This is after all a research project and how can we analyze anything if we don’t leave a paper trail?

In the coming months I challenge everyone to go beyond their comfort zone… present a program even if you don’t feel ready. Use just a handful of slides and rely on the visitor’s observations (that is what we are supposed to be doing anyway!!). I think we all owe Martha, Louise, Nick and all the others who have made this a reality a big thank you! I would like us to show that appreciation by stepping up our efforts and contributions to iSwoop.

I heard somebody say they thought an interpreter should have been included in the planning of the iSwoop program… this is a pilot project… there is not one interpreter involved, there are ten involved. We are now the ones being relied upon to implement and test these ideas and strategies. Let us hold up our end of the project!

Good luck all and I hope to see the conversations and observations continuing when I check the blog.

A Visual on our Ideas of an iSwoop Progam

Idea Chart on iSwoop Programs

I wanted to capture everyone’s idea of an iSwoop program early in the stages of development. I did not associate names on purpose to allow for a more objective look at the ten responses.

I was curious to see how similar our ideas were and I am also interested to explore how our perceptions might change in the coming months. I know for myself, my perspective has changed considerably in the past two months.

I would love to hear what you think… Ideas? Thoughts? How has your perspective changed? Has it?

FAQ Sheets??

As I am working on my FAQ sheet questions have been arising. I’m wondering what the format should look like? Are we trying for a paper with question and answer format or are we striving for more of a story? Ideas and thoughts?

Ideas for Upcoming Phone Call

We are coming up on March very fast and that means the next conference call. Georgina and I will be coordinating the call this month and I was wondering if anyone had any topics they wanted to discuss?

If you all could leave a brief comment on what you’d like discussed or questions that have come up recently that would be great! I would rather post these ideas here so everyone has a chance to see it and maybe come to the phone call slightly prepared.


City vs. Country Bats

Why do some bats prefer living in cities?

Is there a benefit to living in a city vs. a cave?

What kinds of technologies are used for this type of study?

How have these technologies helped with that study?

If some bats live in cities with stress and distractions why is the park so strict with cameras, etc. at bat flights?


As I engaged visitors during another iSwoop program today I started thinking about relevancy… How relevant is this program during the winter when the bats are in Mexico? Every time I am having a conversation about the Brazilian Free-tailed bat inevitably it comes up that they are not currently here. Although disappointed visitors understand and it provides a great opportunity to discuss their behavior and why, but I wonder if on some level they will not have the same connection. Will this information be as relevant to them when they can’t wait a couple of hours and see hundreds of thousands of these creatures firsthand?

I am definitely not questioning if iSwoop programs are valuable during the winter, I can’t stress enough I feel they are positive and engaging. I am simply asking an open ended question about how our human mind works and wondering if visitors might take in more from the same program when it becomes more relevant.

As I read through comments on my last post I started thinking about relevancy in a different way as well. Our job as interpreters is to provide opportunities for visitors to find relevancy in a park or historic site – basically answer the question of why should they even care. I see possibilities from visitor directed conversations and questioning for the individual to better personally explore why the place is relevant for them.

I don’t think every visitor will be willing to put in enough effort to reach this end goal, but if someone does I believe there is the possibility for a very powerful connection.

I want to leave you with two questions I posted in a comment:
1) By creating a theme in this setting are we imposing our personal “so what” (relevancy) on the visitor?
2) What if we allow visitors to provide the direction for us – would we than create an opportunity for them to find their own “so what” (relevancy)?