by Shawn Bawden, CIG
NAI Region 7 Wyoming State Representative
This spring Region 7 welcomed not one but two new state representatives for Wyoming: Stacey Moore and Shawn Bawden. Stacey works for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at the National Historic Trails Center in Casper. Prior to working for the BLM, she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin (West Africa) and an assistant English teacher in Japan. Stacey writes, “I am not long in the field of interpretation, but am finding real and meaningful connections to this type of work. Interpretation is a great field to enter after years away from home. I was very excited when I received my CIG and CIT training through NAI not only for the great concepts behind interpretation but by the diversity and genuine character of my classmates. By serving NAI I hope to branch out and make connections with many of you. Also, on a personal note, my daily work is to connect visitors with history, but my real passion is to connect youth to the outdoors because I love the connections I have had through skiing (yeah for the invention of tele!), camping, fishing, and hiking.” Shawn works in Yellowstone National Park at the Heritage and Research Center. Before coming to Wyoming, he worked at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area as an interpretive ranger and volunteer manager. Shawn served two terms with the AmeriCorps in between college and graduate school including one year as a youth mentor and tutor at a rural elementary school in northern California. He is currently finishing the requirements to be a CIT.
This spring also brought the usual new arrivals to Wyoming: warm weather, blue skies, bison and elk calves, wildflowers…and new seasonal staff! We talked with Leslie Quinn, CIG, CIT, Interpretive Specialist with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone, about the training program for their new tour guides. “Xanterra as a company has been trying to expand their offerings to their employees on how to both learn more about the park and have better communications skills,” Leslie explained. Each year their new guides receive between 3-5 weeks (!) of training which includes becoming CIGs. It also includes trips through the park to familiarize the staff with the area. These trips are called “Frolic Tours,” a term that has been used for guide training since the 1910s. He said that their guides need to be prepared to answer questions in five major subject areas (geology, geography, flora, fauna, and human history) about not only Yellowstone but also the Grand Tetons since many of their tours originate near that park. Xanterra staff also receive “Legendary Host” training which helps them with informal interpretation, and in the past the company has held CIH courses. While Leslie is an accomplished interpretive trainer, his heart lays elsewhere. “I’m a tour guide,” he said with a smile and a spark in his eye. “I’d rather be giving a tour of the park!”
And, if you haven’t seen it, Leslie wrote an article which appeared in the latest issue of Legacy magazine. Titled “The Exciting Summer of 1988,” his article examines how fire management and the Fires of ‘88 have been interpreted in the past. He writes, “If we have learned anything at all as a result of 1988, it’s that interpreters had better make sure that the visitors understand the important dynamics of the ecosystem of any wilderness area…they’re not good or bad, they’re wilderness, they’re what we’re all supposed to be celebrating about the place.”
We also visited with Emily Buckles, CIG, CIT, Interpretive Specialist at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody (formerly the Buffalo Bill Historical Center). She too has been busy training new staff as well as conducting monthly training sessions for volunteer docents, all of which includes classes in interpretation. Emily explained that summer days will be filled with activities for the interpretive staff in Cody who will be busy with guided tours (3 times a day) and daily spotlights of historic objects from the museum collection. She also mentioned their youth programs such as “Drop-In and Do” and “Art in the Garden.” Other popular activities include the Raptor Experience program, school field trips, Art Camp, and chuckwagon cooking, whose cook Emily describes as a true “frontline interpreter.” Emily conducts CIG training for the Center’s staff during the winter months. The CIG course “puts everyone on the same page as far as what interpretation is. But the class itself really builds a sense of camaraderie amongst our staff, and it’s all centered around providing a really great service to our visitors. Those two things together are a huge benefit.”
Back in Yellowstone, we talked with Danielle Chalfant and Julianne Baker – both Resident Instructors with the Yellowstone Association Institute (YAI) and CIGs, CITs – about recent happenings with their organization. In March the YAI hosted a CIT course, and in April Danielle and Julianne facilitated the 3-week long Naturalist Guide Certificate program which includes CIG. This class is a professional guide and naturalist course for people who are serious about getting into the field. “This program is years of learning how to be a good guide condensed into three weeks,” explained Julianne. “Yellowstone is a wonderful classroom, but not the topic,” added Danielle. They both agreed that the skills gained during the program are transferable anywhere, plus it’s a great networking opportunity. Danielle said, “If you want to be a great guide, naturalist, or interpreter, this is the class.” The Naturalist Guide Certificate program is offered each April, but if that doesn’t fit your schedule, the YAI will be holding a CIG course this October.
We know that there’s a lot more going on in Wyoming, so Shawn and Stacey want to remind everyone that they want to hear from you! They want to learn more about you and what you do, as well as any information about upcoming events, training, classes, workshops, etc. Please contact them with any updates, questions, concerns, or ideas for Wyoming and Region 7. Shawn can be reached at shawn_bawden(at)nps.gov, and Stacey at samoore(at)blm.gov.