From knowledge to inspiration – Creating a space for HI in Polish national parks


The dynamic development of approaches to interpretation in many European countries reached park rangers and State Forestry educators from all over Poland during a very snowy April conference in Zakopane. 
The landscape of Tatra National Park was the background for the event and the occasion for this meeting was really special – the renewal of the ‘sister parks’ agreement between Polish and Slovak Tatra National Parks and Rocky Mountain National Park, USA. 
These Parks have been cooperating in many different fields since 2007, however, all Polish national parks benefit from this partnership, especially during the annual conferences which are an excellent opportunity to exchange knowledge and experience with our American partner. This year we discussed interpretation issues during a three-day-long training programme with the help of real interpretation masters, including several members of IE and rangers from Rocky Mountain NP. 
The main goal of the meeting was to consider innovative methods of education in national parks. Although interpretation as a defined discipline is almost a century old, its role in Polish heritage sites and museums is still not clearly defined. Therefore, this event was a perfect opportunity to find new ideas and inspiration for our everyday work with different visitors of a variety of needs. 
Thanks to international cooperation we can share ideas about HI for the future, but we can also get familiar with long-term results of this approach from our more experienced friends. In our country, we still have to answer two important questions: 
  • How can we enrich our offer and shape our skills in interpretation? 
  • To whom should we target our interpretation programmes in Polish national parks and other valuable natural places? 
There is no easy answer, but everyone whose role is to connect people with their heritage is ready to make the effort to search for that answer. Everyone wants to get closer to the audience and see that the communication of simple facts can evolve into something more precious and meaningful. This is especially important when we consider natural heritage, because for many reasons its acceptance is often more difficult than the acceptance of cultural heritage, even though both are usually connected. 
Although most of the participants of the conference were experienced educators there is always need for inspiration and new skills. It is easy to fall into the routine of repeating the same information with the same methods, sometimes seemingly to no avail. Another danger is (at least in the case of those of us with an academic teaching background) the need to pass on as much information as possible. We are usually really passionate about the subject we talk about and everything about it seems very interesting. It is easy to forget that it is not always the case for tourists and visitors. It is important to make them interested, not bored. That is the skill we need in our work as educators in national and landscape parks or State Forests, both in face-to-face meetings with visitors and while preparing publications, information boards etc. In just a few days of the conference, we learned a lot and got inspired to learn even more – which is basically the way interpretation works.
Alicja Fischer is a member of IE’s training team. She works as a main educational specialist in Department of Science and Education, Ojcow National Park, Poland. You can get in touch with her at: alicja.fischer.epost@gmail.com .
Katarzyna Śnigorska is a biologist working for the Complex of Landscape Parks of the Malopolska Region in Krakow, Poland (www.zpkwm.pl). She has been working as an educator for a number of NGOs and other institutions for almost 20 years. You can get in touch with her at: k.snigorska@gmail.com .  
Magdalena Kuś is a member of IE’s training team. She works as a Head of Education Department in Magura National Park, Poland. You can get in touch with her at: kus.magdalena@wp.pl  
To cite this article:
Fischer, Alicja & Śnigorska, Katarzyna & Kuś, Magdalena (2017) ‘From knowledge to inspiration – Creating a space for HI in Polish national parks’. In Interpret Europe Newsletter 2-2017, 20- 21. 
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