Pathways: Collaborative Research: iSWOOP--Interpreters and Scientists Working On-Site at Our Parks
National Parks are full of interesting and unusual STEM features which often intrigue visitors whose questions are answered by park personnel. In addition to the natural features, there are often researchers in the parks gathering data and conducting experiments. Park personnel are not apprised of these studies yet are often questioned about them. This collaborative project's goals are to derive a mechanism to educate the park personnel so they can respond to the visitor's inquiries. Collaborators include the National Park Service (NPS), TERC, Winston-Salem State University, and the park personnel at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The plan is to work through the park interpreters who are employees of NPS and often are the voice for explaining the park's natural features. For this project, the interpreters and researchers will collaborate on the explanations of the science and TERC will work with the interpreters on interacting or educating the public visitors on the research. This is a pilot study to determine how best to bridge the scientists and their research to the park visitors. Evaluation on all elements in this study will be done by Char Associates and the Institute for Mathematics and Science Education at New Mexico State University. The results of this study are to determine the issues in explaining the research to the park interpreters and thence to the park visitors. If successful, it is anticipated that a model will be developed in collaboration with the NPS for use in other National Parks.