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Keeping the Conversation Alive

All too often, people leave workshops or conferences with ambitious goals of changing the world. Fist pumping, hearts beating, rainbows, lucky charms and all of that fluffy happy stuff.

Then……..they get back home or to their place of work and the world catches up to them and they forget how motivated they were because they just walked back into the stuff that they missed while they were at the conference that was so wonderful! They don’t make the effort to continue the conversation and contact those people that had an impact on their experience and made it so meaningful. I’ve been guilty of this before myself! Not this time! I was convinced that I was going to take a call to action seriously, e-mail new contacts that I made at the conference, and write those all-important e-mails that keep a conversation going. Of the 24 e-mails I sent to people, I heard back from 2 people. Do you assume that only 8% want to keep that conversation going?!?!?!? No! You just assume that 92% of those people fell victim to…..work.

When I left the Children & Nature Conference I immediately called the teacher I organized “Enchanted Rock Appreciation Day” with last year and scheduled a meeting to begin building “the next great idea”! For those that aren’t familiar with “Enchanted Rock Appreciation Day” it was an event I organized with area teachers last year, through a series of presentations and field trips to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, we turned the students into the teachers for a day. They set up trifolds and posters about Enchanted Rock along the well-traveled, and iconic summit trail on the busy Memorial Day weekend. It was a way for these students to teach people that would normally walk to the top of the granite outcrop, cross it off of the bucket list and go home.

But when an 11 year old teaches you about the importance of Dark Skies, cultural and natural history of a place, and endangered species, it truly changes the experience you have at a park. It gives meaning to the park, creates a since of place, it gives the students ownership of the park, and the for the visitors that took the time to listen - they went home with a new understanding of this special place.

As for this latest phone call, I wanted to develop a project that paired technology with nature. While I tend to be the nature “purist”, I wanted to take the positives from the first day of the conference (The Technology and Nature Summit) that involved technology use and how it can positively coexist with the great outdoors. Out of that conversation came “Project iRock”. It begins with a presentation to the 7th graders at Fredericksburg Middle School on May 12. I’ll talk about the park, the 7 principles of Leave No Trace, how to make a nature journal, and introduce the app iNaturalist to their classroom iPads. These 210 students will be divided into groups of 5 and come to Enchanted Rock on field trips May 21st and 22nd to practice their skills and apply their knowledge. Of these groups of 5, two will be the iNaturalist pros and photographers, one hike leader, and two nature journalists to record and sketch items. Results of this project should be in by the end of May.

Scott Whitener is the Park Ranger-Interpretation/Resource Management/Volunteer Coordinator at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department