Earlier this month, the nature interpreters at Sharon Woods hosted our second annual space program, Out of This World. Over those two nights, I experienced a child try his very first s’more. I heard about a boy who enjoyed our gravity exhibit so much that his dad is going to build one at home and our new friend Gus got to see his water rocket “make loopy loops before crashing to the ground!” Needless to say, if those were the only three things that happened during this program, I could put it as a check in the success box, but they were just a small portion of the astounding things I witnessed.
This article could be three pages of me listing all the great things I saw during Out of This World – which would make me feel awesome, and maybe you too – but I also want to let you in on a behind-the-scenes read on how the program went, which might shed some light on what we do as nature interpreters. (Don’t worry though, I might sprinkle some soppy bits in here too.)
If you haven’t been inside our planetarium, you are missing out! This 20-foot wide, 15-foot tall behemoth of a gray balloon allows you to see the stars of the night sky in a gym, auditorium or field. If you attended Out of This World, you may have had the opportunity to check it out with our star commanders Julie, Angela and Jenn. What you may not have realized is that an hour before the program started, the 20-year-old, $1000 bulb went on the fritz. The coolest experience of the program was almost canceled due to a bulb that wouldn’t turn on. Thankfully, through the precise use of taking the projector apart and messing with the bits and pieces, we managed to get it ready with about 30 minutes to spare – I call that a success! That little bulb managed to stay lit for over 200 guests to see the stars.
This year, we had one of the most amazing editions to Out of This World that I had the pleasure to be a part of. Jenn Wallace, a fellow east region nature interpreter, organized a sensory friendly hour with Laura Sheldon from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. We gave guests a layout of the building and an idea of what to expect from the program, opened the doors an hour early, and had a list of activities they could schedule out themselves. The amount of warmth and appreciation we received from all the guests who joined us for the sensory friendly hour was overwhelming. One young girl allowed Parky to color with her, and I’ll never forget the smiles on her parents’ faces. We at Great Parks can’t wait to hold another sensory friendly hour for another one of our events!
While we have the ability to do many amazing things at the Great Parks, one ability we unfortunately don’t have is controlling the weather. The aforementioned planetarium almost blew away since we had no space inside this year, and sadly, Brian from the Cincinnati Astronomical Society informed us even with his mega-fancy telescope, the clouds would provide zero visibility. So instead of leaving us high and dry the first night, Brian did an improvised talk on star gazing and even taught Parky a thing or two. On the second night when the clouds cleared up, Brian, along with volunteers, allowed guests to see the majesty of our universe.
This was truly an all-hands-on-deck program. Volunteers and staff had to learn the workings of space-time; learn how to make virtual reality educational; fix broken water bottle launchers; gather extra help through daily volunteers; gather supplies such as wood, seating and signs; fix computer displays five minutes before the program and other really super-secret stuff that you will have join our team to find out about all in about two months of mayhem and organized chaos. Once again, this has decidedly been an out of this world program, and I hope to see you at the next one!
Nature Interpreter, Sharon Woods