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Selling the Prairie

Interpreting Prairies for the General Public

Presented by: Jaime Gonzalez, Katy Prairie Conservancy

Why Sell Prairies? - Interpretation
INTERPRETATION: Interpretation is a
communication process that forges emotional and
goal is to between the interests of the
audience and volunteers,
provide new the meanings inherent in the resource.
good publicity, and/or Association of Interpretation
- Jon Kohl,
monetary Fermata
benefits to the
host organization.
Why Sell Prairies? - Interpretation
! Freeman Tilden 1883-1980
A. He held many types of jobs including newspaper reporter
B. Hired by park service in early 1940’s
C. Interpreting our Natural Heritage 1957
D. Tilden’s Six Principles

(Use Analogies) 1. Any interpretation that does not somehow relate what is being displayed or described to
something within the personality or experience of the visitor will be sterile.
2. Information, as such, is not interpretation. Interpretation is revelation based upon
information. But they are entirely different things. However, all interpretation includes
(Reveal) information.
3. Interpretation is an art, which combines many arts, whether the materials presented are
scientific, historical, or architectural. Any art is in some degree teachable.
4. The chief aim of interpretation is not instruction, but provocation (Anatole France & the
mystery tree)
5. Interpretation should aim to present a whole rather than a part, and must address itself to the
(Inspiration) whole person rather than any phase. Freeman Tilden

(Holistic - avoid the 6. Interpretation addressed to children should not be a dilution of the presentation to adults,
‘name game’) but should follow a fundamentally different approach. To be at its best, it will require a
separate program.
(Age Appropriate)
Deflating Misconceptions

Which types of prairies

misconceptions exist?

• Filled with dangerous animals

(including snakes)
• It is too wet here to have prairies and/
or prairies only exist in the midwest
• Prairie fires are destructive
• Which other myths or misconceptions
Sell Biodiversity
Sell Ecosystem Services
“Every place has a history”
Cable and Beck in Interpretation for the 21st Century

• Where to find historical information about the prairie

• Quotations to live by

Rice University circa 1916 Tomball at six months

Tanglewood 1950’s
Katy 1912
Sell Rarity
What’s left?
A 2008-2009 study by the Native Prairies Association of Texas found
that their are few remaining high-quality prairie patches left in Harris
and surrounding counties.Yet, even mid-quality prairies can and should
be restored.

A sample of NPAT survey results

1836 ! On average there were only 7 prairies found per county
! Prairie sites generally ranged in size from 5 to 10 acres with
many sites under 10 acres in size

! Only 1/2 of sites are protected by land trusts

!County-level Results
Harris County, 7 sites from 1 to 17 acres, mostly 6 - 7
Fort Bend County, 5 sites from 4 to 9 acres
Brazoria County, 13 sites of up to 280 acres, mostly 5 - 20
Galveston County, 8 sites up to 125 acres, mostly 10 - 20
Chambers County, only 1 site visible from a public road
but it is hundreds to thousands of acres,aerial
2010 photography indicates potential for thousands more acres
of quality prairie.
Sell Ecosystem Services & Use of Pamphlets

Coastal Prairies provide many ecosystem

services including:

• Flood Control
• Potential biofuels
• Mitigating ‘heat island effect’
• Recreation
Use What’s Available Online

The CPP Website already has:

• Over 1,500 photos most of which can be

used for signage and interpretive
• Galleries and photo search make finding
the right photo easy
• CPP members are typically enthusiastic
about having their work used - just ask
and we’ll find a photo for you
Signage Options

The Role of Signage

• Helps to tell a cohesive story

• Helps to provide context for a prairie
• Attracts visitors
• Helps deflect criticism
An inexpensive option

• Aluminum signage can cost as little at

$13-$15 per square foot with
accompanying holders about $25; Get a
temporary sign for around $100
• If you are a school or nonprofit, CPP can
assist you with developing signage
A Community-Built Curriculum

Coastal Prairie
Coastal Prairie Educators’ Handbook

• First lesson will debut on December 1, 2010

• Handbook will be organized into four basic
• Have a good prairie lesson? - Contribute to
the project
• Other resources (such as downloadable
Resources for
teaching about
the imperiled
PowerPoints) coming soon! Coastal Prairie
ecosystem of
Texas & Louisiana
Edited by Jaime González, M.Ed.
Community Education Manager
Katy Prairie Conservancy

The Coastal Prairie Partnership Publication | Volume No. 2 in a series
Coming to a Museum, Nature Center, or School Near

Concept Sketch of Exhibit at MFAH - April 2011

What Do You Still Need?

Related Interests