Selling the Prairie

Interpreting Prairies for the General Public
Presented by: Jaime Gonzalez, Katy Prairie Conservancy

INTERPRETATION: Interpretation is a communication process that forges emotional and intellectual connections between the interests of the …whose goal is to audiencenew volunteers, inherent in the resource. provide and the meanings -National Association of Interpretation good publicity, and/or - Jon Kohl, Fermata monetary benefits to the Inc. host organization.

Why Sell Prairies? - Interpretation

Why Sell Prairies? - Interpretation
! Freeman Tilden 1883-1980
A. He held many types of jobs including newspaper reporter B. C. Hired by park service in early 1940’s 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. (Reveal) Information, as such, is not interpretation. Interpretation is revelation based upon information. But they are entirely different things. However, all interpretation includes 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 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, but should follow a fundamentally different approach. To be at its best, it will require a ‘name game’) 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 abound?

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

Katy 1912

Tanglewood 1950’s

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 ! 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 acres Fort Bend County, 5 sites from 4 to 9 acres Brazoria County, 13 sites of up to 280 acres, mostly 5 - 20 acres Galveston County, 8 sites up to 125 acres, mostly 10 - 20 acres Chambers County, only 1 site visible from a public road but it is hundreds to thousands of acres,aerial 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 pamphlets • 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
sections • Have a good prairie lesson? - Contribute to the project • Other resources (such as downloadable PowerPoints) coming soon!

Resources for teaching about the imperiled 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 You!

Concept Sketch of Exhibit at MFAH - April 2011

What Do You Still Need?