As a Park Interpreter, it’s good to be well versed in cartoons. Often when young park visitors ask me about animals in the park they refer to characters that they have seen in movies or on TV. Being a Park Interpreter at Finding Nemo may need to become a job requirement. Each summer when the youngest beach goers come up to the seaside touch table, I hear them ask “Is this Patrick or Squidward?”
Now I must confess I never was a Sponge Bob Square Pants fan, but I quickly found that it would be an advantage to my job to become familiar with these characters. So relying on the parents or coworkers to fill me in, I’ve learned the major players of Sponge Bob Square Pants and several other kids’ shows. It is important when helping children discover the nature around them to be able to speak in the terms they know and yes this sometimes means referring to fictional characters.
When I bring a replica pelican skull while visiting a school sometimes the students can’t picture what the animal looks like. Instead of trying to describe the size and look of the bird, I can say it’s Nigel from Finding Nemo except the pelicans around here are brown not white. The students then have an instant picture in their minds of what a pelican is and we can all move on to how pelicans catch fish or other habits. Being able to communicate this way allows the kids to ask questions in their terms. I’ve been asked on a number of occasions if Nemo or Dory fish live in the Chesapeake Bay, or can sea turtles really live to 150 years?
Here are some of the common characters I find myself discussing with our young park visitors that live at First Landing:
Nigel – Pelican from Finding Nemo (here they are Brown Pelicans but close enough)
Bambi) – cotton tail rabbit
Does this mean I can watch movies and cartoons as part of my work day? It’s research, right? No? Oh, well. Guess I’ll just have to continue to rely on young visitors to fill me in on the latest animated animal star! Perhaps the next time you visit a state park with a youngster you will find yourself conversing in cartoon characters, too!