By: Chuck Benjamin, Education Coordinator, APPL
Now that I’ve been with APPL for about two and a half years, the learning curve has become more of a learning bump. To use a dubious metaphor, I’m no longer dipping my toe in the learning waters. I’m about thigh high now. I recently attended the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) Conference in Denver to see if could get in all the way to my waist.
First of all, let me say that I like Denver. It’s large enough to have all those big-city amenities, but small enough to handle. (Granted, at the convention, I didn’t have a car so I was relegated to about a 10 to 15 block area, but this is my blog entry so I’m sticking to my assessment.) I liked how the blocks are relatively short, making my daily
post-convention sightseeing rather painless. I liked how clean and “green” the city seemed. But most of all, I liked its sense of originality, its sense of being a tad off-kilter.
The convention center itself features a humongous (that’s about the only word that can describe it), 40-foot tall blue bear peering in the center’s front windows, keeping watch over convention attendees. After dark, as I ambled around my “area,” hideous, pre-recorded roars emanated from the sidewalk grates as I walked over them, making me wonder what sort of ghastly ogre was being held in the Denver underworld, struggling to break free and terrorize the city. Looking down from my hotel window, I could see the theater district extending several blocks—it resembled something of a long, tube, protected by a tinted, glass cover. The 16th Street Mall, a stone’s throw from my hotel, offered a slew of shops and restaurants from the hip to the more traditional accessible by light rail (as a bookworm, my favorite was the Tattered Cover Book Store, a sprawling, independent seller with plenty of cozy nooks and crannies that included overstuffed, antique chairs and ambient lighting, perfect for hunkering with an actual book in your hands).
The quirkiness also permeated, the Curtis, my hotel—a funky little place just a couple blocks from the convention center. Flowery, day-glo starbursts whimsically adorned the knotty-pine walls behind the reception desk while racks of toys and board games lined the lobby. And each floor of the hotel had a theme—from science fiction to one-hit wonders to famous dancers and more. The 14th floor, where I stayed, had a vintage TV theme (well, some of the “vintage” was more recent). Each time I reached my floor and the elevator doors slid open, Fred Flintstone’s voice greeted me with a “Yabba Dabba Do!” Photos of the casts of Gilligan’s Island, Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, and others adorned the hallways. A framed photo of Johnny Carson stared back at me as I worked on my laptop at the desk. But the piece de résistance, the apex of their kookiness, was the Dudley Do-Right bobble head doll perched above the toilet. Of course, the offbeat decor rubbed off on me, upping my goofy quotient, as I greeted my little bathroom buddy with a “Goooood Morning, Dudley” each morning before starting my day.
Yup, Denver’s pretty cool. And this is without taking an amazing convention into account!
Next week: On to the convention
Each year APPL selects an Excellence Award winner from among the products and programs taking top honors in each of the categories of our Media and Partnership Awards. The award goes to a category winner that stands out for its quality, is accessible to a wide audience of public land visitors and exemplifies innovative partnerships.
Our 2012 Excellence Award winner is Devils Tower Natural History Association (DTNHA) for their book, America’s First, written by a class of fourth grade students from the Hulett School in Crook County, Wyoming. Not only did this book win the 2012 award in our Children’s Media category and this year’s Excellence Award, it was also honored by the National Park Service with the 2012 Director’s Award for Excellence in Interpretive Media.
Our Member Service Coordinator, Nancy Kotz, recently had the opportunity to speak electronically with two of the key players in this project – Linda Tokarczyk, former Business Manager, Devils Tower Natural History Association and Beth Marlatt, Teacher, Hulett School, Crook County School District, WY – to learn more about how the project was born and its impact on the association and the students.
APPL: Why did you enter this project?
Tokarczyk: I thought the project was an excellent example of the kinds of experiences we love to promote and encourage through DTNHA. From the first time I met with Mrs. Marlatt and the students about America’s First, it was very obvious that this was an incredibly special endeavor – one worthy of sharing with more than just our local community.
Marlatt: I cannot take credit for that idea at all. It was Linda Tokarczyk’s (the past business manager of Devils Tower Natural History Association) idea along with Kendra Meidinger from the Wyoming Visitor’s Center. They made all the arrangements and did the paperwork. I think that they recognized that this was a unique partner situation. I know that Linda was very proud of the accomplishments of the students. She was always looking to showcase them and their book about the Tower, a place that we all love.
APPL: What was your favorite part of this project?
Tokarczyk: My most favorite part was the book signing celebration at the Tower – - the students shined! The event highlighted the extraordinarily talented teacher that Mrs. Marlatt is and the incredible abilities of her fourth grade students, who are now nationally known authors and illustrators. I also truly enjoyed working with all of the entities involved with the project – collaboration at its best.
Marlatt: My favorite part of the project is the transformation of the students in their community. They’ve become competent, confident individuals because of their work and accomplishments. I’ve seen them interact with Chief Interpreter Hugh Hawthorne, Tower visitors and people that have read and purchased their book. They have internalized the material about the Tower and love to share their expertise. They all know the content of each other’s pages because they have all proofread the pages. The students are partners and experts. They will be future interpreters, either official or unofficial. They were and continue to be transformed in their learning community.
APPL: Do you think winning the award enhanced the perception of the work of your organization?
Tokarczyk: I think that the award helped to highlight the spirit and intent of much of what DTNHA does on a daily basis.
Marlatt: Absolutely, without question. What is more validating than a fourth grade project with a $50.00 marker budget going up against the caliber of projects produced by APPL members. When I saw the tables of displays of the contenders my heart sank. I was pretty sure we didn’t really belong among them. I consoled myself with the fact that I knew that at least we were finalists. So imagine my utter shock to find that the kids had won the Director’s Award early in the week. It just became more and more amazing that they were awarded the Children’s Media Award and finally the Excellence Award. I can’t imagine the perception of my students and their book could be enhanced more. This is a 21st Century project that really stood the test in the real world. It is a great deal of what I believe as an educator. We need to immerse our students in real projects that will stand in the real world to prepare them for the 21st century.
APPL: Are there things you would change or tweak now that you have had a chance to reflect on the project?
Tokarczyk: I think that the project came together and developed the way it was supposed to for all involved.
Marlatt: There is always something to change and refine. Just like I told the kids when we put the copy in the box for shipment. We have to let it go now and know that we gave it our best. I think that in our budget, time frame and resources we did the best we could. There is always more proofreading and reworking the artwork. We could have cleaned up the pages and proofread and revised one more time. The partnership was wonderful and they were available at every turn. That part of the project went well and from my point of view couldn’t be improved on. They were there for us whenever we needed them and then some.
APPL: What advice would you give to other nonprofit public land partners considering a project of this type?
Tokarczyk: My advice would be to stay open to creative and innovative ideas that our educators and others are doing in the local communities, and then lend support and help where needed to develop those ideas into tangible products and/or experiences for park visitors.
Marlatt: I think the potential is endless. I think that it is important to engage the younger students into the real life world. I think that public land partners should invite classrooms into their spaces. There are so many stories to tell and it offers a real education to our future. This type of project will teach the educational standards, grow future problem solvers and engage learners as well as the community. It really brought all of us together and showed the students that what they learn in our classrooms will make them successful in the real world.
APPL’s Media and Partnership Awards reflect the multi-agency nature of our constituents and celebrate the achievements of America’s nonprofit public lands partners in publishing, product development and programming. Since 2004 they have honored the best of what nonprofit public lands partners contribute to their agency partners and the public. Learn more about current and past winners on our website. The Call for Entries for our 2013 contest will be issued later this year.
The relationship between APPL members and the vendors they work with is a symbiotic one. With 75% of our members involved in interpretive retail and many others seeking items for member premiums, they look for vendors who can supply products that have value to their visitors and are sensitive to the often specialized needs of public lands sites.
Our Members Services Coordinator, Nancy Kotz, recently spoke with HogEye Inc., the recipient of our 2012 Outstanding Vendor Award regarding their work with nonprofit public land partners. HogEye is a supplier of quality tokens of appreciation and collectible items for tourism venues, festivals, national organizations and businesses. Learn more about their products and services at http://www.hogeye.com/. APPL’s members chose HogEye for this honor for their exceptional customer service, their attention to detail, and their collaborative approach in producing custom products.
APPL: What was your reaction upon learning that you had been selected for this award?
HogEye: We were excited to even be considered for such an award from APPL, and humbled at just the thought. For our customers to feel this way about Hogeye Inc., we are truly honored.
APPL: Do you think winning the award will enhance the perception of your company’s products / services?
HogEye: Of course, we hope it does turn a few heads and help some to consider using Hogeye Inc. for their product needs. We work hard for our customers, large and small, and will continue doing what we do best — high quality products and customer service.
APPL: What are some of the factors that have contributed positively to HogEye’s relationship with its nonprofit public lands customers?
HogEye: Hogeye Inc. strives for excellence in our effort to meet the customer’s needs with quality products at reasonable prices. Our customer service navigates our clients through the process — from artwork, through manufacturing, to interpretive packaging design and at prices that won’t break the bank!
APPL: How has participation in the APPL convention helped contribute to your business relationships?
HogEye: Participation in the APPL convention has helped our business, but it’s also introduces us to new friends. We look forward every year to attending the convention, not just because it’s our job, but because we get to meet up with great people.
APPL: What advice would you give to other companies who provide products / services to nonprofit public land partners?
HogEye: Our first year attending the APPL convention it was held in Denver. We were the new kids on the block. A lot of folks had been attending for years and had built relationships with their vendors. What we had to do was to relax, be ourselves and offer the best customer service possible and the highest quality products possible. We had to walk that line of not giving up trying or be too pushy.
To Hogeye Inc., being able to work with the non-profits is like having “the cherry on top”. We get to sell our product and make a living, and know that part of our efforts are helping our parks. These are our parks too, and we are honored that we can help in this way.
APPL’s Outstanding Vendor Award recognizes a company that has demonstrated exceptional achievement in working with APPL member organizations to enhance the quality of their retail services and the visitor experience at public land sites. Nominations are accepted each fall from among APPL’s members and the winner of the award is determined by the buyers. Impact Photographics received the first Outstanding Vendor award in 2011. For more information on APPL’s Award programs click HERE.
Interview with APPL’s 2012 Agency Partner of the Year Award Winner – Timothy Wakefield, Red Rock and Sloan Canyon Field Office
APPL focuses on nonprofit and agency partnerships, and the people who foster these relationships at the field level. Nancy Kotz, our Member Services Coordinator, recently had a chance to sit down with Timothy Wakefield, BLM Field Manager at Red Rock and Sloan Canyon Field Office, the recipient of our 2012 Agency Partner of the Year award. Here is what Tim had to say about receiving this honor from APPL and about the value of partnerships between nonprofits and public land management agencies:
APPL: What was your reaction upon learning that you had been selected for this award?
Wakefield: As I sat at the APPL award banquet I was totally unaware that I was going to be honored with the 2012 APPL Agency Partner of the Year Award. I sat listening to the announcer as they described the qualities and accomplishments of the person receiving the award, little did I know it was me. As they had not yet announced the name of the winner, I thought, wow this person really cares about their partners and values the relationship. The next thing I knew, my name was called as the winner. I was shocked and honored at being selected for the award and a little shaken as the award was unexpected.
APPL: Do you think winning the award will enhance the perception of your work?
Wakefield: I believe that this type of award will help others understand the importance that is placed on partnerships and that a good partner relationship will go a long way in creating a successful program.
APPL: What do you believe are the most important factors in developing and maintaining strong and successful public lands partnerships?
Wakefield: Strong partnerships are built on trust and a shared vision. It is important to work together to develop a shared vision and realistic goals. The trust comes from not caring who gets the credit and remembering that it is the public lands resources that brought the partnership together and if the resource is the focus then everybody wins.
APPL: What advice would you give to other public land agency colleagues with regard to the agency / nonprofit partner relationship?
Wakefield: Communicate often and honestly, help your partners understand the regulations and management challenges that you face as a public land agency. Work honestly, openly and listen to your partners concerns and issues. If resources are available try and setup training opportunities for partnership development. Strongly suggest that your nonprofit partner take advantage of the many opportunities for professional growth offered by APPL. Never stop working to strengthen your partnership, attend training together and setup off site teambuilding opportunities for agency staff and partners. Always let your partners know how much they are valued and appreciated. Together we are stronger.
APPL’s Agency Partner of the Year Award recognizes a public lands agency employee who has demonstrated exceptional achievement in cultivating an atmosphere of partnership between their agency and the nonprofit organizations with which they are affiliated. Nominations for this award are accepted from APPL member organizations each fall and the recipient is chosen by our Government Relations Committee. Previous winners include Joe Meade, National Partnership Program, USDA Forest Service; and Rich Weideman, Assistant Director for Partnerships and Civic Engagements, National Park Service Click HERE for a full list of our 2012 award winners.
Check out Elise Manlove’s March 2012 Intern Report as she discusses the 2012 APPL convention and the 3-day Spring camp she created!!
For more information about APPL’s young professional programs, including our Bridge to Tomorrow and Internship opportunities click here.
Check out Elise Manlove’s January 2012 Intern Report as she discusses her leadership role on Yosemite trip. (We know, we know…a bit late posting…but better late than never!)
For more information about APPL’s young professional programs, including our Bridge to Tomorrow and Internship opportunities click here.
Written By: Jess Haas – Sawtooth Interpretive & Historical Association (SIHA)
2012 Bridge to Tomorrow (B2T) Participant
After living in Stanley, Idaho in the Sawtooth Mountains, I knew spending a week in Las Vegas in early March would be like traveling to a different world. A few minor differences between Vegas and my home included:
1) Vegas’ lack of snow. In Stanley, our snowpack is still sitting at a hefty five feet (give or take a few feet). In Las Vegas, there appears to be no sign of the white stuff.
2) Stanley’s lack of people. At one point in Vegas, I saw a group at a crosswalk that outnumbered the entire population of Stanley (63 people as of the 2010 census). Just to reiterate, that was on one street corner.
3) Stanley’s abundance of elevation. Sitting at 6250’ above sea level, Stanley is over 4,000 feet higher than Las Vegas, making my daily runs at the APPL Convention a breeze.
4) Vegas’ abundance of nightlife. Want to go out to eat, do a little shopping, dance your heart out, and maybe go bowling on a Monday night in Stanley? Too bad. You’ll have to wait until Thursday, Friday, or Saturday when most establishments are open. And, there’s also the fact that Stanley doesn’t have a bowling alley. In Vegas, I bet I could eat, shop, dance, AND bowl in the same hotel at any time.
These differences were miniscule compared to the differences I imagined I’d encounter between the organization I work with, the Sawtooth Interpretive & Historical Association (SIHA), and the other partner associations attending the APPL Convention. Our association is much smaller than most. SIHA’s home base is Stanley, ID population 63 (as mentioned above), our Visitor Center is only open three months of the year (June – August), and our membership does not exceed 100. By no means do I think this is detrimental to SIHA, it merely sets up different parameters that we must work within in order to achieve our mission of protecting and advancing the natural and cultural history of Idaho’s Sawtooth – Salmon River Country through preservation and education. Conferences are always a smorgasbord of ideas, but would I be able to transpose the suggestions I got from other, much larger associations to my work with SIHA?
Just as I thought, the APPL Convention and the Bridge to Tomorrow program did provide me with a variety of great ideas. At multiple sessions and during the trade show, these were laid out in front of me. All I had to do was choose which ideas I thought would work best to fulfill the mission of SIHA within our parameters. But, as I traveled through the days of the convention collecting small ideas here and there (wow, it would be nice to give our volunteers a coffee mug with SIHA’s logo on it), I realized that ideas from other associations were not the most important things APPL was giving me. Sure, telling SIHA’s Board Members about the coffee mug idea would be great, but APPL was providing me with a valuable opportunity for discussion with colleagues. I needed to be proactive in getting answers to my particular questions and here were 400 plus convention participants who might be willing to help me out. My interactions throughout the week didn’t just revolve around SIHA (though I was able to run specific ideas by other veteran associations and get advice on best practices), we also conversed about what it means to work in the public lands sector, why these types of jobs are needed, and how we can help one another fulfill our missions. I was particularly concerned about technology’s role in our public lands. Although I am a member of the millennial generation (18-35 year olds), I am apprehensive about technology in our public lands and was excited to discuss this with my peers. After many Bridge to Tomorrow discussions, I became aware that I am not averse to technology in our public lands but rather I am adamant that we as associations use it to further our missions rather than use it just to claim we are advancing with the times. These discussions were more valuable to me than any event idea. The APPL Convention was the catalyst I needed to start thinking about the motivations for SIHA’s programming. It rekindled the passion I have for our mission and why we do what we do. And, as I sit through yet another spring blizzard in Stanley, I’m reminded of the inspiration I was given at the APPL Convention and Trade Show, but more importantly, the discussions I had to help me put that inspiration into action.
Jess is the Interpretive Program Coordinator for the Sawtooth Interpretive & Historical Association (SIHA) in Idaho. She oversees the educational programs at the Redfish Center and has been known to lead a few silly songs herself at campfire programs. Last summer, she unleashed numerous Junior Rangers on America’s public lands, so watch out! If you’d like to find out more about the new ideas SIHA is initiating this year, check out the website www.discoversawtooth.org or their Facebook page. This, of course, is a wonderful way to hold Jess accountable to putting her APPL-inspired ideas into action!