Sequoia National Park

Dark Sky Intern  -  Three Rivers, CA

The intern will research, develop, and field test programming for the park’s annual Dark Sky Festival to appeal to local visitors, many of whom come from Latino communities in the San Joaquin Valley. New programs will include a pop-up activity about the importance of naturally dark skies that will use audience-centered techniques to engage visitors who typically do not participate in traditional ranger-led programs. They will also include an evening campfire program that teaches participants how to observe the night sky without special equipment, an activity that prepares visitors to try skygazing at home and helps them understand connections between the park and the places they live.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are in the process of becoming an International Dark Sky Park. For the past five years the park and its partner, Sequoia Parks Conservancy, have celebrated natural skies with a Dark Sky Festival. The intern will develop programs that will become part of the festival in the park’s lower elevations.

Local visitors, especially Spanish-speakers, often do not attend traditional ranger-led programs. Interpretive theory about how to reach new audiences advocates creating audience-centered pop-up activities that give participants opportunities to share their ideas and experiences instead of asking them to simply absorb information from experts. This new style of interpretation requires a facilitator dedicated to extensive preparation, constant evaluation of activities, and experimentation to improve engagement. The intern will become a specialist in content related to naturally dark skies and application of interpretive theory to potential audiences in the Foothills.

Because of light and air pollution, residents of the San Joaquin Valley may not realize how rewarding naturally dark skies can be. The intern will teach them how to star- or moon-gaze with the naked eye and simple, inexpensive tools, which will equip them to do so at home. The intern will also help them understand how everyday choices can improve their ability to experience natural skies, both at home and in the park.

The intern will work closely with the lead interpreter in the Foothills to develop both a pop-up activity and an evening campfire program. They will present one or both of these interpretive offerings each workday. They will write an outline for each and share them with interpreters in the park and with the larger NPS community through the Common Learning Portal. Since the Dark Sky Festival happens in September after the internship ends, the lead interpreter in the Foothills will use the intern’s outlines to present activities during the festival.