Last weekend we celebrated Canada’s Parks Day by volunteering at Banff National Park. Banff seems to have the most active volunteer program within the Canadian National Parks system and we were lucky to get connected to an opportunity to help with an evening interpretive program about astronomy. We often volunteer without really knowing what we will be doing and without ensuring that we have the required skills. Sometimes this means we end up out of our element or feeling like we’re not able to make much of a contribution. Well, the Park’s event was a lucky break for us.
Jay ended up setting up an activity about orienteering using a compass and a sextant. This activity was meant to show families how the early surveyor, David Thompson was able to map almost 40% of Canada using these basic instruments. Of course, most people these days just use a GPS, so it turned out that Jay was the only one there who actually knew how use a compass and sextant and was able to set up the activity without directions. All those boy scout merit badges coming back to benefit!
I was placed inside to greet guests who were there to hear an astronomy presentation. With a M.S. in Organizational Development and a lot of customer service experience I was also in my element. I created a sign on flip chart paper to let guests know about the program and made small talk with the early arrivals. One of the Parks’ staff complimented my ability to draw on flip chart paper and was surprised to hear I had actually had a 30 minute lesson in how to make flip charts. When the presenter needed to stall while someone retrieved his clicker, I broke the awkward silence with a question so that he had something to talk about. I believe the Parks staff were genuinely impressed with how helpful we were and gave us lots of thanks in addition to some really awesome t-shirts and stickers. I wish we could have stuck around longer and helped with more events.