I just walked out of my office and noticed some older adults playing in the sprinklers. Of course I did a double-take because it really didn’t compute to see grown people jumping over a sprinkler on a college campus. Life is full of surprises like this one – so is work.
Even with what I perceive to be my out-of-the-box thinking, I have recently come to understand that I compartmentalize my outreach programming. Activities that were developed to engage school-age children are used in those situations and some family-oriented events. My comfort lies in conducting these activities and giving quick, general presentations – nothing like what an adult would expect. Adults want to be inundated with information in the form of specific lectures, brochures, and newsletters – or so I thought.
Then I was asked to participate in a lecture series for Osher’s Lifelong Learning community hosted by the Tampa Bay History Center. I saw my role as strictly support – make sure information was available for the participants, bring SWAG, turn off lights, etc. Who was really going to want to play? Or hear about Florida’s Paleoindian environment compared to Ice Age the movie? Turns out, these participants did.
Jeff asked me to give a brief overview of the prehistoric cultural time periods in Florida to the class, and I used my usual Powerpoint presentation – complete with Manny, Sid, and Diego (pictured above). I had people approach me at the break to tell me how much they appreciated my presentation and how helpful it was to them as a refresher from the previous week. Then I got bold and brought in the Mystery Cemetery.
This activity involves assigning gender and status to six mystery “burials” (see picture above for example). We did this activity in front of Rachel Wentz’s talk on Windover, getting the participants thinking like archaeologists before learning about a burial pond site. Everyone participated in that activity and I heard that was a fun way to prepare for the lecture. I had planned on topping off the series with atlatl and darts, but we ran out of time – many were downright disappointed they didn’t get to play with weapons.
Thinking outside-the-box is only successful if you act outside-the-box. Outreach does not necessarily need to be categorized. It can be just as complex as the group of people in front of you, waiting to learn about Florida’s cultural resources in a way that connects with them – through an activity, through a lecture, or some combination of the two.
Sometimes you just have to let loose and run through the sprinkler.