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Interpreting the Word “Interpretive” in Recreation

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Interpretive programs help visitors discover nature in a variety of ways.  

Do you enjoy discovering the detail of nature, like identifying birds by their calls or learning about native plants? You’ve probably noticed that these programs are labeled as “Interpretive” on the LetsGoOutside.org website. Participating in one of these activities is a great way to enjoy the natural beauty of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks while learning something new, and understanding what that word means in the context of outdoor activities will help you select and enjoy outdoor activities.

Interpretive activities are generally easier, shorter, and slower-paced than other programs, with multiple stops for discussions. These programs are often family-friendly, but not all interpretive programs are for all ages. “Interpretive programs focus heavily on a specific topic, explained at different levels,” says Kelley Reetz, an Interpretive Specialist at Irvine Ranch Conservancy. “Certain topics may be too intense to discuss with little ones, such as endangered species or fire ecology, or there might be different levels of detail given in a kids’ program about animals than in an adult-targeted wildlife program.”


History and culture are also examples of topics covered in interpretive programs. On Saturday, January 18, visitors can enjoy a hike in Weir Canyon while learning about the “Tales and Characters of the Santa Ana Mountains.” This hike is led by a local history expert, and includes fascinating stories of Native Americans, cowboys and early American settlers.

An interpretive program for children is a fun way to learn about the land and its inhabitants. During “You’re the Naturalist,” kids and adults alike can learn about diverse species by each receiving a card with information about a native plant or animal on it. When the group finds the species on the trail, the person with that card reads to the group from their card, becoming a temporary “naturalist.” This program is January 12 in Round Canyon.

Discovering interpretive programs is your key to discovering nature. Some of the topics you’ll find covered include birding, wildflowers, geology, history and local culture, wildlife tracking, and plant identification. To find out more about these great activities and to review suggested age ranges for participants, please visit www.LetsGoOutside.org/Activities. You can sort the activity list to find only Interpretive programs by clicking the “All Categories” menu at the top of the listings.