Vision Paper: 21st Century National Park Service Interpretive Skills

National Park System Advisory Board Education Committee, National Education Council, and George Washington University

Updated Interpretation and Education


Published in April 2014, the 21st Century National Park Service Interpretive Skills Vision Paper presents an evolving vision for NPS Interpretation that nurtures a citizenry of lifelong learners. Building off of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) 2009 publication Museums, Libraries and 21st Century Skillsthis paper sketches a vision that addresses the intersection of three shared interests:

  • The desires of the AUDIENCE
  • The needs of SOCIETY, and the
  • NPS public service MISSION

From the Paper

Three mega-trends, life-long learning, globalization, and the digital era, largely account for accelerating societal changes and the motivation for new audience desires. Each mega-trend contributes to the need to revitalize the way in which the NPS fulfills its public service mission.

Lifelong Learning

“Societal Shifts have flipped the learning landscape from an education model primarily based on the transmission of knowledge to a 21st century model of individuals and groups taking an active role in learning to learn throughout the lifespan.”


“As borders and markets become more fluid, a crucial task for society is integrating large and growing numbers of people from diverse backgrounds — not only to be aware of global issues, but also to see differences as the norm and to be competent in interacting with people of varied ethnic, religious, racial and cultural backgrounds. Far beyond mere tolerance, an atmosphere of respect and valuing diversity is paramount for anyone working with the current and future public.”

The Digital Revolution

“Today’s audiences have different expectations of how they will interact with all sectors of society. Customization, active learning, and participation generate an appreciation for sharing authority…crowd-sourcing for gathering information and resources, and for accomplishing complex tasks.”

Responding to 21st Century Needs

“Audience demographics and their expectations for customization and co-created experiences are motivation for the creation of a revitalized training environment. Interpretive training, in light of the 21st century imperatives requires a continuing evolution of interpretive competencies and new curriculum for learning and development.”

This includes revising and expanding curriculum for learning and development and expanding resources and learning opportunities.

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  1. The Vision Paper is pretty concise with knowing right where the NPS has been, is presently, and where it needs to go. It lays out specific items that need to be researched, learned, and understood to implement them into their vision for the future. They are well aware of the major trends affecting the move of society, the growth of society, and the changes in individuals in society. The trends are global , not just locals; they exist with the ever growing and changing digital world, and the fact that nowadays, learning styles have changed and become life-long. There are seniors in colleges learning new skills, new studies, catching ump with their grandchildren who are in kindergarten.

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