Interpretive Wheel – Leveraging Your Skills

A Model for Leveraging Your Skill

Description | Build Your Skills | Mapping to the Competencies | Analyzing ACE

A pie chart cut into quadrants. The top quadrant has a pictogram for "story," the left has a pictogram for "sharing," the right has a pictogram for "learning from others," the bottom has a pictogram for "sticky problem."How can you tell something’s working? Where does it need improvement?

The Interpretive Wheel model is a tool to help you know what to look for in Audience Centered Experiences. The four categories help to describe the observable elements of 21st century interpretation. Every Audience Centered Experience has a mixture of the four elements. An individual experience may lean more heavily on a particular element, but all four should be present, with all participants (interpreter AND visitor, in person OR not) contributing to each element.


Wheel as above, with the "Story" quadrant highlighted …Tells a Great Story
Stories are the center of our places – they provide the power of the parks and sites we interpret. But interpreters aren’t the only ones with powerful stories to share. That means visitors should have a chance to share stories, too – connecting their own life experiences intellectually and emotionally to the stories of your place.
Wheel as above, with the "Sharing" quadrant highlighted …Invites Sharing
Curiosity, release, and adventure draw us to parks. Good invitations bring us deeper into the transformative experience we seek. Asking and answering questions allows people to express themselves and to engage more fully. The best dialogic questions help probe not content knowledge, but into the deep, universal human experiences we all share.
Wheel as above, with the "Learning" quadrant highlighted …Learns From & With Others
Cross-pollination helps build community. And good ACE experiences allow everybody to learn from everybody else. When we share our knowledge, visitors learn about the park. When visitors share, they also learn about themselves, about the experience of others, and about the world around them. And we, in turn, learn different ways people think and feel about our parks.
Wheel as above, with the "Sticky Problem" quadrant highlighted …Grapples with a Sticky Problem
Parks can be useful places for reflection and learning – to wrestle with big problems facing our society today. This is what helps our parks to be relevant – they bring us to new spaces physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. These new spaces can help us to solve problems and make better decisions in our everyday lives.

Want to Build Your Skills?

Maybe you’ve been trying your hand at Audience Centered Experiences for a while. Maybe this is all new to you. No matter where you are in your interpretive journey, there’s always room to grow.

We’ve got you covered! Below, you’ll find learning activities that will help you to stretch and grow, build your skills, and get started crafting experiences right away.

Wheel as above, with the "Story" quadrant highlighted

…Tells a
Great Story

Crafting Good Story Arcs

Wheel as above, with the "Sharing" quadrant highlighted


Exploring Dialogic Questions

Making Safe Space for Visitor Expression

Wheel as above, with the "Learning" quadrant highlighted

…Learns From
& With Others

Exploring Dialogic Questions

• Making Safe Space for Visitor Expression

Wheel as above, with the "Sticky Problem" quadrant highlighted

…Grapples w/ a
Sticky Problem

• Choosing Essential Theme Questions

Mapping the ACE Wheel to the Competencies

But what about the competencies described in the Foundations of Interpretation? The Interpretive Wheel model was designed to help you build your skills and recognize success as you craft 21st century interpretive experiences. These categories are based off of the description of success from the Foundations documents, but are a little easier to wrap your hands around. How do they align?


Wheel as above, with the "Story" and "Sticky Problem" quadrant highlighted The “…Tells a Great Story” and “…Grapples with a Sticky Problem” quadrants of the Interpretive Wheel help to build your skills in the Site Research & Relevance competency. These parts of the wheel focus on how you find the stories we tell, how you encourage others’ perspectives as we explore our sites, and how you can tie your interpretive experiences to relevant issues.
Wheel as above, with the "Sharing" and "Learns from Others" quadrant highlighted The …Invites Sharing” and …Learns From & With Others” quadrants of the Interpretive Wheel help exercise your skills in the Building Audience and Community competency. These parts of the wheel focus on how you interact with visitors, how you create spaces that welcome their expression, and how you value their perspectives.
Wheel as above, with all four quadrants highlighted All four of the parts of the wheel help you build your skills in the Self-Awareness & Bias and Designing Visitor Experience competencies. These skill sets are crosscutting in a few ways. Each element of the wheel helps you reflect not only on what you do, but how your perspectives and biases influence your works as an interpreter. Each element of the wheel is also crucial as you craft experiences for visitors within your park.

Analyzing ACE

A Rubric to Test Your ACE Products…

Wondering if the experience you’ve crafted hits the mark? Want to see how well you’ve built your skills? Excited to share your newest experiment in Audience Centered interpretation? Start using the ACE / 21st Century Interpretation Rubric created by field interpreters just like you!

Screenshot of 21st Century Interpretation rubric

Write a Review

  1. I love how this simple wheel analogy lets me talk about the competencies with my seasonals and interns in a more hands on way. The 4 sections of the wheel are a great self-check for any product and whether it’s truly audience centered!


  2. Like Jake, I really like this set up. We are using it in a slightly expanded version as a coaching rubric here in Boston, and I want to continue delving into it. I really like the fact that it balances content (tells a great story and deals with a sticky problem) with participatory learning (invites sharing and learn with and from others). I’ve been working for a while on the value of narrative in interpretation (I am essentially a storyteller) so the beginning with “tells a great story” is very exciting. The “sticky problem” element is a great addition to moves us beyond simply repeating basic narratives of what happened to grappling with meaning and connections — why as well as what. I’d give it five stars, but can only get the site to show 2.


  3. Separating the Interpretive Wheel in to these four categories really helps me think about where interpretation was and where we are taking it now. I’ve been to many “traditional” ranger programs that tell great stories and even tackle sticky problems, but are missing the cross components that relate to Building Audience and Community. The wheel helps me organize my thoughts about my own programs and when coaching others. We need all four parts to roll!


  4. I’m happy this exists! Having a visual format will really help me remember the competencies as a sort of checklist when I’m developing programs. I also really appreciate having a visual – somehow for me this makes the competencies feel much more concrete and approachable and less theoretical. I can definitely see how this resource will also help me train and coach our seasonal staff in ACE. This is a great tool!


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