National Park Service
US Department of the Interior
National Park Service
Interpretive Development Program


Foundations of Interpretation

Core Resources

This is the core course in interpretation for all NPS interpreters, including permanent and seasonal rangers, partners, volunteers, and interns. The content of the course is an update and revision of the original core interpretive theory formerly known as Module 101 – Fulfilling the NPS Mission. This course is free and available to anyone from any computer on the new e-course website developed in partnership with the Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands.

This document defines the content (knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviors) for this suite of foundational competencies. It begins with competency descriptions and competency standards. All related learning opportunities should be based upon the source curriculum in this document.

A resource to assist the teaching of the Foundations curriculum in the classroom.

Power Point Presentations that go with the Training Packet:

This tool provides a step-by-step process for creating interpretive products.

This tool provides a step-by-step process for analyzing the elements of interpretive effectiveness in any interpretive product. It is the foundational process for the IDP Peer Review Certification Program.




Interpreting Our Heritage. Freeman Tilden, 1957. The original thinking of the "father of interpretation" on the newly emerging profession of interpretation -- a foundational classic.

Handles: A Compendium of Interpretive Techniques to Help Visitors Grasp Resource Meanings. Peggy Scherbaum, 2006. Can be used for self-study or classroom training. Includes the definitions and examples of 200 interpretive techniques.

Meaningful Interpretation -- How to Connect Hearts and Minds to Places, Objects and Other Resources. David Larsen, editor, 2011 (2nd edition).  A comprehensive articulation of NPS interpretive philosophy; a training and learning tool based on a journaling format. The volume can be used for designing courses, supervising and coaching employees, or for self-paced learning. (Note: Most parks probably have a copy of this book -- but it is currently out of print.)

Personal Interpretation--Connecting Your Audience to Heritage Resources. Lisa Brochu and Tim Merriman, 2002. A practical guide for new interpreters.