The Freeman Tilden Award recognizes creative and exemplary work that enhances the visitor experience. It is the highest award given in the National Park Service for excellence in interpretation. A national recipient is chosen from the seven regional recipients.
Congratulations to the 2018 Freeman Tilden Award recipients!
Elyssa Shalla, Park Ranger
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Elyssa Shalla is a champion of audience-centered experiences (ACE). As part of her "Towers & Type" ACE program, a typewriter was set up for three days at Plateau Point; a very scenic view that requires a 12-mile round trip hike. Because the location is so remote, visitors do not often have the opportunity to connect with park staff or other visitors. At the scenic point, the visitors were greeted with a typewriter to share their thoughts. After three days, 76 entries were found on the typewriter. These stories were digitized and an Adobe Spark page was created so that the ACE pop-up could be captured and shared beyond its installation. Elyssa’s example of ACE demonstrated amazing creativity and originality, which not only provided meaningful visitor experiences, but also inspired and motivated her peers.
Richard Fefferman, Park Ranger
Gateway Arch National Park, Missouri
After years of active participation and leadership in “Gateway to the Stars,” a series of hands-on and family-friendly learning events, Rich Fefferman's continued drive to serve his audiences and distinct willingness to develop new and creative experiences as “Sky Ranger” earned him regional recognition. Rich facilitated discussion and inspired curiosity by sharing his research, personal adventures, and unique observations and expectations in ways that were informative and intriguing. Every time a group gathers with Rich around a telescope or participates in a night hike, he inspires lifelong interest in the NPS and deep curiosity in learning and exploring with one another. Stargazing is a popular summer series of events that has strong local partnerships with Gateway Arch National Park, Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, University of Missouri, and St. Louis Eclipse Task Force.
National Capital Region
Vince Vaise, Chief of Visitor Services
National Capital Parks-East, District of Columbia and Maryland
Vince Vaise led the planning and implementation for the 2018 Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration. The commemoration rested on three pillars: special events, education outreach, and enhanced visitor experiences at multiple parks with connections to the story of Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site hosted a record visitation of 73,585 people from October 2017 to September 2018. With a diverse set of partners and fresh analysis from the National Archives and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the park took a deeper dive into the story of Douglass. Under Vince’s leadership, the program advanced the practice of interpretation and education by providing opportunities to move visitors from thinking about Douglass’ work as historical and in the past to seeing how his story applies to events happening now and inspire our actions for the future.
Barbara Sanders, Education Specialist
Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvannia
Conceptualized by Barbara Sanders and her team, the Great Task Student Leadership Experience seeks to evoke one of the key themes of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: that in an active democracy, everyone has a role to play and inside every person exists untapped reservoirs of strength, resilience and leadership potential to effect change. Applicable schools and youth groups are encouraged to apply and identify their own “Great Task,” committing to tackling an issue that could make a difference in their community. Leveraging unique partnerships, Barbara was able to serve groups of economically disadvantaged students, ages 12-18 from primarily urban communities to travel to Gettysburg for a multi-day immersive experience. Nearly 300 students have participated in the program to date. To move the program to a sustainable future, virtually all of the funding need comes from outside of the federal government. Beyond this, Barbara has trained the interpretive staff and encouraged them to think beyond the traditional interpretive program to embrace dialogic approach, essential questions, and inquiry-based activities.
Pacific West Region
Ellen Petrick, Supervisory Park Ranger
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, California
Ellen Petrick is being recognized for her creativity and collaboration in fostering robust park partnerships, particularly with the Eagles Soar Youth Activity Center, a nonprofit dedicated to providing economically disadvantaged children with opportunities through tutoring, mentoring, and adventuring. In 2017 and 2018, Ellen developed and organized “Winter Ecology” day trips to Lassen Volcanic National Park, which included snowshoeing, sledding, and snow science activities for youth groups. She also planned and developed the curriculum for “Homework Club”, after-school community-based programs that focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) topics. During the summer, she coordinated “Adventure Camp” outdoor education programs at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. Overall, Ellen created opportunities for underserved youth to experience and connect to the outdoors. She elevated the work of the park by deepening connections with partners and communities, a contribution that will continue to propel the park forward for years to come.
Pamela Eddy, Park Ranger
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia
Pamela Eddy is being recognized for her leadership in the planning and implementation of the “National Park's 101 - Become a Dream Ranger,” a placed-based course that offers innumerable opportunities for 90 participants to be immersed in history, nature, and mountain culture. The program is designed to provide extra resources to this rural community of concentrated areas of high poverty, unemployment, poor health, and severe educational disparities. Working in concert with other park staff at Big South Fork National River and Recreational Area, Obed Wild and Scenic River, and historic sites in Virginia along the Wilderness Trail, Pamela was successful in bringing a broad spectrum of experiences for the participants. Her unique interpretive style of visitor participation in programs have earned the respect and admiration by her peers and transformed the lives of the local community.
Last updated: December 4, 2018