Since the COVID-19 concerns have forced Corps staff and visitors to our projects into practicing safe social distancing, the search is on for creative ways to continue doing our work, and Natural Resource Specialist Kara Wagner, a Park Ranger at Alum Creek Lake in Lewis Center, Ohio, found a great way to reach out to a young audience.
She started reading children’s books to kids using the Facebook Live feature on that social media site – it allows her to interact with her audience “live” via computer.
The outreach has been a success so they’ve expanded the offering, and Wagner also hosts regular live segments called “Ask a Ranger,” where she and Lake Manager Sylvia Chelf answer questions from the audience in real time.
We asked Wagner about her new duties as the Reading Ranger:
Q: Who came up with the idea of using Facebook Live for reading and taking questions?
Kara: Doing online Facebook programs is something that the Alum Creek ranger staff (Sylvia Chelf, Kara Wagner and Tracey Coe) has been thinking about starting up for a while now. With everything going on with COVID-19, it just prompted us to really start working on it and implementing it. We plan on keeping it going after everything calms down with COVID-19, especially the Reading Rangers.
Q: What kind of response is the live effort getting?
Kara: We are getting great response, usually 1,000 to 2,000 people are being reached with each video. The feedback from other lake projects and districts has also been phenomenal. We are very happy that we have been not only been successful keeping in contact with our community, but we have also aided other lakes in staying in contact with their communities in these hard times.
Q: Have there been any challenges?
Kara: There have definitely been challenges along the way. Doing a program in front of a camera is very different than in front of an engaging audience. So, getting over the awkward feel of it, is definitely one challenge. Something that helps when it comes to live Facebook videos is: Facebook lets you preview what's happening before you actually go live. The technical side of things has also been a challenge. Just last week for “Ask a Ranger” we had problems getting our laptop to go live and we had to switch over to our phones. It made it challenging to see the questions as they were coming in but we just tried to be flexible with it and know that we'll be better prepared for next time. Our other non-live programs like the dam tour were all videoed using our cell phones. This can cause technical problems because the camera and speaker are not always the best on cell phones. Also, it is really hard to stay still and not shake the camera. We have ordered a microphone and phone tripod to help us with future videos.
Q: Who's sharing duties on the "Ask a Ranger" segment?
Kara: The Alum Creek manager, Sylvia Chelf was the other "Ranger" sitting in on that event. The other Ranger here at Alum Creek (Tracey Coe) has only been here since January so she is still learning the agency and project. We thought having Sylvia and me on it would be best, since we have been here the longest.
Q: Any favorite questions during that segment?
Kara: If I had to pick some favorite questions from ‘Ask a Ranger’ they'd be, what type of wildlife we see and "What is your favorite thing about being a Ranger?" We had a great response to this event and after our technical difficulties, it flowed smoothly. We had over 50 responses during the event!
Q: Any advice for other projects who might create their own live events?
Kara: My advice for others looking to do live events would be to do your research beforehand. We looked up and watched several reading programs and other live programs that other people and places were doing. This helped with figuring out logistics initially. Also, keep to a schedule for when you post your videos. We are doing “Reading Ranger” at 10 a.m. every Wednesday and our other program videos are posted at 10 a.m. every Friday. This gives people something to look forward to every week. The scheduling feature on Facebook is awesome for this. Lastly, if the event is interactive like “Ask a Ranger,” I highly recommend ‘seeding’ the audience and to be prepared if the event falls flat. If no one is interacting, have something prepared to say. Seeding the audience will help with that. We reached out to our friends and family members to make sure there would be questions asked for “Ask a Ranger.” Hopefully future programs will look more enticing and draw in more participation because of it. We are still learning and working out the kinks but we are so pleased with the response and happy we could stay in contact with our community.
You can catch the programs on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/USACEALUMCREEKLAKE/