2021 Award Winners

Interpretation Canada is proud to announce the winners of the 2021 Awards of Excellence. These awards are an opportunity to recognize the exceptional dedication and creativity of interpretive programs and products from coast to coast to coast. This year saw a wide variety of topics, mediums, and stories resulting in 17 award winners!

Both personal and non-personal interpretation entries were judged on individual merit and each that met the criteria received an award.

We encourage you to check out the programs below and read some of the highlights from judges. You won't want to miss Canada's interpretation at its finest!

Personal Interpretation


Sherlock Stones & the Disappearing Hoodoo 

Dinosaur Provincial Park: Alberta Parks Andy Weir & Tara Ryan

Erosion is a powerful force – particularly in the badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park. The erosional agents of wind and water created, and continue to sculpt this exceptional landscape – but human impact also leaves its erosional mark upon this delicate place.

Judge's comments:

"Exceptional work – Andy and Tara's presentation should be a guiding light for what our profession can do."

"At its core, this program is built to deliver a conventional park message, but it felt fresh and vibrant because it was delivered in a delightfully unconventional way. The 'big reveal' of human impact could feel preachy, but the story naturally took us to that point after building a relationship with the audience that makes the final ask feel earned. Bravo!"

"The program was so creative and entertaining. Interpretation is alive and well in this provincial park. Kudos to the creators and the excellent delivery. I would love to see this program in person."


Frankie Thunderbowl: The Mystery of the Missing Caribou

Palisades Stewardship Education Centre: Jasper National Park (Parks Canada) Sanne van der Ros, The Palisades Education Team, Jasper National Park

This presentation is part of the Cross Canada Virtual Road Trip, a series of virtual programs presented by a selection of Canadian national parks. [The program aimed to share that] there are many reasons for caribou decline in Jasper National Park and humans play a part in the causes and cures.

Judge's comments:

"This was an excellent and engaging program that was incredibly well suited for the intended audience, stuck to a clear and compelling theme, used humour and a fun hook to create interest, and did a remarkable job of virtually placing the audience into the landscape while watching from home. Plus, hooray for showing women working in STEM!"

"Everything relates back to the theme! The theme of caribou decline is woven seamlessly throughout the program and the causes and potential cures and explored in a way that is lighthearted and non-judgmental while being informative."

"The program design was so fun! The framing device of the mystery was compelling. The missing poster, slide slide show images, remote camera videos, expert interview video, humorous photos and costumes all supported the theme while increasing the fun."


Mammals Through Space & Time

Dinosaur Provincial Park: Alberta Parks Chelsea Woodard

Mammals through Space and Time is a chance for audiences to learn about the history of this landscape as well as the needs and challenges that mammals currently face in our Province. Learning about and appreciating the  adaptability and hardships various mammals have faced.

Judge's comments:

"Chelsea is inspiring. Park interpreters across the country could benefit from experiencing this Masterclass in Theatrical Interpretation! Bravo."

"Chelsea sparkled. She seemed to enjoy it and the audience. She has a great demeanour – even poking fun at herself. I was impressed with her singing voice too – nicely done. Her voice was clear and loud and she had great eye contact. The family audience lapped it all up."

"All in all, an excellent program, well delivered by a pro."


Where Are You Really From?

Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 – Ann Marie Begin

This program explores the role of immigration in the building of Canada, specifically how racist immigration policies created the present-day ideas of Canadian identity. In using oral histories, it also explores the experiences of immigrants themselves.

Judge's comments:

"[It's great] that Pier 21 is tackling tough topics like this one. I learned a lot and am encouraged to rethink my views of Canadians."

"For me, [my favourite part was] the invited voices and videos of the immigrants. There was power in those personal stories and those helped carry the presentation."

"I loved this presentation. This is very powerful and important material for everyone to engage with. Well done!"


Enchanted Garden

Royal Botanical GardensChristie Brodie, Erin Gibson, Adrienne Lister, Iona Spearin 

Through education and interpretation, the Enchanted Garden 2021 event focused on the life cycle of the Monarch, to make connections between elements of horticulture, science, and conservation to help connect visitors to place. As visitors moved through the stations in the garden, they encountered magical creatures who shared the science of Monarchs through storytelling, song, and action.

Judge's comments:

"I really enjoyed this program. Kids need to experience more magic in their lives, plant more seeds for butterflies, connect more deeply with nearby nature, and develop an environmental ethic at an early age. This program delivers on all of that. Bravo."

"This was a delightful way to experience RBG in a new context. I also have to commend the garden for striking the tricky balance of encouraging participation while maintaining social distancing, which is a Herculean task – I am relieved that this opportunity was available to young learners in spite of the pandemic, and after a few years where magic has been all too difficult to come by I'm sure this was a very special day for the families who participated."

"Kudos to those that developed this well organized safe program for kids during COVID times that helps them connect to the magic of nature and provides them a way to help Monarchs."


Paget Lookout: Getting Connected

Parks Canada  Lake Louise, Yoho, Kootenay Field Unit; Annaick Balsan; Cindy Flegel; Ardelle Hynes; Amber deKam 

As a keystone species, the endangered Whitebark Pine is a lead actor in the movie of the subalpine forest and you have a role to play in the story’s plot. [The hike educates hike participants about the importance of species at risk, involving them in a citizen science project while teaching them responsible trail use to protect park ecosystems, and providing an enjoyable experience for visitors to make connections with their natural and cultural heritage.

Judge's comments:

"I quite enjoyed the inclusion of a citizen science activity to support a call to action. So many times interpretive programs will inspire people to take action, however this one gave them a tangible thing to do with that inspiration."

"I would love to go on this hike!"

"[I liked] the creative device of telling the story using the film script scenario."


Golden Hour Wander 

Dinosaur Provincial Park: Alberta Parks Chelsea Woodard

The Badlands have been capturing human imagination for thousands of years, and do so to this day. Taking deliberate reflective and meditative time in the badlands, while learning about the special relationship that the Blackfoot have held with this place for thousands of years, gives one the opportunity to build their own meaningful connection with the landscape.

Judge's comments:

"I appreciate the more contemplative and laid-back approach to programming, hopefully encouraging more mindful and reflective interactions with"

"I really like that there was encouragement for visitors to connect with the landscape. That is such a unique, otherworldly place, so it can seem a bit unsettling to first-time visitors."

"I love the engagement of the sense of smell for the stop with the sagebrush. You could hear a few people exclaim after they were encouraged to rub the leaves and then smell their fingers. It made me smile."


Superheroes vs. Villains

E. C. Manning Provincial Park (BC Parks)  Eve Kenny

To face the challenges of life in E. C. Manning Provincial Park, plants, animals, and other species have developed incredible super powers. Join Eve the Interpreter, Calvin the Corvid, and a variety of special guests to find out who uses their powers for good... or for evil!

Judge's comments:

"I like how she reframes common unloved fauna (mosquitos, mountain pine beetles) as superheroes and highlights their positive effects on the ecosystem, challenging people to rethink their biases."

"Eve's commitment to characterization & set changes really make the content pop. This was a long program that covered a lot of content, but her commitment to the reality of the moment and care to tie the material together made sure her message was not lost."

"This was a great illustration of what a single interpreter can do with the right stage, materials and story."



Cape Breton Highlands National Park (Parks Canada) & The Hatch Creative Collective - Kersti Tacreiter; Benn Ross; Alexis Milligan; Cathy Porter; Mary Louise Bernard

This 50-minute interdisciplinary performance weaves together stories, myths and science through language, movement, live music and puppetry and strives to create a deep,meaningful, multi-layered connection and awareness, not only to the lifecycle and plight of the Atlantic salmon, but an appreciation for how everything in nature is connected, and how this species has intertwined with, supported and enriched human and non-human life for millennia.

Judge's comments:

"[I liked] the role playing of the different stages of the salmon in such an artistic way especially the dancing with the wings and the sound effects of the percussion instruments."

"Great storytelling, drama, music and role playing."

"I loved all of the audience participation activities, from the rain sticks, to the fish puppets, to the mycelium string. I also loved that the audience was seated in a circle with the performers – if I was there in person this would make me feel a part of things."

Non-personal Interpretation


Make, Mend, and Modify: Ukrainians Adapting in Alberta

Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village  Pamela Trischuk, Becky Dahl, Austin Turner, Albert Ling, David Makowsky

Ukrainian settlers in east central Alberta adapted their lifestyle and culture into the context of their new homeland by making do to meet their needs, through making items, mending items to prolong the useful life, and modifying items and materials to new purposes.

Our modern society has had to adapt throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and this is a skill we have in common with Ukrainian settlers. Though it is expressed very differently, our museum audience in 2021 can relate to the concept of “making do”.

Judge's comments:

"This exhibit is an absolute delight. It is a case study in how to plan, develop, and execute an interpretive exhibit. The care that went into the theme and planning shines through the final product. I will be talking about Make, Mend, Modify for years."

"It’s so rare to leave an exhibit with its theme (Make, Mend, Modify) firmly planted in my brain – and even more rare to feel inspired by the people who came before me to make, mend, and modify.

"[I liked] the clear theme and how well the exhibit flowed through that theme with clear introduction, body, and conclusion. I would use this exhibit as a demonstration of best practice in thematic interpretation."



Legislative Assembly of Alberta – Kelsy Edgerton, Sophie Gareau-Brennan, Silverius Materi, Matthew Mihilewicz, Matthew Piper

Bill2Law is an online "choose-your-own-adventure" style game that takes players through the process of how an idea becomes a law in the province of Alberta. The game allows players to make choices that not only influence the narrative and the future choices they have, but it also uses their choices to build a customized piece of legislation. The modified choose-your-own adventure style game has over 2.3 million potential paths and close to 18 thousand variations on the final outcome.

Judge's comments:

"I really liked how I could make decisions and determine what happened with my bill. I can see kids having a really fun time making decisions and talking about their decisions with their classmates. I think it’s quite a fun, and unique way to talk about something that could traditionally come across as dry or uninteresting."

"The use of videos and its content (a bit of drama and information) makes it fun, engaging and reaches out to different types of learners. I would totally use this in my classroom if I was a teacher."

"The experience is built the longer you get into the interpretive product. You are reminded of your previous decisions multiple times throughout the experience and those decisions have implications later on. I really liked how even though I felt silly when choosing certain things, it was clear how the decisions I had made had an impact on the process. Lots of reinforcement of the learnings and the process of law making throughout – well done!"


Ke’chin Nodrëk / The Magic Mukluk

Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre - Fran Morberg- Green, Darcy Tara McDiarmid, Ben Johnson, Georgette McLeod, Glenda Bolt

Sharing culture and interpreting the past by creating a new story based on historical activity, traditional teachings and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in cultural values.

Ke’chin Nodrëk / The Magic Mukluk is a personal and non-personal interpretive outreach program created to adhere to the restrictions and regulations of personal contact during the Covid pandemic.

The goal was to present original art, classroom and outdoor storytelling, an outdoor event and window displays and installations for the enjoyment and education of students, families and the public.

Judge's comments:

"I'm really struggling to find the words to describe how magical I think this program is. It's so rare to see something like this – seemingly so simple, but done so well and with such a depth of meaning through the process and delivery. Bravo to the whole team who worked on this."

"I think the magic of this program is how deep the theme of it runs. The interpreters themselves found ways to listen to their Elders, share what they have, and care for their community. They found the Magic Mukluks to shine on a cold, dark night in December and celebrate with their community."

"The book's graphics are delightful, powerful and beautiful and definitely captures the younger audience they are catering to."


Exploring Bowen’s Marine World: A Marine Atlas of Nexwlélexwem/Bowen Island

Bowen Island Conservancy - Len Gilday. Will Husby, Bob Turner

This atlas celebrates what many call the Great Howe Sound Recovery. [It] is a window into the the lives of the plants and creatures that fly, swim, float, and crawl in the waters and shores around Bowen Island, and shows how they live together in a recovering ecosystem.

Judge's comments:

I love the plentiful use of strong, relevant visuals throughout. It really shares the passion for the place very effectively. I feel it!"

"This is an excellent interpretive product and could well be used as an illustrative example of a professional work. Congratulations to your team and to the Bowen Island community for their activism."

"I think this [was] well planned, designed and produced. Excellent and very professional product."


Eyes On The Skies: Managing Air Traffic in Canada

Canada Aviation and Space Museum – Erin Poulton

The exhibition explores the complex systems, the people, and the technologies that keep Canada’s skies safe. Eyes on the Skies examines the rapid evolution of air traffic management. A 2,000 square foot onsite installation at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum (CASM) brings this hidden world to life for visitors in Ottawa, while a 1,000 square foot travelling version shares the story with audiences across Canada. 

Judge's comments:

really liked how the content built off the main theme and allowed for a lot of personal exploration depending on what piqued your interest. There were opportunities for visitors of all ages and interest levels, which I think is needed when trying to reach a diverse audience."

"Overall, I really liked having a look at [the] exhibit and learning more about this history and the complexity with all that is involved in this industry... it left me pumped up and grabbing my Canadian flag and shouting "Go Canada". Very cool stuff. Well done."

"The design elements are quite lovely and spectacular. The signs are simply designed, but quite striking. The information isn’t just text and image-based, but the exhibit also includes interactive activities to test and apply learnings, and infographics to help the content be more digestible. The balance of different experiences to absorb and think about the messaging of the exhibit is well done."


Gateway to Asia

Calgary Zoo – Lauryn Record, Scottie Potter, Dallas Cortesi, Katie Frost, Alison Archambault, Tandem Marketing

The Calgary Zoo mission is to take and inspire action to sustain wildlife and wild places. Gateway to Asia is the next evolution of a space that has previously housed Giant Pandas, rhinoceros, and elephants at the Calgary Zoo. The building is an anchor for the Exploration Asia section, home to many forest dwelling species, so highlighting the critical importance of healthy forest ecosystems links the entire zone story. We moved away from a species-specific interpretive approach and looked to celebrate the beauty and biodiversity of Asia’s forest ecosystems as the building may have different residents in future.

Judge's comments:

"Incorporation of theme is excellent! I felt the theme all the way through, on virtually every piece of signage."

"Loved that the text (and images) were layered so that young and emerging readers could find things at their level and that older kids (and/or parents/adults) had plenty to read and share as well."

"Texts are short and really immerse the visitor into another level of observation. They bring the visitors somewhere else by not answering the classic questions : What is this animal? Where is it from? What does it eat? How old is he?"


Simpson River Interpretation Trail

Parks Canada  Lake Louise, Yoho, Kootenay Field Unit; Kristy Putnam; Marla Oliver; Jacquie Gilson; Amber deKam

[This set of panels] highlights the role of fire in restoration and improvement in habitat. The participatory components will engage younger audiences that are the future generation of park supporters.

Judge's comments:

"When I opened the design files and started taking a look, my partner heard me exclaim “WOW!” To which he responded by saying, “I never hear you say WOW about exhibits.” I LOVED how experiential the exhibit was – from drawing on the ceramic tile with charcoal to sharing photos on social media to the scavenger hunt at the end."

"The signage shapes, imagery and colours are very powerful and will be eye catching in the landscape. The use of photo circles and other raised elements in the layout make these very engaging."

"I love the overall design – especially cutout motifs on the post tops. They’re a lovely and subtle addition to the exhibit that help pull things together."


Botany Bites

Dinosaur Provincial Park: Alberta Parks Emma Dunlop

The flora of Dinosaur Provincial Park is often overlooked, treated as a wall of undifferentiated green behind the action of past and present animal life. However, plants are more than just backdrop; they have names, faces, and stories of their own. When we are able to recognize these floral characters in their home environments and connect their stories with our own experiences in meaningful ways, we are better equipped to care for them in our landscapes.

Judge's comments:

"The simplicity of the system, how it functions within the landscape and its flexibility is great. Sometimes simple is best!"

"I really liked the tangible opportunities to interact and actually experience the plants!"

"This is a great example of a front-line initiative that is focused and accomplishes its intended aims, without complicated technical solutions or overly fancy design style. It’s fun, engaging, and should be enjoyed by many visitors."


Andy vs. Bentonite

Dinosaur Provincial Park: Alberta Parks Chelsea Woodard & Andy Weir

Short interpretive video about how slippery bentonite/mudstone is when wet, as well as the challenges it poses to individuals and the landscape when walking in the badlands in wet conditions.

Judge's comments:

"I liked the silly, over the top acting style. It really worked for this messaging. The visual of Andy sliding down and how unhappy he is is very memorable."

"Andy's acting style makes his emotions clear and inspires the audience to feel for him. The video tells visitors to NOT do something in a friendly and relatable way."

"It is a good idea. I’m sure it probably made a difference in going or not going to hike on wet days for hikers. My son who saw the video a few days ago is still talking to me about it. I bet he will remember it for a long time even if he is not a hiker. Good job!"

Feeling inspired? You can submit an entry for consideration in the 2022 Awards. Check out the How To Enter page to find out more.

Interpretation Canada c/o Kerry Wood Nature Centre 6300 45th Ave Red Deer, AB, Canada  T4N 3M4

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