Earth Science Research Project

Department of Geosciences
State University of New York Stony Brook

Steps in Self Guided Trail Development

Modified from hand out prepared by Gary Lawton, New York State Parks

Step #1
Get Organized
Form a team of resource people with knowledge of natural history, ecology, geology, marine biology, etc.
Step #2
Determine Your Objectives
Why are you doing this project?
Who will be your visitors?
What do you want the visitor to learn?
What do you want the visitor to feel?
What do you want the visitor to do?
Step #3
Inventory Your Local Resources
What are you going to interpret?
List plants, animals, geology, habitats, equipment, buildings, etc.
Step #4
Define a Theme
A theme should be a complete sentence. It reflects what you found on the inventory.
What is unique about your facility?
What connects the attractions, geology, technical objects, plants, animals and other resources?
Once a theme is decided the rest should fall into place.
Step #5
Decide on Nuts and Bolts
What media will describe the stops on the self guided trail?
Will the information be on the signs?
Will the information be on a handout keyed to the stops?
What will the signs be made of? Wood? Fiberglass?
How long do you expect the signs to last?
What will be the layout of the trail?
Where will it be located?
How many stops will be needed?
Where will they be located?
Where will the funding come from?
Who will install the signs?
Who will maintain the signs?
Step #6
Putting Your Plan into Writing
Organize the program's development by writing down objectives, theme, nuts and bolts and who will design what signs.
Step #7
Create the Signs
Choose a topic for each stop which should have a subtheme of the overall theme of the trail.
Compile information to be interpreted at each stop.
Gather photographs, illustrations, and written information.
Develop a provocative heading that will encourage visitors to investigate the information at the stop. This often states the sub-theme.
Develop your message. Keep it simple. Say more with graphics rather than words.
Step #8
Review and Revise
The project team should make sure that the text is easy to understand and that photographs and illustrations add to this understanding.
The more feedback you get from people, the better the sign will become.
Be prepared to start over if the text you are so proud of does not meet the needs of the project team.
Sometime we have to swallow our pride and start again with new ideas.
Step #9
Produce the Signs
Before the text is printed, whether on signs or handouts, everyone should review it. If everyone approves, go into production.
Step #10
Install the Signs
Based on decisions earlier the signs should be prepared for installation and installed.
Step #11
Conduct a Stop Evaluation
Are your objectives met?
Are visitors reading and reacting to the information at each stop?
Do they understand the concepts being explained?

Return to Earth Science Research Project Home Page