As my last day as a spring Environmental Education intern at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center drew near, I took some time to reflect on my different adventures and experiences this spring season. The center may be closed to the public while undergoing a major renovation project but that certainly did not hinder the opportunities, adventures and experiences the interns had this season.
Just to name a few, we honed our interpretation skills through doing traveling naturalist programs at local elementary schools, leading night walks, went “big day” birding, built raptor nest boxes and bat boxes, taught fifth graders about the natural world at Outdoor School, made educational videos, attended the Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Educators conference, visited other nature centers and just simply had fun. While most of our contact with the Shaver’s Creek family and the public was not on site at the center, it was certainly offsite and at different locations across the state. I consider myself very lucky and privileged to have been an intern this spring.
While this season as an intern has been one filled with immense personal growth and professional development, I thought writing a blog rivaling the length of a Leo Tolstoy novel about what I learned would not be an appropriate use of any potential reader’s time. Instead, I decided to focus on three main lessons or takeaways I have gathered from those adventures and experiences I had as an intern this season.
My three main takeaways are as follows:
· Don’t be afraid to explore and push your boundaries
· Let others take the lead
· Know your priorities
I had the privilege of working with three other environmental education interns this season. We became close friends through our shared trials and tribulations. Spending countless hours taking hikes, birding, developing lesson plans and giving assorted programs on the natural world fostered a passion in the other interns and myself for sharing and educating about the wealth of gifts the environment provides humanity. By sharing our passion we can help others explore and appreciate the natural world.
In the above picture you can see all the spring environmental education interns wearing matching t-shirts. We coined the idea of #envirotwin day. A day where you get together with a bunch of friends and all wear the same shirts that have a message or a meaning associated with conservation on them. For #envirotwin day we all wore the shirts we got while on a professional development visit to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, the world’s first bird sanctuary founded in 1934. I included the picture in this blog for two main reasons. I wanted to give a shout-out to the other interns and I thought it important to mention the quote printed on the back of the Hawk Mountain shirts. Rosalie Edge, the founder of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, wrote, “The time to protect a species is while it is still common.” This plain but powerful quote by Ms. Edge hints at the importance of experiencing the natural world in some fashion and developing an appreciation/passion for wonders while they still exist. People won’t protect and conserve without first having that appreciation and passion.
Hit up your Internet browser and research different public programs or classes being offered by your local universities, nature centers or parks and pick one that is completely new. Whether it’s bird watching or fishing, find an activity outside that interests you and pursue it. Who knows, your newfound passion might be herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians) or studying the different forest floor creatures you find underneath rotting logs. You are unlikely to learn anything new without challenging yourself to have new experiences. Bring a friend or your whole family and push those boundaries safely. Get outside and take time to explore the natural world. Mother nature has provided a treasure trove of lifelong learning and adventure for all those willing to accept the gift.
My last week at Outdoor School this spring was a bittersweet one. After being involved with the program as a Penn State student for many of my undergraduate years and then as an intern it was hard to think about the concept of “last”. I figured if it was truly my last week I might as well make it a good one. I had the privilege to co-teach with another intern different lessons with a learning group throughout the whole week. This whole internship I have been working on letting others lead in different situations and not always taking the lead on projects or programs like I would probably normally do. Co-teaching a learning group at Outdoor School was a way for me to work on sharing leadership responsibilities so the campers had a positive outdoor experience. I felt as that co-teaching was a beneficial and positive experience for both my fellow learning group leader and myself. A good leader and educator needs to know how to work with others in a positive fashion whenever the situation requires it. Taking a supportive role can be a way to really help another leader or educator develop their own skills and abilities.
That same week during a lesson on the importance of resources to humans and animals one camper said they knew a quote that related to our discussion. My fellow learning group leader told the camper to share their quote. The camper recited, “The time to protect a species is while it is still common.” Turns out #envirotwin day worked! The camper remembered the quote from the Hawk Mountain shirts we had worn. Rosalie Edge’s words had made an impact on the camper.
Whatever road life takes you down; you need to be aware of your goals and priorities. I asked one of the staff at the center for some words of wisdom at one point and they simply replied, “Know your priorities.” This reminded me of a phrase my uncle used to say, “You must know.” Both of these phrases are stoic and straightforward. Whether you are interning at an amazing nature center or running a Fortune 500 company, in the end only you can make the right choices for yourself, which ultimately will influence others and the environment. If you are passionate about something, find a job or an opportunity that coincides with that passion and pursue it. If you know it is important to you make every effort to make it a priority.
As I head out ready to face the world, a fresh Penn State graduate, I know that the different adventures and experiences I had while an intern at Shaver’s Creek will help me on my all future endeavors. Take time to explore, let others take the lead and you must know your priorities.
Goodbye for now Shaver’s Creek. I will stay in touch.