As people, we are bound to who we are by two powerful influences on our lives: nature and nurture. Nature being our genes and chemical make-up and nurture being how we are raised and the environment we are raised in. As we grow up, our lives are shaped by our nature and how our environment and people in our lives nurture us. I’m a soon-to-be-24-year-old intern at Shaver’s Creek, so I think it’s safe to say I don’t foresee any growth spurts in my future. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not still growing as a person. While I’m not getting any taller, my personality and who I am as a person are still growing. The nature and nurture in my life have evolved into something more than just genes and the environment.
Nature, when talking about nature versus nurture, will always be the genes that give me my red hair and blue eyes, but as I grew up it became more than that to me. Now nature is also the beautiful landscape surrounding Shaver’s Creek, and the freedom to work outside. People spend their whole lives staring out windows watching birds and butterflies fly by, leaves change and fall, all while being stuck at a desk. Imagine spending all that time outside. Learning about animals while looking at that animal, learning about how soil is made by making it yourself, and learning about pH while testing the water quality of a stream that’s right in front of you. That is my reality.
As an environmental education intern, I get to teach kids from Kindergarten through 5th grade about nature……IN NATURE. Through on-site and off-site school programs and Outdoor School, I am given the opportunity to teach children about nature every week of my internship. If I teach them that white pine trees have bunches of five needles, they can reach out and count each one themselves. There is so much power to that. You take a concept that could be boring to some in a classroom but you put them in an outdoor environment and all of a sudden its tangible — and hopefully, more interesting. Shaver’s Creek gives schools that outlet for kids to learn outside, and it’s something I wish I could have done when I was in school.
Learning outside isn’t limited to children. There is value in having meetings and team-building activities outside as adults. Being at places like Outdoor School as a counselor or Shaver’s Creek for a company retreat allow people to step away from the pressures of real life and be themselves. No one is going to judge you for singing about a “little red wagon” at the top of your lungs or dropping the ball while group juggling. There are no stakes, no failure, only ways to make it more fun or get better. Nature lets you be the real you, the best you that you can be.
Nurture is most often looked at as someone taking care of you because you are unable to take care of yourself. While I may not feel like an adult every single day, I dress myself, make my own breakfast, and go to work on my own. I didn’t need anyone to help me today but that doesn’t mean I’m not being nurtured. I am nurtured now by the kind people that I work with everyday. At every desk I walk past in the morning on the way to my own, I am met with a greeting and a smile. In the community kitchen while putting my lunch in the refrigerator I am asked by a co-worker, “How are you doing today?” They aren’t saying it to make small talk or because they have to; they are genuinely curious. Every Monday meeting, the room is filled with the words thank you, you’re welcome, great job, and we couldn’t have done it without you.
That positivity is infectious. Since starting here, I have incorporated that positivity into other aspects of my life. Whether it be while buying groceries or hanging out with friends, the positivity has helped me grow as a person. It doesn’t stop there though. Not only is every person that works here positive, they are also just good people. Being surrounded by so many good people makes you a better person yourself. I have had the privilege to have worked with seven of the most amazing people I have every met. My fellow interns and I came into the internship with only some of us knowing each other, but we’re all leaving as friends. We’ve created such a supportive and dynamic group that I don’t think there is any problem that we can’t solve if we all put our minds together. No matter what problem each of us face in our personal or work lives, the rest of us have been there for them no matter what. We face each challenge as interns as a team, playing to each others strengths. We don’t do it alone. We have the model of seeing the staff of Shaver’s Creek work together as a team as well. We brought our own ideas but continued the standard of supportiveness that was shown to us. The nurturing atmosphere of Shaver’s Creek has made me a better person than I ever thought was possible.
Nature has given me the opportunity to be who I really am, and the nurturing environment that I am in has helped me grow as a person, and for that I will always be grateful. My fellow interns have set a high standard for co-workers in the future, I will be hard pressed to find a more fun, supportive, and intelligent group of people. We will all go our separate ways when the internship ends, but it won’t ever be goodbye, only see you later. They helped me be a better person and I hope I did the same for them. And for anyone who wants to do the same, surround yourself with good people to nurture you and go enjoy the outdoors in nature. If you do that, the possibilities are endless.