While the EV annually reaches thousands of Kindergarten through 6th-grade students, we also engage college students who come to the EV as College Teaching Interns. Over the years we have had more than 60 amazing young people lead kit restoration efforts, create new learning activities, and teach hundreds of school programs.
As we celebrate our 10th year of the EV Internship, we asked three of our interns about their experience of working for the EV. Each brings us valuable feedback and new ideas on how to engage young people in ecology and sustainability. They provide valuable support for our school programs and also in keeping our materials in tip-top shape!
In many ways, these students represent what we hope to foster in the elementary school children who participate in our school programs; a sense of stewardship and caring for the environment, and a readiness to roll up their sleeves and get involved. We are very grateful to these young leaders for bringing their time and talents to local classrooms this year.
The Varied Life of an EV Intern
When you’re an Environmental Volunteers Intern no day is ever the same.
I participate in two school programs a week and spend another 4 hours each week working on kit materials with Christine at the South Bay office. Each school program brings either a new school, a new kit, a new class, new EVs, or all of the above. Each day in the office working on materials brings new ideas, a new way to be creative, or a new special project.
The special projects are varied and fun
Some special projects I’ve worked on were the feather key in the Feather Clue kit for the new biodiversity program, a Baylands Food Chain Puzzle for the EcoCenter, and collecting materials like acorns, pine needles, and madrone leaves.
For the Feather Clue kit, once Christine and the Education Committee had narrowed down what feathers they wanted the students to key out, and what feathers to include in the key I worked on typing up and printing out the key, stocking the kit with good feather samples, and making a collage of the corresponding birds.
For the Baylands Food Chain Puzzle, I took a 9 piece styrofoam puzzle, painted over the existing pictures on it, and then used mod-podge to add my own drawings of animals in the food chain. Some of the animals in the puzzle are Salt Marsh Harvest mouse, Gopher snake, Ridgway’s Rail, and Great Blue Heron. Finally, I decorated a box with photographs of the Bayland Environment and wrote up directions for the game.
Hiking is a material collection opportunity
I like to go hiking when the weather is nice and it is a perfect opportunity to find materials for certain kits. I have collected materials that have replenished the Acorn Grinding and Tree Adaptations kits. Working on kit materials allows me to be creative, innovative, and explore.
The internship was enjoyable and educational
Through my internship, I’ve learned about not only what goes into making and designing a kit, but also of the satisfaction you feel when you teach a class new concepts that help them better understand the environment that they live in and how they relate to it. I am always happy to learn better techniques for teaching the kits from EVs and grateful when notified of any materials issues with a kit while at a service.
I feel most accomplished when I am able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a certain kit, bring it back to the office and improve the techniques or materials in the kit, and see it make a difference in the classroom.
Bringing the message of sustainability to Bay Area students
As an environmental studies major, a lot of my studies are focused on environmental policy and sustainable development. Or, one might say, how to get the rest of the world to care about our planet, and change the world for the better.
Through my internship with Environmental Volunteers this past school year, I’ve been able to bring the message of sustainability to students around the Bay Area.
It has been a truly rewarding experience because I was giving back that which started it all for me, my personal experiences with nature and science that sparked love and care for the environment.
The Community at the EV
While I love this organization’s mission, I equally love the community of the EV. I love the effort that is put into constantly trying to improve the experience and the curriculum, not just for the students, but also for the many volunteers who make these science lessons possible.
How we make the lessons accessible
As an Education Materials Intern specifically, I’ve been able to see first hand the effort that goes into making the lessons as relatable and easy to understand as possible. For example, one of my tasks might be to add photos to an activity, if we find that young students are having a hard time understanding certain words. Recently, I was tasked with creating a demonstration video for a water wheel used in one of our lessons, once we found that some volunteers struggled to operate it.
The dedication by the volunteers of the EV
This attitude of constant improvement extends to the volunteers themselves. During my time working among them, it was not uncommon for me to hear them discussing and comparing their experiences leading certain activities. They exchange tips or advice to help programs and activities run more smoothly, and hot to help students understand the major themes and concepts. They also give general advice and support if their fellow volunteer is struggling.
This dedication to constantly supporting each other and bettering the programs as a whole has been one of the most inspiring, and unexpected takeaways from my time as an intern, and one that I will hope to carry with me on all of my future endeavors.
Skulls Skins and Supplies!
In my role as an Education Materials Intern, I have cherished the classroom time with the students, but I have felt that my work with the kids has been greatly supplemented through my hours in the South Bay Office.
Materials Room Inventory!!
When I first began this internship I was given the daunting task of updating the inventory of the materials room. As you can imagine, the amount of items required in the operation of the school services is many, and I anticipated that this task of counting and confirming quantities was going to be less than exhilarating.
Nevertheless, on my first day, I headed into the back of the office where the materials are stored. I could barely see the purple painted walls peeking behind bin after bin after bin of kit materials. Accompanied by my clipboard and last year’s data I began to assess the state of the room.
Digging through boxes of pine cones bigger than my head, mammal skulls smaller than my thumb, and beautifully colored bird skins, I quickly began to gain a new appreciation for this project. It is a rare occasion to be in a room surrounded by so many carefully collected tools for learning, and I grew excited each day to see which new treasures I would unveil.
Doing Inventory helped me in the Classroom
This connection I formed to the South Bay inventory translated into my school services. Each time I do a kit like Bird Skins, in which we surprise the kids with a variety of different species for them to examine, compare, and admire, I feel the same sense of excitement as they do in seeing these creatures outside of the photographs.
What a wonderful feeling it is to see their stunned faces when I present them with a Sharp-shinned Hawk! To hear their giggles as they look at the comical eyes of the Saw-Whet Owl! How heart-warming it is to see how gentle they are when they hold the fragile Hummingbird for the first time.
Although recording inventory was the first task on my agenda as Education Materials Intern, I have had many more projects through the course of my time at Environmental Volunteers. Each one of these projects has aided in my understanding of the kits that I handle and has made every new school service experience that much more impactful for me.
All Photos by Christine Zack