New Year, New Education Intern Adventures

New Year, New Education Intern Adventures

Developing Weather & Climate models with Eo

Eo teaching students about landfills

As an intern you have the unique opportunities to teach children and also learn how the EV develops their curriculum material. This year was particularly interesting because we started off with teaching virtual programs, but gradually taught more in-person programs as local schools opened up to visitors.

I particularly enjoyed learning how an EV program grows from an idea to a set of fleshed-out teachable kits. One of my projects with the EV was helping to develop the Weather and Climate program for third graders. In this program, students learn about four regions in California and their climates.

A key part of these kits in this program is an activity that models a specific phenomena like fog or wind. From researching scientific concepts to crafting to taking trips to the dollar store, I tested some models to make sure they work correctly when the students are learning from them. I love crafting projects together and the process of testing the models reminded me of labs I did in undergrad. I also went to observe how the students interacted with the models at a school to see if anything might need to be adjusted. Sometimes you do not know what works until you try it out!

As an ecology major, I am interested in science communication and re-imagining our ways of living to generate a more equitable and restorative environment for everyone. I hope to help foster restoration and stewardship by creating spaces for people to learn and share their stories of the Earth, flora, and fauna. Working with schools in the district I grew up in felt like a meaningful way of giving back in a time when children face more challenges than usual.

School Yard Snoops with Lizbeth

Lizbeth with students from Vamos Afuera

In November 2021, when I started this internship I was so excited to learn, to create new projects and to work with students. As my internship with the Environmental Volunteers comes to a close I’d like to reflect and show and tell some of my favorite moments from the past couple of months.

The most recent one was at Imai Elementary School. It was a kindergarten lesson with a snoop right after. It had rained that morning and the previous night and so everything was wet and there were puddles everywhere. As we are walking to our first exploring area, I tell the kids to find something that is alive, they are all beaming with joy and one kid quickly finds a branch from a nearby tree that had fallen from the storm earlier that day, another brings me a big pine cone, one points out the big giant puddle and asks me if water is alive and then points at a worm sitting in the middle of the puddle they all gather around it and say their ouuuuuus and ahhhhhs. I ask them where they think the big pinecone I am holding in my hand came from. Some of them don’t know and some of them say the trees. I ask them what makes them say that, and then they point at the rest of the pinecones still on the trees. They all collectively yell “those trees!!”. I giggle and say “yes they did”. We rotate into a different section of the yard with several different types of plants. We start digging a bit and we all find about a billion Roly Polys also known as Pill bugs. A handful of the students ask what they are, I say Roly Polys and grab one and put it on my palm, it rolls up into a little ball and the students are just flabbergasted. Another student wanders off. I notice she is poking a Roly Poly as the Roly Poly squirms to get away, the student squeals of excitement and fear. She continues the cycle of poking and squealing with poking and squealing followed right after. I can hear quiet giggles coming from her which then make me giggle. I realize her curiosity is overpowering her fear. She seems a bit afraid but that fear is no match for her curiosity!

The students enjoy the rest of their snoop and learn about roly polys, worms, grubs and California flora. They all have big giant smiles on their faces as we make our way back to the lunch tables to draw our observations. We say our goodbyes. I am so excited for them because they are left with new knowledge, new experiences and hopefully a new sense of belonging in the outdoors!

All about bats with Emma
My internship experience began with organizing and reconstructing lesson kits for the upcoming school year. My largest project over the summer involved assembling and distributing Nature Discovery Kits, which provided free resources for students including field guides, books, and other tools to spark curiosity and a desire to learn outside. One of my favorite projects as an Education Intern has been developing an All About Bats community program. Not only has the process of watching a curriculum grow from an outline to being prototyped for classrooms been incredibly rewarding, but I now know a strange amount of bat-related fun facts!

As the school year began, I spent time assisting and then teaching online programs, delivering lessons for various grade levels to provide them with the proper skills and knowledge they needed to explore their own environment at school or home. I was definitely grateful for my own online learning experiences as I felt more comfortable using these platforms, and could understand the challenges of technical difficulties, as well as the potential hesitation some students may feel when participating on Zoom. Additionally, through online teaching, I have learned to be creative and flexible, especially when finding materials around the house to use in conjunction with the lessons.

While the transition to in-person programs was anticipated, it was also a nerve-wracking process. However, with the help of our volunteers, EV staff, and teachers, as well the excitement from the students themselves to be back in the classroom with special guests, I felt incredibly supported, welcomed, and prepared. Throughout this process, I have gained the confidence to adapt to new situations while learning to manage and hold the attention of elementary students in a classroom setting.

I am incredibly grateful for my time with the Environmental Volunteers and am glad I have been able to partake in in-person programs as the hands-on experience has been most fulfilling. I am appreciative of the opportunity to collaborate with EV staff and have gained valuable insight into the importance of environmental educators while also exploring potential careers in education.

Photos: Emma in the classroom, Nature Discovery kits, Thank you card from Bishop Elementary)

Silly times with Kindergartners by Sophia
Throughout my time as an intern, I have had several notable conversations with students. Some conversations helped me better understand our education system and the importance of nature education, while others have helped me learn that kindergartners can be very fun to be around. I’ve learned that according to several five year olds I am very tall, and sometimes they even like my outfits. One story that I have continued to tell is about a kindergarten student during the “How Do You Know?” program. For those of you familiar with the program, you know that there is usually a piece of plastic you use to start off asking whether or not it is alive. In this particular class, the piece of plastic was missing from the kit. On the spot, I tried to think of something similar and ended up grabbing a ring off my finger to ask the students if it was alive. One student immediately said “yes!” I then asked the student “how do you know?” and they responded with “because of love.” Even though their answer wasn’t quite right, it stuck with me because sometimes students can have the best answers regardless of correctness. I have enjoyed getting these little reminders from students about using your imagination and bluntness to navigate the classroom.

Aside from having the opportunity to have some fun at school programs talking to students, I am so grateful for the ways that this internship helped me better understand education and school systems. I have always been interested in education because it is such a valuable way that we can shape our world and become better as a community. I have spent some time in college exploring inequality in education, and this internship has helped solidify to me the importance of equality and funding in education. All students deserve and need access to education and access to science and nature. The importance of programs like the EV that help spread nature and science education became increasingly clear to me throughout my time as an intern. I am happy to have contributed to the EV and contributed to continuing to provide nature and science education to all students.

Thanks to all our wonderful 2021-2022 Environmental Education Interns!

All photos taken by EV staff

Want to start a career in environmental education, learn about the EV’s internship program here! Applications for 2022-2023 school year opening soon.