Going into this summer, I had never done anything like this. I had never been a camp counselor, I had never worked in a team setting for an entire summer, and I had never been responsible for teaching coastal ecology and biodiversity to young students. It was an experiment. Much like the science experiments I am used to performing, I didn’t know what my final results or conclusions would be. But that’s why you attempt the experiment in the first place.
My learning goals for working at Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center were as follows: I wanted to learn more about the ecology, marine biology, and environment of the New England area. I wanted to be able to use all of the science that I have learned at college and apply it to real life situations outside of the classroom. I loved the idea of myself promoting the preservation of our environment, as it has always been a cause that is close to my heart. Finally, I aspired to use my creativity to come up with exciting and interactive activities to inspire the kids to care about marine science!
I believe that all of my learning goals were accomplished. As a trained naturalist of coastal ecology, I can lead tours and school programs through the tide pools by myself, which is really rewarding! I know that most people my age could not say the same. I promoted and expressed my love for environmental conservation and taught children through my own creative methods. We were able to bring the animals and outdoors to the children–whether it was in our backyard, at the tide pools, on a whale watch, at the butterfly garden, in the salt marsh, or in a wildlife rehabilitation center. We taught the children so much about wildlife without ever lecturing to them. We explored outside, we played games, we created fun and interactive stations, all while learning! From stations on sharks to the food chain to puppet playhouses, not only did I get to teach the kids something that I am passionate about, I got to teach it entirely my way! For example, during young scientists, the camp for older kids (9-12) called Young Scientists, I chose to adapt science experiments I performed in high school and even college but made them age appropriate. We even guided the campers to create a real scientific hypothesis and helped them gather the necessary data to create a real scientific poster. Considering this was the first summer that this special week of camp existed, I’d say we left our mark on this summer camp program forever as the inaugural session was a great success!
I will build on this experience during the rest of my time at Brandeis, specifically with my last year of coordinating a Waltham Group program named LaCE (Language and Cultural Enrichment). I will use what I learned this summer to create awesome activities for the middle school children I work with, handle the kids with a new sense of patience, discipline the children effectively and appropriately, enhance the training of volunteers, and be able to think like a kid (so they can get the most out of the program). On the long term, I will use this experience because environmental science is something I am still interested in pursuing, but most importantly, I learned how to work in a team environment. Working with different people from different backgrounds with varied strengths and weaknesses is a great challenge. However, after many team building exercises and sufficient time working together, I believe that the summer camp interns formed a great chemistry. By the end of the summer, we were a true team. During one of our team exercises, we even had to discuss who we thought would be playing drums, singing vocals, playing bass, or playing guitar, as if we were a real band!
Having completed this internship, I really love the Mass Audubon Society and their efforts to promote environmental conservation! We already agreed that I would come volunteer for them during school breaks to lead school programs and continue my opportunity to continue educating the public of the local wildlife.
For a student interested in my internship at this organization or in this field, I would advise that they are very patient with children and that they have a strong enthusiasm for both education and wildlife. Also, be prepared for different types of children! The campers’ desire to be part of the program and their background knowledge vary but every camper needs to be treated equally. For the more disciplined and driven campers that really want to learn, it is very rewarding to work with them and make sure they get a lot out of the program. Similarly, for the kids who may have trouble getting adjusted to camp-life, it is equally as rewarding just to teach them something or make them appreciate camp by the end of the week!
If you want to see the rest of the pictures from this summer, check out the Facebook page!
-Matthew Eames ’13