Checking in on our Summer Education Interns
What’s the impact of our education programs at the Dallas Arboretum? One less-discussed answer to that question comes from the summer interns the Education department hires, college students pursuing careers in education who spend the summer with our campers. As we head into colder days, we take a look back at warmer ones. Interns spent 10 weeks preparing, observing and teaching STEM camps for children ranging in ages from 3 to 13 years old. The interns participated in staff meetings, visits to other non-profits and kept weekly logs of their experience.
During the camps, they engaged the campers in activities such as learning about different scientists, building robots and investigating native flora and fauna. By the end of the summer, interns had logged over 300 hours of teaching experience by observing the Arboretum’s degreed teachers, co-teaching and eventually leading the camps themselves. A few months after the internship ended, we checked back with our interns to tell us about their experience and give us updates on what they’re up to now.
This internship opened up so many opportunities for me, and the summer was an indescribable amazing experience. I was able to work with all age groups, and the range of different campers helped me realize that every child learns in their own special way. This work opened up my eyes to some of the most effective ways to help children learn. I learned how taking a walk through the Arboretum and having students interact with nature all the way to having students learn how to code a robot themselves can cause these students to create a true understanding for science.
Everything, from simply watching and helping with management during the first couple of weeks of the internship to becoming the teacher, helped me in ways that I cannot describe. I went from not knowing how to approach a lesson to being able to handle classroom management and implement activities. I was given the room to create new activities, learn how to manage children and have fun creating my own teaching style. This internship was an amazing experience that I would do over again every summer if I could.
I learned an abundance that I will take into my classroom, and I have my mentors from this internship to thank for this. I learned that it is important to understand the child’s developmental needs when you are a teacher; therefore, I will be studying educational psychology to receive a minor on top of my Elementary Education major. I am currently a senior at Mississippi State University, and I will be extending my schooling by a semester to pursue this minor. My hope is to graduate in December 2019 and receive a job in middle school in the STEM field.
Interning at the Dallas Arboretum was a very great experience that I am glad to have been a part of this past summer. Before the internship, I knew for a fact that I wanted to be a teacher, but throughout those three months I had the opportunity to be exposed to so many amazing experiences that made me even more excited to be in my own classroom within the next few years.
The internship was a great learning experience and a growing process. Reflecting back on my first week up to my last, I can definitely see the growth within myself and that I gained the confidence to be the one in front of a classroom. Over the course of ten weeks, I developed many skills that are effective in the classroom. I learned how to take initiative and have control over my students, and I recognize that even on the most challenging days in the classroom, the kids will always manage to put a smile on your face. Because of this internship, I discovered that I already had many teacher-like qualities, and I had the opportunity to identify my strengths and weaknesses when working with different age groups.
This internship has helped me to grow and see what is like working with different grade levels, and to understand that every child is different in their own unique way. In many of my classes this semester, I can relate to a lot of the things that are discussed, because I encountered them during my internship at the Arboretum. My experience has helped me connect my experiences to what I’m learning in my classes, which ultimately is great for meaningful learning. My internship also opened up many doors for me, and I am now a current AVID tutor, working with middle school students, which is very different than working with younger kids. I often use the things I learned throughout the summer, even for this older age group.
My summer interning at the Dallas Arboretum was probably one of the most meaningful summers of my life— I learned so much about what it means to be an educator, what it’s like to work closely with people of widely differing personalities, and ultimately that yes, teaching is in fact what I want to do in life. It was challenging at times (as all good things should be), but I was never, for a second, bored: something new and crazy happens every day. I shared so many laughs with coworkers and the campers, and the Arboretum is objectively gorgeous… I could go on. I also cherish the time I spent with my co-interns, boss and camp teachers.
The Education team at the Dallas Arboretum REALLY cares—about campers and about each other—and I am so lucky to have worked in such a positive and supportive environment. That kind of model of good teamwork and community and support has really prepared me for the leadership positions that currently accompany my junior year in college.
Right now I’m back at Wellesley College, pursuing my degree in neuropsychology and education. It was hard to return to papers and exams after such an active summer, but sometimes when I’m struggling through a reading, I think back on a funny memory from the Arboretum and feel a genuine motivation that comes from excitement for my future. And I don’t think that’s something a lot of students can say.
Education is an essential piece of our mission at the Dallas Arboretum, and we are so excited to continue sharing with camper and summer camp interns every summer, building their love of nature and the Arboretum AND helping them connect with science and STEAM topics in new and exciting ways.