02 October 2018

Enjoyment, Education and Responsibilities

Written by: Super User

One month ago, to the day, I began my internship at the Stewart B. McKinney Wildlife Refuge- although it hardly feels like more than a week has passed. After arriving in the wonderfully forested Westbrook, Connecticut I almost instantly jumped into my work. I quickly began working with the other volunteers, leading classes of fourth graders to Outer Island. We would take a boat to the island which was especially interesting because most of the students had never been on a boat and a small handful were down right terrified. Once on the island, we would teach the kids about shore birds, invasive species like the Asian shore crab and intertidal zones.

These school field trips were unfortunately short lived, as I had arrived only a week before school ended. After the school year came to a close I met Morgan Avery, the Recreation Program Supervisor for New Haven. As the title would suggest, Morgan organizes the summer camp programs for the children of New Haven. Thanks to Morgan, I now get to hold short environmental education courses with select camps. Over the past week I lead nearly 100 kids on hikes through the many trails in New Haven and introduced them to the idea of resource management.

Now perhaps I should mention a small but key detail: I don’t consider myself an educator. I have always and will always consider myself a scientist at heart. Knowing that, you might think I’ve been discontent for the past month because I’m teaching kids instead of doing research. At first I also thought I would feel that way, but I’m quickly realizing an important aspect of my job as a scientist. It is my responsibility as a researcher to share my findings. Any knowledge kept secret is wasted information.

I ultimately decided to take this internship so that I would have the opportunity to share the knowledge I have spent my entire academic career gathering. And best of all, I am having a ton of fun doing so. There is something so amazing about watching kids sail on the water for the first time, explaining the ecological importance of invasive Asian shore crabs and then letting them hold one in their hands. Seeing a child’s face as they realize that not only is there a vast unknown world around them but also that they can touch it and learn about it-its one of those experiences that reignites your own love for natural world.

As of today I have completed one third of my summer internship. So far, I’ve introduced kids to new islands and debated the ethics of balancing a forest’s ecosystem with human necessitates. I’ve brought nature back into the minds of people who can very easily get distracted by every other buzzing thing that surrounds us today. Moving forward, I aim to connect with the latino community at Yale. I will continue to do my best to promote the green spaces I see around me. Most of all I hope to support other persons who one day may choose to do the valuable work I am doing now.

By: Stephanie Melara

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