Holly Brooks
Final Internship Report
ENVS 120, May 6th 2002

EEK
Environmental Education for Kids

Due to my interest in both education and the environment, I completed a semester long internship with EEK, otherwise known on campus as Environmental Education for Kids. However, my involvement with the established EEK program has been limited in the sense that I did not complete a “typical” EEK internship. At the beginning of the semester I had the rude awakening that it was going to be humanly impossible for me to participate in programs with the other 4 EEK interns. Because of ski practice I missed the planning meetings, the preparation periods, and the actual elementary school class times.

March, the end of the ski season, and the mid-semester report came around and I still hadn’t a clue as to what I was going to do. However, I knew that I needed to establish a plan quickly and act during the second half of the semester. While others had organized programs and groups to work with, I was put into the position of being a self-motivator. Consequently, I created three components to my internship. They are as follows: Tutoring at the Juvenile Justice Center, teaching renewable energy lessons at local elementary schools, and leading a tree education station at a nature field day at Harris Park outside of Milton Freewater.

Renewable Energy Lessons

Objectives:

*Define energy
*Expose students to alternative sources of energy: solar, wind, thermal, biomass, and hydroelectricity.
*Explain problems and limitations of existing sources of energy, (i.e. fossil fuels-oil and coal).
*Highlight energy saving techniques that students can practice on a daily basis.
*Generate interest, enthusiasm, and compassion for the environment and our natural resources.

Description:

This component of my EEK internship consisted of teaching 45-minute alternative energy lessons at Edison and Berney Elementary Schools to first and second grade students. The beginning of the lesson starts by defining energy and explaining its transferable nature. Electricity is then introduced as a form of energy and a skit was used to demonstrate household items that utilize electricity, (alarm clock, light, radio, toaster oven, etc.). After the skit our current energy sources, oil and coal, are introduced along with their limitations. The students were asked questions such as, what happens when we run out? What harmful effects do these sources have for the environment, for our health? From here, the alternative sources of energy were introduced. While we taught about solar, wind, thermal, and biomass the students created a collage to illustrate the new concepts. To my surprise, many of the second graders were aware of these alternatives! The closing activity included sitting in a circle passing an “energy ball” while reviewing different energy-saving techniques.

Reflections, Suggestions, and Possible Improvements:

*Be sure to make accommodations to standardized lesson plans for different ages. I found that there was a large increase in knowledge and comprehension from first to second grade. Lesson plans should be adapted to hold interest and challenge the particular age that it is being presented too.

*Enthusiasm and humor is key to holding the attention of young students! Attention spans are short. If a single teaching modality is used for a long period of time students tend to tune out and become bored. Once this happens it is very difficult to regain focus and composure.

*Props such as the solar powered light, wind-up radio, and energy ball are incredibly popular. Student interest is raised exponentially when hands-on props are utilized.

*In a classroom setting you have to be ready for anything to happen. In one of the classrooms I taught in the teacher requested that I teach using a microphone to accommodate a student in the classroom that had a hearing disability.

*Educators, especially guest educators need to be very sensitive to controversial local issues such as hydroelectricity and dams.


Nature Field Day at Harris Park, Tree Education

Objectives:

*Explain the importance of trees by introducing the oxygen cycle. Trees are dependant on human beings for carbon dioxide just as we are dependant on tress for oxygen.

*Have students be able to identify the differences between deciduous and evergreen trees, also the different parts of a tree and their function.

*Convey the importance of trees in our everyday life. What do we use trees for?

*Instill excitement and interest about trees, and tree identification while fostering an appreciation and understanding of the outdoors.

Description:

This component of my internship involved teaching 8 half-hour lessons on the importance of trees and tree identification. I began the lesson by discussing the role of trees in our everyday lives: paper, household construction, habitat, etc. From there we went on to the diagram of a tree and explained the importance of the roots, trunk, bark, etc. After the lesson we put our knowledge to use by taking a mini-nature walk to identify the kinds of trees represented in Harris Park. During the lesson, students were free to pick up samples of leaves, cones, and needles that were on display. After the formal lesson, students were invited to make a tree rubbing. Half of the group made deciduous tree rubbings while the other half made evergreen rubbings. After the task was completed, the pictures were used as pieces for a game of Leaves, Trunk, and Roots-a game meant to simulate Tic-Tac-Toe. The catch-in order to place a piece on the board each team had to answer a trivia question or re-state something they learned in the lesson!

Reflections, Suggestions, and Possible Improvements:

*Each instruction group consisted of a mix of first and fourth graders. This made it especially challenging to teach to both ages because there was such a disparity in previous knowledge. Some of the older students grew bored with old subject matter while some of the first graders were confused because the lesson was over their head. I felt that this was poor planning on part of the field day organizer.

*Playing a game that reinforced the lesson made students think about what they learned. I allowed the teams to help each other so that no child was put on the spot. This encouraged teamwork!


Juvenile Justice Center

Objectives:

*Introduce incarcerated youth to environmental issues, the outdoors, geography, animals-basically anything that excited them.

*Create awareness of life outside of youth’s neighborhood, hometown, and country-a sense of place, an understanding of other places.

*Trigger interest and concern about something that effects everyone-such as the environment.

*Create a non-judgmental environment where youth feels comfortable showing interest and excitement about learning.

Description:

Unlike the previous two components of my internship working at the JJC did not include a standardized lesson plan. The Juvenile Justice Center serves as an incarceration center for youths who commit crimes or break parole. Most of the adolescents housed in the facility are there for a limited amount of time. Consequently, every Monday night I would show up and work with a different individual. My teaching medium consisted of National Geographic books and a globe. Sessions usually included flipping through the book, reading captions, (to practice reading skills) and discussing pictures. Topics that arose from this included basic geography, (which is when we referred to the globe) ecosystems, animals and the food chain, overpopulation, waste disposal problems, diverse lifestyles, and the energy crisis. My introduction of the subject matter usually received an ambivalent reception but by the end of our time together the youth didn’t want to put the book down!

Reflections, Suggestions, and Possible Improvements:

*It’s frustrating having to work with a different individual almost every week. The first half hour of every session is usually spent gaining the trust of the adolescent. After that time period the youth usually becomes genuinely interested in the subject matter and all of a sudden its time to leave. Suggestion-inquire about juveniles who are scheduled to be in the facility for a long time and request to work with them for consecutive weeks so that a relationship can be formed.

*It’s critical to be very accepting of different perspectives. The majority of the youths incarcerated in the facility have had very negative and often abusive childhoods. Sometimes they represent opinions that may be racist, biased, stereotypes, or in your mind, uneducated. It’s vital to have patience with the youth. It’s okay to convey personal opinions however I would recommend a focus on objective facts. Be sure not to place blame!

*Flexibility is key! Although it would be possible to use an established lesson plan I found that it worked well to get a feel for the individual’s interest and go from there. The general knowledge that a Whitman student has is more than sufficient to teach this specific population.

*Tutor must be ready to work with Hispanic youth. Sometimes they do not speak English.

Conclusion

After a slow and frustrating beginning to the semester I am very pleased with the results of my internship. I feel as though most if not all of my objectives were met. In the energy lessons I was able to introduce new concepts, alternatives to our current sources. At Harris Park I was able to teach youth about the basics of trees. Playing Leaves, Trunks, Roots proved to me that my lesson plan was successful because the students were able to recall information from the lesson.

But perhaps the most rewarding part of my internship was working with the incarcerated youth at the JJC. Most of the juveniles at the facility are products of highly abusive, unhealthy environments that foster nothing but delinquency, hate, and lack of motivation. Spending time with the youth there I felt as though I was able to provide a peak into what they should have received in their adolescence, someone who isn’t going to judge them and genuinely care about their well-being. It was incredible to see youth whom begun the 90-minute session with a smug “I’m too cool for this” look on their face and end the ninety minutes begging me to stay. I had a very positive experience and would recommend all three components of my internship to anyone who is interested in continuing it in the future.