October 14, 2001
Final Internship Report
Environmental Education for Kids, also known as E.E.K., has proven to be a very interesting and rewarding internship. I feel that the lessons we taught impacted the children and benefited their education. All of the weekly meetings and lesson planning allowed us to express our creativity in the lesson plan designs, and all of my fellow educators were very helpful and enthusiastic about this campus club. Overall, I have been very pleased with the progress of EEK throughout the semester, and feel that we have accomplished our main goals, which are to increase the children's knowledge of the environment, and to build environmental awareness at a young age.
Upon starting this internship I came up with a series of goals and objectives that I wished to accomplish. My primary goal was to stir up interest and curiosity in the subject matter that I presented in order to build environmental awareness. Environmental awareness is the educational foundation that all environmental concepts will later be built on. Furthermore, I want the children to have a fun, hands-on, and educational experience when we teach. By making learning about the environment fun and inclusive, children are more likely to retain the concepts that we present. In addition to these objectives, I wanted to improve my abilities as a teacher. I wanted to find the most effective, fun, and creative methods to channel the children's energy towards productive learning, so that they gain an understanding and appreciation for the subject matter presented. Some of the children that we taught could grow up to be environmentalists in the future because of environmental influences such as E.E.K.
E.E.K. consists of three major programs. There is a four-week program in which lessons are designed for a four-week period to be taught in classrooms at Green Park Elementary or other local elementary schools. This program is designed for Whitman students that would like to teach environmental concepts to a class, but do not have enough time to commit to an entire semester. I did not participate in this program. The second program is the Campfire after school program, which is mostly designed so that students can do fun, hands-on environmentally oriented activities, outside of a classroom setting. This allows us to do projects and activities such as composting with the children, and allows us to give them useful information at the same time, but with less of an academic emphasis. The third program is a full semester program with Joelle's third grade bilingual class, in which we designed and presented weekly one-hour lessons for the class. We taught our lessons in a standard classroom setting, and often played games or did activities to solidify the concepts that we presented.
Each week I went to three meetings. On Mondays from 7pm until 7:45pm, I had my weekly Campfire meeting, which was led by Candace Thompson. In this meeting we prepared an activity for the following day. We would try to brainstorm ideas about environmentally relevant topics, but at the same time allow the children to play and have fun. An example would be a composting lesson where the children would be able to bury various items, and then see their decomposition at the next meeting. We would first present a lesson about composting, and then let the children experiment with what they had learned and ask any questions that they had.
On Tuesdays the general E.E.K. meeting took place from 12pm until 1pm in which we discussed plans for some of the upcoming events that involved E.E.K. as a whole, discussed the progress of the three programs, and gave and received advice about successful and useful lesson plans and teaching methods. Anna Noel Taft and Margo Burton, who coordinated and organized most E.E.K. activities and events, lead these meetings. Also on Tuesdays, usually from around 6:30pm until 7:30pm, I had planning sessions for Joelle's class. Joelle is a third grade teacher who was pleased by the environmental education provided by EEK in the past, and when we contacted her this year, she was happy to have us. There were five of us who usually came to these meetings, and Cat Schmidt, Ashley Meganck, and myself were the three interns that were involved in this program. We usually brainstormed lesson plans for upcoming meetings, and thought of the most effective ways to present the material. We would also often refer to a binder of old lesson plans that were successful in the past, and would manipulate these lesson plans in creative ways to make them more interesting or applicable to the concepts that we wanted to get across.
On Wednesday me and four other fellow educators went to Green Park Elementary to present our lessons to Joelle's third grade bilingual class. The class had about thirty bilingual students, and my fellow educators and I all had some experience with the Spanish language. We usually arrived around 9:20a.m, and taught until around 10:15. Our lessons usually involved a short lecture with demonstrations, followed by a question and answer session, and then an activity or project that incorporated and solidified the concepts discussed.
Fridays at 3p.m., I journeyed back to Greenpark for the Campfire program. Four of us usually taught a very short lesson, and then broke the children up into groups to do an activity. We would then go around and answer questions as well as ask questions to get the children thinking about the concepts involved in the activities we taught. Overall, I spent an average of about six hours a week with E.E.K. including the outside activities such as EEKfest and Make A Difference Day which were organized for all members of E.E.K. to participate in.
In terms of my accomplishments this semester, I satisfied all of my objectives in Joelle's third grade bilingual class. We were very organized, and came up with well-structured lesson plans that stimulated the interest and curiosity of the students. In the weekly meetings, we always came up with creative ways to engage the students. Our behavior management skills got progressively better as the semester went on, and our teaching methods resulted in high retention rates among the students in the class. The main reason I think the children learned so much from us in this class, was that we were constantly tying together all of the concepts that we had been teaching throughout the semester. We also had review days where we would solidify and build on the concepts that we had previously discussed. By the end of the semester, I felt like the children in Joelle's class had a very firm grasp of the material that we presented. I knew that I had completed my objectives for the semester when Joelle told us on our last teaching day how much her students had retained. She said that her students were referring to and applying the concepts that we had been teaching them in their regular classroom subjects. Our EEK group gave these children a solid foundation in environmental education.
I have had few difficulties with E.E.K. this semester. However, we have had a few scheduling difficulties which prevented me from teaching as much as I would have liked. Toward the end of the semester, most of the members of Campfire stopped showing up for the meetings, so I was not able to participate very much in this program during that time. The general EEK meetings also were cancelled a lot toward the end of the semester, but by then, all of the individual programs were independent enough to organize everything for themselves. The semester program with Joelle's class was very stable throughout the semester, and it was a very rewarding program in that I improved as a teacher, and I was able to see the progressive impact and effectiveness of my teaching on the students as the semester went on. I am very pleased to have been able to teach children about the environment. E.E.K. has been a great medium for expressing my interest in teaching, and stimulating learning and interest in students. I also have enjoyed expressing my creativity in creating the lesson plans, and love working with children. I also feel that the children from Green Park have benefited immensely from our lessons, not only in an academic sense, but they have also had fun and expressed interest in the material. It was great to see these children, who are already aware of many environmental issues, learning and building on what they have learned each time that we visited them. It is great to see the impact that our teaching had on Joelle's class, and I think that EEK should branch out even further and send many different teaching groups to even more elementary schools in the area. EEK has been a very resilient campus club in that it always draws enthusiastic volunteers every semester. Many contacts, lesson plans, and activities have been compiled over the years by EEK members, and I think that it would be very easy for EEK to get connected with teachers that are eager to have Whitman kids come and teach their class about the environment. During the course of the semester, Joelle alerted us that many teachers that she had talked to also desired our group to teach in their classrooms. The demand is out there. Educating children about the environment is a valuable thing during these times, and EEK should branch out, and continue to build environmental awareness in children at a young age.
For all future EEK interns, there are many useful lesson plan outlines located in binders in the environmental studies room in Maxey. Also, Ashley Meganck, Cat Schmidt, and I created a number of lesson plans this semester. We have each compiled a lesson plan that we created which will be included with these reports, but the majority of our lesson plans have been thoroughly described with the children's reactions in our internship logs because we did not organize written outlines of our lesson plans before we presented them. These resources contain some good ideas for future lessons.