Emily Mendell
ENVS 220 Internship
10 December 2004

Children's Museum of Walla Walla

Overview

Over the course of the semester, I have been working on the organization and development of special workshops at the Children's Museum of Walla Walla (CMWW). As an environmental studies/geology major and self-proclaimed “science nerd,” I wanted to intern at CMWW because I thought it would provide a great opportunity for me to share my interest in the sciences with kids from the community. Since the museum is new (the tape-cutting was October 14 th ), the work that I did allowed me to take an active role in its development. Under the guidance of Mike Dedman (the program sponsor) and Cathy Mebes (director of the museum), I was involved in budget management, recruitment of volunteers, and curriculum development throughout the course of this internship.

Goals and Objectives

Because the museum recently opened in Walla Walla , there was always plenty of work for me to do. After meeting with Mike and Cathy in September, it became clear that the description of the internship that I initially received did not accurately reflect what needed to be done at the museum. Therefore, considering the immediate needs of the museum and the desires of Mike and Cathy, I established a few goals and objectives for the semester:

•  I needed to collect a list of people who were interested in volunteering at the museum as workshop instructors and organize their information into a database (name, email, phone number, what workshop(s) they are interested in, previous science experience, dates available).

•  I also agreed to contact Karen Smith, who works in the chemistry stockroom at Whitman, and obtain the list of materials that will be needed for the special workshops. I was to put this information into a database (material, price, cost/participant) so that the museum could estimate how much funding would be necessary to conduct each workshop.

•  I would create a template that would advertise the workshops and could be released to the Union Bulletin and posted in school newsletters. The release was to be used to inform the community about upcoming workshops.

•  Eventually, I would help lead a workshop or write a curriculum for a workshop that was not already established. In terms of time, I suspected this element of the internship would be the most significant.

My personal goal for this internship was mainly to share my interest in the sciences with students in the area. I know when I was in elementary school, I was rarely stimulated by the subject matter, but I was lucky to have places outside of the classroom (museums, theatres, workshops, etc) to increase my desire to learn. Through this internship, I hoped to be a part of a place that provides this source of inspiration for the kids of Walla Walla .

Accomplishments

In the 12 weeks that I have been working on this project, I successfully fulfilled three of my goals and objectives. I asked the Whitman Science Club if they would be interested in helping volunteer as workshop instructors and received approximately 15 responses. I organized the names of the interested parties and their vital information into a database that I sent to Cathy.

I also received the list of supplies needed for each workshop from Karen Smith. Her list was very easy to understand and well-organized, but I worked on putting it into a more useful format. The resulting budget sheet plainly showed the estimated costs involved in each workshop so that the museum can seek appropriate funding. From what Cathy and Mike said in our first meeting, the budget sheet was a prerequisite to the execution of the workshops.

On October 10, I attended a meeting at CMWW designed for volunteers who would be helping in the day-to-day functioning of the museum. At the meeting, Cathy explained the different displays at the museum and handed out instructions for running them. This gave me a good overview of the museum beyond the projects that I was working on and provided a general understanding of the way the museum functions on a day-to-day basis.

My final project was the development of a curriculum that could be used for a future workshop. The subject of the curriculum is, broadly, “The Earth,” and focuses on geology and environmental issues in a way that kids can appreciate and understand. The curriculum first presents the definition of geology and a summery of the earth's composition (core, mantle, crust). It then teaches kids about natural resources, both renewable and non-renewable and discusses our impact on the earth in terms of modern environmental issues (acid rain, water pollution). Science experiments and hands-on activities are integrated into the curriculum, such as making a model of the earth's layers out of a peppermint candy, a marshmallow, and chocolate, and making a pH indicator from cabbage.

The one goal I was not able to complete was making a template for news releases. I did ask Mike about this a few times, and he did not give me any specific instructions on how to go about this or what information to include. I suspect that because the workshops are not going to be offered until next year, it was a little premature to be creating a news release.

Difficulties, Frustrations

I did have some difficulty trying to contact my sponsor initially, but since the first meeting, we were able to keep in close contact. Since Mike works at the Whitman Mission, we kept in touch primarily by email and phone. This worked well since most of the work I did was self-directed and on my own time. I was able to devote 3 to 4 hours per week on my internship at home or the library.

In terms of the actual project, I experienced some frustrations. Because of the preparation involved in getting the museum ready for the opening, Cathy was unable to devote much time to the organization and planning of the special workshops. She understandably could not focus on the workshops, and therefore my progress was somewhat delayed. When I met with Cathy, she informed me that workshops would not be offered until the beginning of next year. Unfortunately, I will be studying abroad (as will many of the interested volunteers at Whitman) during the spring semester. When applying for this internship, I was most excited about the chance to teach science to kids. Although I hope that the work I completed will be beneficial to the museum, I was disappointed that I did not have the opportunity (this semester) to teach a workshop.

Realizations and Recommendations

After finishing two environmental studies internships with two completely different organizations, I have learned that it is important to keep an open mind and expect that the project description you initially receive will not relate to the project you ultimately end up completing. This is not necessarily a bad thing; just remember that you are (mostly) responsible for ensuring that the internship is a beneficial experience. The part of this internship that I enjoyed the most was creating the curriculum, which I suggested to Mike and he encourage me to pursue.

For those interested in interning with CMWW in the future, this would be an excellent project for someone to adopt. Once the special workshops begin, students interested in education or any of the workshop subjects (chemistry, physics, etc) could have a great experience teaching and sharing their interests with the kids.

Key Contacts

Mike Dedman (program sponsor)
Education Specialist/National Park Ranger
Whitman Mission National Historic Site
328 Whitman Mission Road
Walla Walla , WA 99362
(509) 522-6357
mike_dedman@nps.gov

 

Cathy Mebes (CMWW Executive Director)
VA Grounds across from GESA Credit Union
(509) 200-2284
cmww@charter.net
www.cmww.org