The next generation of botanists

Halfway through my summer internship with CLM and I have overcome one of my fears….teaching kids!

I have no problem talking to people my own age about science or explaining to an older crowd what I do every day for work, but I always get nervous when I have to explain something to a younger generation. I think it is because their brains are like sponges and I don’t want them to absorb the wrong information if I say something that is incorrect. I’ll be the first to admit this is an irrational fear and it is definitely a little ridiculous; nevertheless, I was completely terrified when my boss told me one Monday morning that we were going to be teaching 6th graders all about Forestry and Botany.

The Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) is an incredible program that provides support and opportunities for students in addition to their regular classroom studies. ANSEP hosts summer camps where chaperones and teachers take kids in 6th through 8th grade around the state of Alaska and introduce them to many fields of Science and Engineering. The second Monday in June and the second Monday in July were Biology days! Myself, my co-intern Charlotte, and our boss Eric were all invited to teach Forestry/Botany at each camp.

The first month, Eric was with us and did most of the teaching. I was extremely content to simply stand next to the tree and demonstrate the use of a DBH tape or point to a flower on the forest floor and identify the species. However, Eric was out of town for the second session of camp. Oh no!

I arrived on the scene of what I was certain would be my funeral and was greeted by the lovely ANSEP coordinator. She informed me that we were going to start a little later so the kids could have a longer lunch break. Great! More time to panic!

But then I received a phone call from a friend and shortly after explaining where I was and what I was doing, I received some of the best advice to date: “You may be the first or only person that ever teaches these kids the importance of Forestry and Botany. Show them how much you love what you do and maybe one out of the bunch will follow in your footsteps.”

I was shocked. Maybe this information seems obvious to some of you, but this caused me to think back on my personal education and experiences with a new perspective. When I was in my first year of high school, I was interested in History and was focused and determined to follow a particular career path related to that field of study. Then I enrolled in Grade 10 Biology and my life changed. I can remember the exact day I made the realization that this was going to be a passion that I would pursue for the rest of my life. It is amazing how one teacher or one field trip can truly open your eyes.

That afternoon, I taught 48 twelve year olds all about the fields and forests of Alaska, what I do for work, why it is important, and why I love it so much. I know that not every ear was attentive and not every mind was intrigued; however, I would like to think my friend was right and that I may have inspired one young sponge to pursue a respectable and incredible career in Forestry or Botany.

 

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Also, being paid in gummy bears is awesome!

-Jen

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