Written by Clarissa Gideos (University of Maryland-College Park), Internship in Sustainability and the Environment
My internship took place at Bajo del Tigre, a part of the Bosque Eterno de los Niños, the largest private reserve in Costa Rica, and run by the Monteverde Conservation League. This organization’s focus is to acquire and protect threatened land, as well as promoting environmental research and education. My internship focused on creating and refurbishing children’s educational materials for a variety of ages, which were housed in the Children’s Casita at Bajo del Tigre.
This internship included several different projects some of which required more teamwork and materials than others, but all of which communicate an educational message. Some of the things I built were more long term, such as the two small bookcases which were created to make a reading corner.
These took two weeks to build and one week to paint, meaning the other interns and I had to plan their development and keep track of our progress. This was something new I had to take into account and by the end of the month, I knew how to strategically and efficiently plan projects to maximize my time and materials. I also expanded upon my past experience working with power tools and building materials.
Additionally, I also refurbished and finished a sand table where kids could stick different molds of animals’ feet into sand and discover what their tracks look like. This only took one day to put together, but it took a while to gather the materials, meaning I had to be resourceful and work on other projects while that one developed. This project was one which especially required creative problem solving, since I had to expand upon an unfinished previous project. I had to determine the best way to line the premade table, as well as attach the labels and store the animal feet within the table. I also created a hook system to keep the top of the table open when kids played with it. These situations allowed me to open my mind to different possible solutions and choose the best ones.
Personally, the most meaningful project I worked on was a mural I painted on the back of one of the bookcases. It allowed me to combine my love of painting with a passion for science and educating children about both. The mural included several native animal and plant species which the children had to find in an “I Spy” game of sorts. I worked for over a week to research, sketch, and perfect it.
I also worked on several other smaller projects including a puzzle featuring bats and their food options, hanging food chain photos, a wooden animal puzzle, and a craft table. These all added details to the Casita and provided even more educational tools for the kids.
Overall, this internship allowed me to improve upon my skills working in a team and individually on projects of all dimensions. It also helped me solidify my decision to pursue environmental education as a career, though I now realize I am more interested in creating educational tools rather than teaching itself. The most rewarding part of this experience, however, was seeing kids using the exhibits and enjoying them while learning about important scientific topics.