That’s why The Nature Conservancy teaches kids about the magic of nature through educational programs all around the world. Here in Utah, we've tapped into the energy of young adults to teach 4th graders, through an internship program with the University of Utah. The program has placed interns with the Conservancy's Wings & Water program since 2007, where they learn about wetlands, teaching, and developing environmental education programs.
We sat down with two of these participants to talk about their time with the Conservancy. How did their experience inspire them? What are they doing with what they learned? And…where are they now?
Charice Bourdeaux (above, right) helped guide the Wings & Water program during the spring of 2010. Now, Charice guides teachers as they work to bring environmental education into their classrooms with the Utah Society for Environmental Education in Salt Lake City.
Kristi Kucera (pictured at top of article, left) led 4th grade students on field trips and assessments during the spring of 2009. Now, she works to connect people of all ages with nature at the Teton Science School in Jackson Hole.
During my time at the Nature Conservancy in 2009, I gained experience in field education and research, but I definitely learned the importance of connecting kids to natural outdoor settings. Throughout my internship I also got to see whether kids were really learning. I conducted pre- and post-tour analysis of the 4th grade students' understanding of Great Salt Lake wetland ecology using concept maps. I also conducted qualitative research to find out whether the time they spent in nature made them feel different about being outside. Then, with the help of Adrienne Cachelin from the University of Utah and Heidi Nedreberg from the Conservancy, I was able to present the results of that research at the 2009 National Association for Environmental Education conference in Portland, Oregon.
As an Environmental Studies senior at the University of Utah, I was looking for a way to put the lessons I had learned into action. In Spring 2010 I was selected to be the Denman Scholar for the Conservancy’s Wings & Water program. I was able to broaden my skills by developing curriculum, creating an online teacher workshop, and conducting learning assessments. My experience as an intern really showed me the impact I can have on the environment around me. The more I learned about the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve, and the wetlands located on the eastern shore of the Great Salt Lake, the more I felt empowered and confident to teach others about biodiversity and all the plants and animals that depend on this ecosystem.
My internship really helped me realize the importance of place based education, environmental education and field research. I now work for the Teton Science Schools as an AmeriCorps Field Education Instructor. My experience gained with the Nature Conservancy’s Wings & Water program, including leading field groups, conducting research and helping train volunteers, has empowered me to continue working with and connecting people, nature and education, which is exactly what I get to do now!
My experience has helped me a lot in my new job as Outreach Coordinator for The Utah Society for Environmental Education. Here, I get to assist Utah teachers as they work to implement environmental education in their classrooms. I work with formal educators and non-formal educators, providing them with the resources that will enable them to increase environmental literacy within the state of Utah. I very much believe that my experience with the Nature Conservancy and the mentoring provided to me was my biggest stepping stone to this point in my education and goal in protecting and understanding my environments.