The majority of my time this week has gone to revising and finalizing my final report that I have been working on all summer. This is the first time that I have gotten to commit so much time to a project that I am working on independently and as I get closer to being able to submit I feel very proud of all that I accomplished this summer. Coming into this I didn’t really know what to expect but I feel like I have gained very useful skills in being able to read complex research materials and distill them down to be more understandable and consumable by the general public. I have also learned that I care a lot more about environmental education than I previously thought. It gives me a way to utilize both my environmental science and education backgrounds and combining those with my experience of growing up with crisis based environmental education has been so rewarding. This summer has definitely taught me so much about environmental education and virtual learning and I am so thankful that I got to have this experience so early on in my academic career.
As this internship wraps up I have been thinking a lot about what I have gained from this experience. As someone who grew up far away from the coast I never really saw marine conservation as something that I would want to pursue as a career. However, being exposed to so many different career paths and having my first experiences with marine conservation has made me realize that it is something that I would want to pursue in the future.
I am now headed back to the University of Washington to start my sophomore year, and my first year in person on my campus. I am beyond excited to further my knowledge in environmental science and I feel like this experience has solidified the path that I want to take. After getting my degree I think that I might either go to grad school for conservation biology or go to law school to pursue environmental law.
The most important thing that I have learned during my time at Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) is just how important setting a schedule and sticking to it is. Because I was working so independently on my project I was fully responsible for the timeline and pace that I was working at. As someone who is used to having timelines fully set up by school or work this was a big change and it definitely took me a few weeks to get settled into but now I feel like I’ve gotten the hang of how I spend my time to make sure that I am getting everything done in a timely manner. I have also gotten to learn about grad school and the various career paths in environmental science that I hadn’t really had much exposure to before this summer. Getting to meet and talk to so many different people that all got where they are by taking so many different paths definitely really opened up my view of how I can get to the career that I want in a variety of different ways.
One of the most surprising things about working at HRAP is that everyone has an opinion on education. Every time I talk to someone about my project whether they work in education or not, they always seem to have some sort of feedback or information about educational techniques or what they would want to see. Initially I was really surprised that everyone had so much to say but then I realized that every single person is a stakeholder in education. We all go to school and then people send their kids to schools so it is actually not surprising to see that everyone cares about how we are teaching kids. This also reframed the way that I thought of education as a much broader part of our daily lives.
I think that if I could redo this summer the only thing I would do differently is to incorporate more interviews into my project. I only ended up doing two interviews with teachers but I feel like they both had really valuable input and having the chance to talk to more teachers would’ve given me a different perspective that would have strengthened my overall project.
During my time with HRAP I have come to realize that there is so much more to science policy than I originally thought. Before this summer I had thought that I wanted to pursue Environmental Law because that was the best way to make a widespread impact on environmental issues that I cared about. However, after getting to spend time involved in the science outreach and education that HRAP does I am less sure about going into law or policy. I have really come to enjoy the hands-on, local conservation efforts that I am a part of.
Additionally, I have gotten to see up close how local organizations work and how many people need to be involved to make any sort of meaningful change. I also think that because it is a smaller organization we get to be more in tune with the community and its needs which I think is also very important. For example, last week I worked on a field trip for a group of kids and their parents and getting to talk to them individually about stewardship and how to get involved was very eye opening and I got to feel like I was connecting and making an impact on those people. I also have gotten the opportunity to talk to some people who do work in state and federal level policy positions and something that is brought up frequently is how they have to deal with bureaucracy and often feeling like they are stuck or being slowed down by the bureaucratic systems that are in place.
I do think that working in science policy would be a very rewarding experience and enable me to be part of the large level changes that I want to see and be a part of, but working at a local level has also shown me how fulfilling working at a smaller scale can be.
Week four is almost over and my time in Cannon Beach is really ramping up! My project is centered around reviewing the current virtual field trip program at Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) and then conducting a literature review to make recommendations for how the program can be improved going forward. I personally really love this project because I think that it’s a great way to involve kids that might not have a way to be able to come to the beach or get to see tide pools.
I have spent the last couple of weeks doing lots of research about both environmental education and field trips. More specifically, virtual field trips. This has been really interesting because it’s a very new field so there isn’t tons of research that has been done and there are still lots of gaps in the field. However, it’s really interesting to see how many different perspectives there are for something as seemingly simple as field trips and how many different considerations there are in where schools go and how they impact student learning.
Because so much of my work is research and recommendation based, it means that I spend most of my time on a laptop looking up research or writing out my report. This week I’ve also been reaching out to some teachers to see what obstacles they face in engaging with online learning resources and how I might be able to overcome them.
Since so much of work is done on a computer, I have a really hard time focusing for the entire day and my favorite way to take a break is to get outside! I personally love going down to the beach and getting to talk to everyone that’s visiting. It always pushes me to learn more about all the plants and animals we have down at the beach and I love getting to answer questions and explain things that they might not have known before. It’s a great way to get outside, especially when the weather’s nice and it’s always a welcome break from staring at a screen. I am definitely lucky that I get to be fully in-person for the summer and I really try to take advantage of that by getting involved in as many things as possible and really getting to know the area. For example, today I started my day by spending a couple hours down at the beach where I saw a molting barnacle which was definitely a fun sight and then attended a board meeting for a partner organization of HRAP where I gave a brief introduction of what I’m working on for the summer and how it will benefit the conservation efforts at Haystack Rock. Over the next couple of weeks I hope to continue to do my research as well as get to talk to some teachers about what they would like to see from a virtual format.
It is officially almost the end of my second week with Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) and I am starting to get a very good idea of their mission and how my project fits into that mission as well as Sea Grant’s vision. My primary project is creating a virtual education center. The education center will incorporate new research surrounding virtual field trips, 21st century curriculum, and NGSS science standards for a variety of age groups. This education center will help reach students all over the country that might not have access to field trips to intertidal zones. This project will accomplish a variety of goals, the main one being to modernize the current virtual field trip option, as well as just being able to reach a bigger group of people.
Another part of my work here is to assist with their summer camps, in-person field trips, and occasionally working as an interpreter on the beach. Last week I got to go on a two part field trip to the Ecola Creek Forest Reserve and Haystack Rock with a group of kids. Both of those trips gave me a close up look at what HRAP’s education looks like up close. Seeing the current educational programs gives me a much better idea of what the virtual program should look like as well as build my knowledge of conservation and native species in the area! Last week I saw clusters of squid eggs, a feeding starfish and tons of other cool things.
My primary project is directly tied to HRAP’s mission, “to protect, through education, the intertidal and bird ecology of the Marine Garden and Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge at Haystack Rock.” By creating educational programs that are more accessible to a wider range of people, more people are inclined to be interested in marine conservation and be stewards to their environment. Additionally, by incorporating the ideas and theories of 21st century learning I am able to create a virtual program that is more engaging than the traditional video lecture approach. By creating a more engaging program that appeals to kids hopefully they will want to be more involved with conservation, and grow up to be more ecologically responsible.
This also aids in Sea Grant’s mission to have thriving coastal communities, by serving as a catalyst that promotes discovery, understanding and resilience for Oregon coastal communities and ecosystems. My project aids in this goal by acting as an educational catalyst that promotes both discovery and understanding of a coastal ecosystem.