Intern Name: Hannah Windschitl
Major(s): Environmental Studies
Title/Place of Internship: Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center
How did you find out about your internship/fellowship/etc.?
I actually was fortunate enough to go to Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center (PWELC) as a student in 6th grade! Along with that, my mom has been taking her elementary students there for years, so when I began looking for internships, she recommended applying at Prairie Woods. I would say I've been connected to PWELC for awhile, but had never really pictured it as an internship opportunity until last spring!
What were your responsibilities at your internship/fellowship/etc.?
I don't think my internship was a "typical" internship with normal responsibilities. I had many tasks that went past working at a desk. I was able to teach students about the environment (which is exactly what I picture myself doing in the future!). The teaching segment was split into different main categories: water, trees, mammals, survival, insects, and plants. Being able to relate all of those topics back to climate change and modifying your own ways to help the Earth was probably my favorite part about the internship.
I also assisted with challenge courses, such as rock climbing and high ropes courses. This was a different aspect of outdoor learning. Instead of teaching about nature, students learned more about themselves. Many challenge courses provided the participants with ways to develop their courage, teamwork skills, and leadership qualities.
Along with these opportunities, I was also able to help with different outreach programs. Instead of students having to come all the way to Prairie Woods, we would bring the education and challenge courses to them. This was incredibly helpful for students who otherwise did not have access to outdoor education.
What was the most beneficial aspect of your experience?
I think my favorite part about the internship was helping students get into nature, sometimes for the first time. These days, many younger kids are stuck inside, playing on computers or phones. The students that came to Prairie Woods were in awe while we walked through the woods or found insects in the water. I loved watching their eyes light up with adventure as they were making real-life discoveries that you cannot find over a screen.
What was the most surprising thing you experienced or learned during your internship/fellowship/etc.?
One of the most surprising things I learned while working at Prairie Woods was how much you learned about yourself while teaching others. I did not realize that I would change as a person over the course of this summer, but I definitely did. I came out of this internship with a new sense of patience, a better perspective of my future, and a new love for learning and teaching that I did not have before.
How can you apply what you experienced at your internship/fellowship/etc. in the future?
This internship is exactly what I want to do in the future. I actually plan on working at Prairie Woods after I graduate, so this past summer worked out perfectly for my future endeavors.
What advice would you offer to future students interested in this experience?
The most important advice I can give to future students is to start looking for your internship early! Environmental education positions fill up fast and can be competitive. There are job postings everywhere on campus and you should not take the opportunities offered to you for granted. Finding an internship can get difficult once you get closer to the start date of the internship, so you are never too early to start looking!