Oh, the Sterling internship. Where you plan on doing yours or what you already did for one is part of your Sterling identity — along with your work program position, where you’re from, and your major. It’s hard to believe I only have four weeks left at The Green Schoolhouse. Back in January when I was interviewing at five different organizations, trying to decide what I wanted to do and which organizations would hire me, just the notion of selecting one felt so far away. Now it’s nearing completion. How did that happen?
The Green Schoolhouse is an environmental education organization, building earth stewardship through outdoor play and garden exploration. The day camps allow children the freedom to get to know the garden and wild spaces on their own terms through imagination, games, crafts, and stories. In official terms, it’s somewhere between a Reggio Emilia, Waldorf, and Montessori approach, and uses constructivism and collaborative learning teaching methods to build local ecological knowledge. But really, what the Green Schoolhouse does is just create a space to let kids be themselves, and allow nature to teach.
As the Garden Education Intern, I not only support the endless creativity of young children, but also share the quiet gifts of nature I find and encourage their own investigation. From the ichneumon wasp we observed laying her eggs, to creating a guidebook of medicinal garden plants, to revealing the ten rules for finding your perfect rock. On any given day, I’ll make fairy dolls, bake blackberry bread, ask the kids what they know about bees, read picture books, talk about habitats while building gnome houses, play six rounds of Eagle Eye or Peter Pan Tag, and point out a beautiful spider web.
What I’ve realized in my time here is how beneficial it is for children to have a space like this in their lives — using nature as their playground, their sense of wonder for learning, and their hands, bodies, and senses for interacting with the earth. I hear the same feedback from parents over and over again: My child just loves it here! It’s his absolute favorite summer camp. The other day at the grocery store, my daughter was begging me to buy zucchini. I saw my child whispering “thank you” to the tree in our backyard after camp yesterday.
Seeing not only the children loving this program, but their parents as well has made me feel so validated in choosing to attend Sterling. Programs promoting environmental stewardship are thriving and beginning to move into the mainstream. And I get to be in the heart of it.
My internship has re-charged my verve of Sterling and made me remember the importance of the work our community is doing. I can’t wait to return to Craftsbury in the fall. But until then, I’ve got gnome footprints to track, pickles to make, and pollinator games to play.