Each summer, HCSEG hires numerous interns to help with education, outreach, farming, monitoring and more. Our upcoming fall newsletter will feature profiles from some of our interns. As a preview, Christine VanDeen, our summer education intern, gave us a snapshot into her world during her internship.
My name is Christine VanDeen, and I am currently finishing up my third and final year at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina as a marine science major after finishing an amazing summer internship with the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group.
Although I chose to go to college in the south, I was born and raised on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington. Going into the summer before my last year of college I had been looking into internship possibilities, determined to find something that would help me determine what direction I wanted to take after I graduate. I knew that I wanted to come back home to the Northwest, and that I absolutely loved the outdoors. I focused my search on Oregon, Alaska, and of course my home sweet home, Washington. I actually just stumbled on to the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement webpage one day during my search and happened to see that there was an education and outreach internship available. I applied for the position that day and within less than 24 hours I was over the moon with the fact that I had officially secured an intern position for the upcoming summer!
I started off my internship not really knowing what to expect. The first couple weeks turned out to be a lot of planning for the annual GreenSTEM summit, which serves local schools that have been working on a field-based environmental project throughout the school year. When the day of the summit finally came around (it seemed like I had been planning this event for forever some days – painting sharing circles, calling local agencies and organizations, confirming attendance, etc – it was well worth the wait. We had so many local groups involved. From tying fishing flies to learning about stormwater runoff, the kids got to explore a little bit of everything relating to their local environment. The students had also prepared their own presentations which they then shared with students from the other schools in attendance, and it was amazing to see how much work and creativity these kids had put into some of their projects.
The next big project I coordinated was the GreenSTREAM summer camp. This was by far the highlight of my summer. The camp was geared towards kids in 6th to 12th grade, each week having a different theme relating to the Hood Canal Watershed. We explored farming, estuaries, beaches, rivers, forests, and a couple more topics throughout the summer, usually reaching out to our local partners for resources and activities. Thursdays (and the occasional Wednesday) I would spend my day prepping for camp with the help of the awesome staff and fellow interns, and Friday would be spent doing environmental education activities with the kids, playing games, going on field trips to various areas around Hood Canal and all around having a great time. I would joke that Friday was our excuse to act like a kid again since anyone and everyone that helped out with the camp would always get roped into playing some kind of game with the kids during the day. One of the most rewarding parts of being on the teaching side of things was seeing the moment when a kid got really into a topic, or learned something new and see to their excitement about the environment. I also got to watch some of the kids really come out of their shells and realize that being disconnected from electronics and out in nature wasn’t so bad after all.
The time that I spent with the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group really helped to solidify my idea of where I would like to end up in life as a career and I can’t thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to work with them. Some days I felt like I was learning just as much if not more than the kids.