Spring intern gains invaluable experience
By Karen Obando ‘13
When Aja Kennedy ‘12 applied for an APPLES spring internship, she had already discovered her passion for education through various academic roles on campus. As a romance languages and international studies double major, Kennedy has served as a Spanish course teaching assistant, created lesson plans for Latino community members enrolled in ESL classes and tutored language students at the Learning Center. Her dedication to education explains why she was drawn to an APPLES spring internship where she could travel to different schools in the area and interact with elementary school students. Along with valuable teaching experience, Kennedy’s internship position at the North Carolina Botanical Garden also broadened her understanding of environmental education and gave her a chance to explore new topics outside of international and language studies alongside of her fifth-grade students.
“When people hear that I [worked] with the Botanical Garden, they assume that I studied environmental studies… but environmental education is completely new to me,” said Kennedy. As a K-12 outreach intern at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, Kennedy is responsible for teaching different classes of fifth-grade students at local elementary schools. As a result, she has become more environmentally aware and learned about environmental processes through her lesson planning. The lesson plan Kennedy takes to different schools informs students about producers, consumers and decomposers and how these different aspects of the environment interact in our ecological system. As a result of her work at the Botanical Garden, the elementary school outreach initiative that had become inactive during the past year has renewed interest.
Since the start of her internship, Kennedy has reached out to local elementary schools by designing and distributing program flyers, contacting elementary school teachers and preparing lesson plan materials outside of the classroom. Because of her efforts, the program is now being implemented in several elementary schools once again, building on the program’s foundation. Now that Kennedy has experience developing the educational program, she is starting to expand on the existing curriculum and developing a new lesson plan to share with future students and interns.
Kennedy’s practical experience in elementary school classrooms was reinforced by her participation in the APPLES course that all spring interns take. The first topic the spring course covered was education, which Kennedy was thrilled about, considering her background in teaching and tutoring. She believes that the course has been an effective component of her internship experience because it has sparked discussion encompassing many areas of the community in which other spring interns are serving. The spring course brings together students who have a passion for service, but who have distinct interests that range from human trafficking to nutrition. “[The course] has helped me get more out of my experience, see the connections with other causes, and see the connections with the way other organizations are run,” said Kennedy.
With the summer underway, APPLES is using the spring internship course component as a model for the summer online course that will be offered in partnership with the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education and School of Social Work. Like the spring course, the summer online course will enhance the students’ internship experience and allow them to reflect on the value of service and the impact it has on partnering communities. For Kennedy, her work at the North Carolina Botanical Garden has not only benefited her elementary students, but it has also been extremely relevant to her personal interests and career goal of becoming a teacher. While reflecting on the classroom management skills that she will undoubtedly use in the future, Kennedy expressed that she “could not have asked for a more perfect internship.”
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Kennedy teaches elementary school students about owls and their role in local ecosystems.
Kennedy gives a lesson about