5 Things I Learned From My IslandWood Summer Internship

5 things I learned from my IslandWood Summer Internship

By IslandWood High School Intern, Delaney Flanigen



“Working with the children at IslandWood and learning alongside them has allowed me to see my impact on the environment in a drastically different light.”



Redmond High School Junior Delaney Flanigen

When I applied for a summer internship through Teens in Public Service (TIPS), I knew I wanted to give back to my community and gain an understanding of the management of an impactful nonprofit in a field I had no experience with. TIPS placed me at the Brightwater Education Center in Woodinville, to help IslandWood with their summer camp curriculum.


Prior to starting my internship, I was not familiar with IslandWood and had little to no knowledge of environmental science. I have never taken on a role that involved educating children or working with a larger team. Upon my placement at IslandWood, I had done lots of research into the main campus on Bainbridge Island and the programs that take place there, but I was surprised by the environment at Brightwater. In addition to the wastewater treatment plant, Brightwater Education Center has a forest, and I was extremely eager to learn more.


Now that I have had time to step back and reflect, here are five things I learned from interning with IslandWood:


Delaney took this photo of 5th and 6th graders on a Wallace Falls field trip

1. Ask questions


Though it could have been very intimidating to be surrounded by people who know so much about environmental science, it was not the case. Each staff member was always open and nonjudgmental to all questions, no matter how silly they may have seemed. This allowed me, and many other volunteers, to obtain a stronger understanding regarding environmental science.


2. Embrace the outdoors


Adapting to the environment was likely the greatest learning experience I’ve gained from my work with IslandWood. Ironically, I have never been an outdoors person. I was always the person who would run around a room if there was a bee or scream if a snake brushed past my feet. Yet, while constantly working in an outdoor environment alongside staff with a lot of environment related knowledge and skills I have found myself moving past those fears and learning to appreciate the beautiful environment that we are so lucky to have in Washington State.


3. You can do anything you set your mind to


Throughout the six weeks of IslandWood camps at Brightwater, two of the weeks involved field trips for the 5th – 6th graders. Most of the week entailed lots of hiking and exploring, which was particularly harder for some students than others. One day, we took the kids to hike Wallace Falls. Some of the kids were running around and jumping for joy, while other kids found themselves screaming and crying because they chose to believe that they were not physically capable of completing the hike. This event provided an opportunity for those campers to realize that there is nothing physically stopping them, that it is always the negative and incapable attitude that stops them from achieving their goals.



Delaney working with 5th graders to build a bird house

4. I can make a positive impact on the environment


Working with the children at IslandWood and learning alongside them has allowed me to see my impact on the environment in a drastically different light. IslandWood’s universal message of teaching children how to interact and make a positive impact in their environment was one of the most enlightening experiences I had. Often, we had discussions with the children on how to respect the origins of the indigenous lands, the people, the plants, the animals, and so much more. It surprised and excited me every day that I got to help support the next generation on how they view and appreciate every aspect of the environment.



5. Children are paying attention


One thing that I see differently is the way that children think, learn, and experience important life lessons. Working closely with these children has allowed me to understand that just because certain discussions about respect, interactions, and how to cope with emotions may not seem as if they have a lasting impact, they really do. Those discussions and experiences, however small they may be, leave a mark on their impressionable minds.


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