Emmy found her internship because she knew someone who completed the internship the previous summer, so she decided to apply. The Elmwood Park Zoo then reached out to her and asked if she wanted to work under the Education Department as a counselor. Each day, Emmy arrived at the zoo at 8:00am and had some time to prepare activities and lessons for the day depending on the theme of the week. The kids were dropped off at 8am, and from 9am-12pm, they walked around the zoo and had general talks about the animals. If there was a theme, she would focus her animal talks on that. There were also animal presentations, which would either be an up-close animal encounter or seeing one in the zoo’s theater. Emmy was a counselor for the older campers, so sometimes they would have more personal animal encounters, such as learning how to hold a snake or a turtle. After lunch, the kids would have a lesson and a craft that went along with it. The kids were picked up from 3-4pm, and Emmy had some time to prepare for the next day. The camps were also weekly, so she had a new group of campers each week.
This summer, Emmy worked with kids who had disabilities and disorders that she had learned about in her education courses, so she got real life experience and had to use the skills she learned at Ursinus. She also had to relearn some science material since she had to teach the campers about animals. In terms of education and shadowing, for her last education class, Emmy is thinking of choosing a class that focuses on younger grades. She learned a lot about age ranges and thinks that she would now like to teach middle school instead of high school. She also wants to learn more about animal training and how much animals understand us and their environment.
To Emmy, communication mattered the most during her internship because she was working with people her age and older, but also had to switch the way she was communicating to be able to talk to kids. The counselors used walkie talkies to communicate, so she had to always be aware of information being relayed through the walkie talkie while also caring for the campers. Emmy also had to be aware of what information was okay and not okay to share about the kids, and be aware of what she was saying to them. She also had to make sure that the kids understood her instructions since they were in a high risk area consisting of animals, crowds, and the outdoors.
Before her internship, Emmy knew what she wanted to do after graduating, but it has since changed. She enjoys working with both animals and kids, and working somewhere that combines the two would be worthwhile for her. She also has not taught in a classroom yet, though, so she wants to explore that more. The most challenging part of her internship was working with other people. Emmy had her own group of campers, but also did activities with the camp as a whole. Being able to move her schedule around to work with other groups, while also making sure the campers got the most out of their camp experience was a necessary skill. The coolest part of Emmy’s internship experience was being able to see animals up close every day. She got to meet a porcupine named Pokey and feed him a leaf!
A fun fact that Emmy learned during her internship is that porcupines can have curly hair!
Written by Alexa Alessandrini ’24