Voices in education: Kiri Brenner, intern at Rockville’s Lathrop E. Smith Environmental Education Center -- Gazette.Net


Why did you decide to go into Environmental Studies?

Oberlin [College] has a strong [Environmental Studies] department, and it was a great opportunity. They are putting in all kinds of green programs, every new building needs to meet high LEEDS [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] standards and their Environmental Studies building operates totally on solar power.

Tell me about your internship here.

I am part of the Chesapeake Conservation Corps, which is run by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and I am here helping with environmental education because what happens in this area effects the Chesapeake Bay.

I’m really interested in becoming a teacher someday, and this program has made me interested in teaching middle school. I have enjoyed working with sixth-graders in the Outdoor Education Program. You never know what is going to come out of their mouths. It’s a lot of fun, and I work to figure out how to pass on the knowledge to them.

My internship is one year, August 2012 to August 2013. It lets me shadow teachers, lead programs and work with teachers who are here with their students.

I am working on planting a garden with fourth grade students at Sargent Shriver Elementary School, Silver Spring. It ties in with their curriculum, and they will maintain it. That’s been my capstone project for this year.

Did you go to Outdoor Education here when you were in sixth grade?

I went here, and I loved it. I remember the predator/prey class really well. Every kid got a role — a carnivore, herbivore or omnivore — and was in a field for an hour trying to find what they needed and trying not to get killed. It’s a great lesson in ecosystems dynamics, how animals work together and what happens when an ecosystem gets out of balance. We still play it.

Outdoor Education runs pretty much all of the school year. Sixth-graders come for two nights and three days. They do team building and science. It’s a great program. It gets kids outside, and they can become comfortable being outside.

They can’t bring any electronics — that’s what they worry about, but we keep them really busy.

What would be your ideal job after this internship?

I really want to get a job in Outdoor Education. I don’t have a teaching degree, which can be a problem, but there are a lot of outdoor ed jobs in Maryland. There are a lot of nonprofits that run residential programs. Finding places to work is not a problem, it’s getting the job.

Part of the purpose of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is to give people professional skills to work in the field.

What would you like to leave with your students?

Through this program, every time I take a group of kids outside, I hope to get them excited. There is so much to learn just being outside. You don’t even have to know the science, They get excited about the tiniest thing, even an ant crawling on the ground.

I don’t think there is a ton of time left in kids’ lives to be outside either because of other activities or lack of opportunity. There is a high number of kids without time to be outside with an adult.

“Voices in Education” is a twice-monthly feature that highlights the men and women who are involved with the education of Montgomery County’s children. To suggest someone you would like to see featured, email Peggy McEwan at pmcewan@gazette.net.