My First Term of Service: A Time of Discovery, Excitement, and Gratitude

A Reflection On My Time As Audubon Vermont's Education and Outreach Coordinator AmeriCorps Member 2023

When I was first deciding what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, my main choice was working with animals. At the time, I thought the only way to get hands on work with animals was to be a veterinarian, so that’s what I ran with. I had decided that I wanted to get a degree in pre-veterinary science and then go on to be a wildlife veterinarian for the state of Florida. As it turns out, I am not very good at chemistry, which is necessary for a degree in pre- veterinary science, and there are more ways than one to work with wildlife. In my sophomore

year of college at Penn State, I discovered a program called Outdoor School, or ODS. This was a week-long environmental education program for 5th and 6th graders from around the state. Penn State students would transform into counselors and spend the week at Camp Blue Diamond to encourage middle schoolers to learn, play, and discover their place in the natural world. It was here that I first found environmental education, and where I felt that spark of “oh yeah, this is what I’m meant to do”. Environmental education allowed me to couple my love for wildlife and the natural world with my love for teaching and inspiring children. After my first week of ODS, I asked the program director what I needed to study to do this for the rest of my life. Since then, I have been on the path of lifelong learning and exploration as an environmental and conservation educator. That path brought me here to Vermont, and eventually up to Audubon Vermont as the Education and Outreach Coordinator AmeriCorps member.

And so, as quickly as it had begun, my first term here at Audubon Vermont has officially come to an end. These past eight months have held some of the best moments of my professional career; from laughing and playing at summer camp, to rediscovering the world through the eyes of a four-year-old. This year, I was able to provide environmental education to 991 participants in a variety of programs. Here on campus, I helped to lead forest classroom, forest playschool, free nature playgroup, our free afterschool program, Unschool, fieldtrips, and our summer camps. Off campus, I was able to bring Audubon Vermont’s programming to the King Street Center in Burlington, Herrick’s Cove Wildlife Festival, Essex Pride Festival, and the Northeast Organic Farmers Association’s Annual Conference. I have been lucky enough to serve alongside an amazing team of educators, who have passed on countless skills and a rich knowledge of Vermont’s environment. I have also been lucky to have formed great relationships within the community of Huntington and beyond. It has been such an honor getting to know the families
that I’ve served this year, and especially being able to watch their children blossom in both their self-confidence and understanding of the natural world.

This year has solidified for me that I am exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I need to be doing. I love what I do. I love coming to my host site every day and getting to spend the majority of it outside. I love watching children make connections that they’ve never thought of before, or holding a salamander or frog for the first time. I love watching them find a million different uses for a stick, and their imagination running wild. There isn’t anything that I would rather spend my days doing, and I am thankful that my path brought me here. It can be hard to know when still in college if you’re making the right decision career wise for yourself. With an ever-changing climate, you never know if there will be jobs out there waiting for you. Choosing your passion over convenience takes hard work and dedication, and it isn’t for everyone. But it is for me, and I’m lucky enough to do it every day.

I am so grateful to the amazing team at Audubon Vermont for their kindness, support, and endless knowledge. The education team especially have been my biggest cheerleaders during this time, and I am truly a better educator for having served under them. I cannot wait to return for another term and to continue doing what I love in such a magical and beautiful place.

Thank you for an amazing year. See you again soon!

All Staff Photo at our Summer Celebration Photo: Audubon Vermont

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