Environmental studies major Brittany Simon ’11 has found a practical way to indulge in her interests and extend her learning beyond the classroom with an internship at the Reeves-Reed Arboretum this summer. Located in Summit, N.J., Reeves-Reed is a suburban conservancy that is dedicated to teaching children and adults about the environment and, more specifically, horticulture.
Simon’s internship responsibilities include horticultural tasks in the gardens, creating lesson plans, and teaching elementary school children about the environment. On a typical day she primps and trims the rose garden in the morning and in the afternoon she either teaches a lesson or prepares for the next day’s lesson. So far, Simon’s internship has given her the unique opportunity to teach and learn in a hands-on work environment. Starting in late June she will help run and organize a camp at the Arboretum for children ages 2 to 12.
On campus, Simon has participated in the Climate Task Force and Campus Greens, both of which have piqued her interest in environmental studies. But horticulture is a new area for her. Along with learning a lot about horticulture, Simon is learning other skills such as how to create a lesson plan and work more independently.
When Simon began her internship this summer, she had little idea how much she would learn, not only in the classroom sense, but on a personal level as well. Her interest in teaching kids comes partly from her participation in the HWS Eye-to-Eye program. Through Project Eye-to-Eye, Simon goes to Geneva Middle School once a week to mentor kids with learning disabilities. But she is benefiting in a different way from having so much individual responsibility in this internship. “I have been teaching my own classes, which is completely out of my comfort zone and it has helped me leave that comfort zone more often.”
She has been surprised in other ways, as well. “I am meeting very interesting people and they have helped me develop a love for gardening.” This fall she will continue her studies with a focus on the environment while she is abroad for the semester in Vietnam. She plans to get an internship dealing with Vietnamese water systems.