Over the summer and throughout this fall semester I have had the wonderful opportunity to work as one of two Environmental Education Interns at Sandy Creek Nature Center (SCNC). If you’ve never been to SCNC, or if us been a while, let me tell you about it. It is managed by the Athens-Clarke County Government and it falls within the Leisure Services Division. Additionally, SCNC is supported by SCNC Inc. which helps with fundraising for events and more! SCNC is located off of Highway 441 and is only about a ten minute drive from downtown Athens. The property features diverse trails, educational facilities, historic brick factory remains, and access to the North Oconee Greenway. Throughout my internship, I have gotten to see how each part of the Nature Center is run which has only solidified my passion for the PRTM field.
The first thing I learned at the Nature Center was how to properly care for all of the animals, whether they were on exhibit or used strictly as ambassador animals. SCNC is very fortunate to have many great volunteers, but summers are usually a bit slower than the school year, so I did a lot of animal care then. This involved feeding, changing water, cleaning enclosures, and more! I have really gotten the chance to become more confident in my animal handling skills, as well as in my knowledge of many species, both native and non-native. These are important skills to have as we use our animals for programs almost every day!
The next thing I learned was programming. Summer Camp was going on during my first few months, so I was able to help lead activities such as canoeing and also teach lessons on primitive tools and weaponry. Once camp ended, I was taught how to run each of the 5 birthday party topics. Birthday parties are very popular so that’s what I spend most of my Saturdays doing! I also get to take people on Naturalist Walks, read books to children for Critter Tales, and show animals at Nature’s Trading Post. The Nature Center also hosts special events such as Scary Oozy Slimy Day, Cookies with Santa, and more! In addition to these big events, we also host groups almost every morning from schools in and around the county. These are awesome because the kids not only get to attend a program, they also get to go on a hike!
Additionally, I have been taught basic maintenance and landscaping tasks that are required to keep the Nature Center up and running. I have also had the chance to do a fair bit of trail maintenance.
I highly encourage anyone who is on the fence to apply for an internship during their college career to go for it! There are some skills that are just harder to learn in classroom and scenarios that don’t happen unless you’re in the field (whatever that may look like for you). I have loved my time at SCNC because I have gotten to work with some of the most incredible people and gotten to lead some super fun programs!