A Season of Growth

If anyone would tell me growing up that I would go into outdoor education I would not have believed them. I’ve always been an extreme introvert, and new experiences would quickly overwhelm me. Yet, somehow down the line, I decided that volunteering at the Minnesota Zoo would be a good option for me during junior high and high school. It would help me come out of my shell, yet although each summer brought fond memories, it would take my last few years of college to realize that it was benefiting my career goals.

After taking a chance and looking into interpretation jobs, I accepted an environmental education internship at Carpenter Nature Center (CNC). It sounded like my dream job, but I had never done environmental education before. Luckily, it was just outside of my comfort zone enough to help me grow, but not so much that it was overwhelming. And although environmental education has a lot of pros, it reaffirmed my belief that interpretation was the route for me. I had one semester of college left, and then I was determined to get an interpretation job somewhere.

Yet, as I looked it seemed like the places that offered interpretation weren’t hiring, or only had camps available. I had tried camps at CNC, but not overnight camps, and they were still far out of my comfort zone. Still, I wasn’t going to limit myself based on a job description, so I applied anyway.

As a went through the interview process for Ohio FFA Camp Muskingum’s Nature’s Classroom program, I still kept a look out for interpretation jobs. I was finding a couple closer to home, and thought that surely one of those would be a better fit than camp.

Yet, somehow I got the job at Nature’s Classroom. If I were a little more subjective I don’t know that I would have taken it. All throughout the interview process I liked the sound of outdoor education, but camp in Ohio was sounding too far outside my comfort zone. At the same time, how would I know I liked it if I didn’t try it?

I don’t think it hit me that I was committed until I was on the plane. Even as I was meeting the rest of the staff, I still was unsure of what to expect. Most of them had camp backgrounds, and since mine was limited, I found it a bit intimidating. However, it didn’t take long for us to connect as a group, and the longer we spent during staff training, I realized I was already learning from everyone. I still wasn’t sure what I had to offer, but it was a start.

Once we started getting our first groups of students I had to learn the routine quickly. However, it wasn’t as far out of my comfort zone as I expected. All the education components of camp were similar to what I had already done during my internship, but the groups of students were with us for a few days rather than a few hours.

As I reflect on the season, I realize how much I have grown. I’ve never had a job has pushed me, while knowing that I can trust my employers to know what I am capable of. Unlike interpretation where new guests come in each day, camp has provided me with opportunities to be a more active leader.

Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s strange to think about starting camp so worried about what might happen. I thought spending one season at camp would help diversify my resume before going back to interpretation, but now that I’ve finished that season I’m not so sure what my future holds.

I love interpretation. I have a nostalgic attachment to it for being one of the first things that got me seriously interested in a career in environmental education, but now I’m wondering if it will give me enough of a challenge to help me grow as an educator. Does that mean I could do camp forever? Probably not, but if I am able to, I would love to take advantage of it for as long as it allows me to grow.

It’s been a season full of long days, and short weeks, that have felt like they went by way too fast. In those three months, I have had my perception of environmental education shift, and feel a lot more confident in my abilities. However, I also know that I am not done growing. I always want to be in a position that helps me stretch myself, and I am happy that I was able meet my goals at FFA Camp Muskingum for a season.

Trillium, the Ohio state wildflower.

Trillium, the Ohio state wildflower.

1 Comment »

  1. […] spring I wrote this post about the growth I’ve experienced at FFA Camp Muskingum. Now that the second season is […]

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