everyday SCIENCE The Lake Washington Watershed Internship Program
In Washington State, a year-long program for high school students, called the Lake Washington Watershed Internship Program, is made possible through a collaboration among the city of Bellevue, Bellevue’s five high schools, the Pacific Science Center, and the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center. Throughout the year, 27 students meet once a week to learn about the watershed, conduct hands-on experiments, and work to restore the creek beds around Mercer Slough.
One way the program recruits student interns is by going into the schools and seeing who is involved in after-school ecology clubs. After an interview process, the interns are selected. Many stay with the program for 3 years, from 10th through 12th grade. During the first year, they participate as volunteers, but in subsequent years the students are paid.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the program is the opportunity that the high school students have to go into local elementary schools to teach younger children about the environment. “They create their own lesson plans and become really passionate about environmental education,” says Julie Rose, the program coordinator. “I hear some of the kids say that the internship inspired them to go into teaching.”
To learn more about the impact the program has had on the high school students, Rose and her colleagues posted a survey on the Internet through Facebook. Although the data are preliminary, it appears that interns stay in touch with each other and discuss how the program has affected their lives.
This past year, Rose and her colleagues reached the milestone of seeing more than 100 in-terns go through the program. As a testament to the program’s value, the Pacific Science Center has just made it a permanent part of its budget. “The Science Center recognized that the program is worthwhile,” explains Rose. “It is involved in the community and teaches people that science is fun and interesting.”14