Charlotte Henderson, Wave Hill’s High School Programs Coordinator, helps administer Wave Hill’s Forest Project and Woodland Ecology Research Mentorship (WERM), both internships for teens.
All of a sudden, it was summer for Wave Hill’s high school programs, both Forest Project internship and the Woodland Ecology Research Mentorship (WERM). A tell-tale sign of summer is when our Ecology Building is decorated with maps and posters of all varieties—“Trees of Eastern US,” “Plant Parts,” and maps of the U.S., the world and Wave Hill. By the last week of June, the Crew Leaders had finished their two-week training and were bursting with excitement to meet their interns. Pencils were sharpened, chairs set out, tools cleaned and the projector primed for a presentation. When the first intern arrived for orientation, it seemed as if the wind had shifted—it finally felt like summer.
The two days of orientation were full of fun team-building and get-to-know-you activities. Led by Crew Leaders, interns were challenged to build a tent blind-folded (see above), flip a tarp while standing or sitting on it, or decipher statements through word and visual representations. (The last is like a game of “telephone” through drawing; some of the creations were hilarious.)
Interns learned a lot about their strengths and how to communicate effectively and clearly with their co-workers. Also played was a game in which interns and their partners had to “present” each other to the rest of the group. Some of the most impressive presentations included a rap, a lawyer-esque testimony and a very jovial “Who is this intern?” rhetorical question-and-answer session. Students were able to learn about each other and enjoy a ton of laughs along the way.
Chosen from a pool of more than 100 competitive applicants, the 25 Forest Project interns were ready to get to work on our official start day, June 29. The sun shone bright and crews set out into the field to learn how to properly handle tools and to pull up as much garlic mustard as they could. Over the next couple of days, our determined and fastidious interns were able to pull and bag over two, large dumpster-loads of garlic mustard, thus stopping it from spreading its seeds further. This is even more impressive when considered in the context of all the other things the interns accomplished: a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) class at Lehman College, a Restoration of NYC’s Natural Areas class, and getting to know each other!
The Forest Project interns had some help from their fellow classmates, the WERMs, as we refer to them here. The WERM program had its orientation day earlier in June, for which they traveled to New Jersey for a rare chance to explore the Hutcheson Memorial Forest. Guided by a Rutgers University post-doctorate expert on bees, students collected any insect they could catch—a praying-mantis, several native bee species and some cool beetles.
After an informative hike through the old-growth forest, we traveled to Duke Farms where the WERMs were able to engage with local providers at a farmers’ market, hang out with my mother’s large and furry dog Teddy and go on an exploratory and educational walk through the different ecosystems found on the vast grounds of Duke Farms.
Now into the summer’s third week, the programs are in full swing: those in the GIS class are progressing quickly through their labs; Restoration Ecology class students are applying the knowledge they’ve gained to their final project.
Additionally, “Senior WERMs” (those who will graduate from the 14-month program in August), mentored by scientists conducting research around the city, are working diligently on their own independent, NYC-based research projects. Three teams are at work, one on coyote behavior, one focusing on gaps in the forest canopy and the last looking at green infrastructure. These research projects offer the Senior WERMs a chance to apply all they have learned over the past year, even as the projects themselves add to the interns knowledge and skills. Way to go, Senior WERMs!