Each day I am grateful and blessed for the amazing opportunity to work as an educator and have the chance to learn more about coastal Georgia at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium. In the morning as I walk to work, I get to see the beauty of the live oak trees, the salt marsh and the Skidaway River.

For about two months, my colleagues and I planned the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, which our facility hosted on January 30th. The planning process was a lot of work, but also a great experience as we got the chance to contact a variety of scientists and environmental professionals about volunteering to speak at the summit.

The purpose of the event was to educate middle and high school students about marine conservation issues and to assist them in learning about project planning. The day of the event was terrific: we hosted over 35 participants from around the Southeast region. The students had the opportunity to learn about several different conservation efforts and organizations.

What I enjoyed most while hosting the summit was observing as the students became engaged in the project planning session. Many were inspired to reduce the amount of pollution going into the ocean, and they all had good ideas about how to help the environment. My hope is that the summit inspired the participants to take what they learned and follow through with a conservation activity or project in their own communities.

My internship also includes the opportunity to observe and assist some K- 4th-grade programs, both on-site and in schools. During the ocean animal outreach for kindergarten students, many of the children were excited to see and touch the shells and animals. Their exhilaration was priceless! I remember being their age, always delighted to have a special guest visit and teach about animals and the environment.

I remember being their age, always delighted to have a special guest visit and teach about animals and the environment.

So, it was a bit nostalgic to be “that special guest” now with my own student group. The 4th-grade classes that have visited the aquarium also seem to have a great time learning about endangered species and seeing the animals here. They always ask good questions and are very enthusiastic about marine life by the end of the program.

Additionally, I have taught the Horseshoe Crab Discovery lab for grades 7 and 8. In this lab, students learn about the anatomy and life history of the horseshoe crab, as well as its importance to humans. I also assisted with a Developed Barrier Island Study on Tybee Island, where the students learned about barrier islands, long shore currents, sea turtle nesting and coastal development. I will be leading more classes this month and during the busy spring months ahead. I can’t wait to teach again and learn more teaching styles.

Another great opportunity I was given was to judge at the 2016 Regional Science and Engineering Fair held for middle and high school students at Savannah State University. The students worked very hard on their presentations, and I was impressed with the ideas they came up with and how they collected their data. During the fair, the students learned some very important skills in research and communication. It was encouraging to see their interest in science at such young ages.

Overall, my experience here has been amazing, as I’ve gotten the chance to plan an event, teach and volunteer at community events. I hope to keep learning and take what I have learned as I continue on my journey as a scientist and educator.