My first day commuting into New York City was stressful to say the least. I immediately felt out of place surrounded by the millions of noises of a fast-paced city full of people who all seemed to be in a hurry. An hour and a half later, I arrived at my destination: a small patch of green sandwiched in between a tattoo shop and the busy street. This was the Children’s Magical Garden, one of the main places I would be spending my time as an Environmental Education Intern with More Gardens. Upon arriving at the garden, I was warmly greeted by the rest of the staff and instantly felt comfortable. I had no idea that I was walking into such an inspiring and passionate group of people.
As I searched for a summer internship, I was attracted by More Gardens’ dedication to creating safer neighborhoods in New York City and providing kids with access to green space as well as the opportunity for environmental based experiential learning. More Gardens is an organization that advocates for both the creation and protection of community gardens in New York City. Originally founded by community activists as a way to combat crime, the community gardens have brought people together and enabled kids to become involved in environmental issues at a young age. Each summer, More Gardens puts on two different summer camps which offer free environmental education to anyone interested.
As an intern specifically for these camps, I have spent the past few weeks preparing for the two camps. This not only involves discussing the curriculum for the camp, but also includes critical conversations related to issues of race, gender and class. We have had a number of intensive trainings designed to prepare the interns and the rest of the staff for situations that may arise during the camps. The trainings cover a variety of different topics, many focused on dealing positively with difficult issues. Most importantly, we are learning to approach issues with an open mind and without making assumptions about others. The goal is for the kids to adopt a similar mindset, allowing them to be respectful of each other and open to a diversity of viewpoints.
I am so grateful to be working with such compassionate and dedicated people and I am amazed by how much I have learned already. After weeks of training and difficult discussions I feel prepared to lead these kids but I know that I will learn and be inspired just as much from them as they will from me.