This summer, Beyond School Bells, a statewide partnership of Nebraska Children, worked with a coalition of partners to design and implement a summer internship program in conservation management. The program had multiple goals:
- to expose high school students to careers in the field of conservation management through hands-on work experiences
- to introduce youth to the diverse natural beauty that makes up our great state
- to support the efforts of our partners to develop and field-test meaningful, hands-on learning experiences that Nebraska’s young people need to become citizens prepared to support our state’s future prosperity
We partnered with Native Futures in Scottsbluff and Omaha’s Girls Inc. to recruit young people to participate in a two-week series of hands-on work experiences designed to expose them to the diversity of career opportunities available across our great state. Each team of three students was supported by a mentor who worked alongside the youth and helped facilitate the mechanics of moving across the state and working and living in a variety of settings.
Anna Wishart served as a mentor for the group of female students who participated in the program. Anna, who is also a State Senator representing District 27 in Lincoln, summarized the girls’ experiences in a journal that we will be sharing with our readers over the next several weeks. Here is installment number one:
My name is Anna Wishart and I am the mentor for the girls group participating in Beyond School Bells Conservation Management Summer Internship program. For two weeks, we traveled across the state to learn about environmental sustainability, help with local conservation initiatives, and explore the outdoors. Here is part one of the field journal I developed recording the high points of our trip.
Meet Abbigail, Jade, and Nia.
Abby is an OPS high school senior and is determined to become a veterinarian. Jade just graduated and is enrolled in UNO to study sports medicine. Nia is also a recent graduate enrolled in UNO who plans to study architectural engineering.
I picked up Abby, Jade, and Nia at the North Omaha Girls Inc. in the morning. After saying goodbye to their parents, we headed out to buy supplies – boots, work gloves, sunscreen, ponchos, a first aid kit, and bug spray (thank goodness for the bug spray!). With our supplies in hand, we headed off to our first stop of the internship at Glacier Creek Preserve in Bennington.
Glacier Creek Preserve is 320 acres of tallgrass prairie, woodlands, and wetlands that serves as UNO’s Environmental Education and Research Facility. We were assigned to work with Tracy Coleman, Outreach & Administrative Specialist. Our projects included collecting wildflower seeds to be replanted next spring, pulling invasive species, and helping to assemble a nature lesson for elementary students.
After a rewarding and physically exhausting (it was 90+ degrees!) first day of our internship, we said goodbye to Tracy and Glacier Creek and headed to the home of Anne Hubbard, who hosted us for the three days we were interning in and around Omaha. (Editor’s note: Anne is a great supporter of the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation and the Beyond School Bells work. Supporters like Anne made the Conservation Internship possible.)
June 5 – 6
Our next stop for the internship was Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue. Fontenelle Forest is a 1,400-acre forest that includes hiking trails, children’s camps, and a raptor recovery center. We were assigned to work with Matt Miller, Restoration Biologist, to clear a trail in preparation for a controlled burn that will occur this fall. After we cleared the designated area, we toured the forest with Matt to see areas that had already experienced a controlled burn and observe the difference in flora and fauna after a burn.
We wrapped up our experience at Fontenelle Forest working alongside Valerie Slocum, Raptor Care Specialist, supporting the nature center’s animal enrichment and maintenance work and to expand our animal husbandry skills with rabbits, ferrets, and yes, even snakes.
Later that afternoon, Anne set us up with a VIP tour of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium – recognized as one of the best zoos in the world. During our afternoon tour at this Nebraska treasure, the girls gained hands-on experience learning about the zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research and ongoing research in molecular genetics, reproductive physiology, nutrition, and conservation medicine. The Center’s work is designed to support global biological conservation efforts, and the girls were able to see how local activities can have a global impact. Oh, and we also got to meet some amazing animals!
We said goodbye to Anne and her lovely dogs Nigil and Diva and started our travels west.
Stay tuned for more in the series from Anna’s Field Journal!