This summer will be my fifth working at Journey’s End Farm Camp as a counselor. My job revolves around childcare and activity planning, but due to the nature of the camp, many of the activities I plan involve spending time in the garden or the woods. I lead children in turning compost, weeding, harvesting, and identifying invasive species. As I have become more experienced, I have started to help newer staff adapt to the demands of the camp schedule and help them learn the skills they need to be successful. I have also led overnight backpacking trips and camping trips with campers. Above all, being a counselor at Journey’s End requires boundless energy, creativity, flexibility, and the ability to find joy in getting dirty outside.
Working at Journey’s End has taught me the importance of self-care and time management to keep my energy levels up. A lack of energy is particularly obvious around kids, but maintaining my energy is important when I am away from children as well. At Journey’s End I have also learned how to handle difficult situations under pressure and how to work with an ever-changing staff. In the years I have been on staff we have had multiple unexpected serious health problems come up that required immediate attention, and after working through them with the rest of the staff I feel more capable of working calmly and steadily under pressure. Because the staff changes every year and multiple times over the course of the summer, I have also had to learn how to work well with near strangers and how to pay close attention and listen to make sure they are getting the support they need. The staff at Journey’s End must be tight-knit and compassionate in order for the summer to run smoothly. Most importantly, I have learned that treating everyone as an equal no matter their age or experience is essential to build healthy, supportive relationships between staff members.
As a student with an Environmental Studies major and a Global Studies concentration in Ecology and Sustainability, I think that education of children about the environment and its value is very important, especially as environmental issues become more prevalent. Children will grow up to become leaders of their society, and if they do not value the environment, then they will not work to protect it. Working as a counselor at Journey’s End has helped me learn a variety of ways to interest children in the outdoors.
Last summer I worked as an intern at both the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and Shadyside Worms in Pittsburgh. My responsibilities with the Parks Conservancy included finding ways to get local children interested in August Wilson Park in the Hill District so that they would grow to value the green spaces of Pittsburgh and eventually protect them as adults. My experience in August Wilson Park was unexpectedly different from my experience working with children at Journey’s End because of the differences between the childrens’ experiences with the outdoors. The children in August Wilson Park last summer often had to be convinced to join activities that involved interacting with the green part of the park instead of the playground, and we had to be very careful to keep them away from stinging insects and unmowed lawn in case of poison ivy. My experience in August Wilson Park gave me a larger variety of ways to get children enthusiastic about being outside.
With Shadyside Worms, I learned a third way to engage the public and teach them about the outdoors. I spent a great deal of time creating a binder explaining the composting process to make available to the public at the Frick Environmental Center. Rather than interacting directly with the visitors to the FEC, with the binder I would teach them less directly. The new medium forced me to become creative in other ways on paper to maintain visitors’ interest and make sure the content was understandable for everyone.