Summer Internship Series: Emily Oaks Nature Center

Craig Freeland ’19

Emily Oaks Nature Center, Skokie, Illinois

My​ ​name​ ​is​ ​Craig​ ​Freeland​ ​and​ ​I​ ​am​ ​an​ ​Environmental​ ​Studies​ ​and​ ​Educational​ ​Studies​ ​double major​ ​with​ ​a​ ​minor​ ​in​ ​Art​ ​History​ ​and​ ​Visual​ ​Culture​ ​from​ ​Lanham,​ ​MD.​ ​This​ ​summer​ ​I​ ​had​ ​the opportunity​ ​to​ ​work​ ​at​ ​Emily​ ​Oaks​ ​Nature​ ​Center​ ​in​ ​Skokie,​ ​Illinois.​ ​Prior​ ​to​ ​this​ ​I​ ​spent​ ​two​ ​days at​ ​another​ ​non-profit,​ ​but​ ​quit​ ​after​ ​realizing​ ​the​ ​organization​ ​did​ ​not​ ​operate​ ​with​ ​the​ ​integrity that​ ​I​ ​expected.

At​ ​Emily​ ​Oaks​ ​I​ ​held​ ​a​ ​host​ ​of​ ​positions.​ ​Initially,​ ​I​ ​started​ ​off​ ​the​ ​summer​ ​as​ ​a​ ​camp​ ​program leader​ ​at​ ​their​ ​summer​ ​camp​ ​named​ ​Earth​ ​Adventures.​ ​The​ ​camp​ ​was​ ​run​ ​by​ ​lifelong environmental​ ​educator​ ​Jill​ ​Flaherty,​ ​whose​ ​specific​ ​position​ ​at​ ​Emily​ ​Oaks​ ​is​ ​School-Age Coordinator,​ ​which​ ​means​ ​that​ ​throughout​ ​the​ ​entire​ ​year​ ​she​ ​is​ ​primarily​ ​organizing​ ​programing for​ ​students​ ​from​ ​grades​ ​K-12​ ​and​ ​even​ ​younger.​ ​Working​ ​under​ ​Jill​ ​were​ ​three​ ​camp​ ​directors and​ ​the​ ​camp​ ​program​ ​leaders,​ ​who​ ​were​ ​all​ ​college-aged.​ ​Each​ ​of​ ​us​ ​had​ ​a​ ​group​ ​of​ ​about​ ​8-9 campers​ ​whose​ ​ages​ ​varied​ ​from​ ​6-11.​ ​My​ ​group​ ​was​ ​comprised​ ​of​ ​9​ ​years​ ​olds​ ​full​ ​of personality​ ​and​ ​energy.​ ​These​ ​qualities​ ​made​ ​the​ ​work​ ​difficult​ ​at​ ​times​ ​but​ ​its​ ​was​ ​also incredibly​ ​rewarding​ ​experience.

The​ ​bulk​ ​of​ ​our​ ​responsibilities​ ​included​ ​basic​ ​supervision​ ​and​ ​running​ ​programs.​ ​Running programs​ ​was​ ​the​ ​phrase​ ​that​ ​the​ ​organization​ ​used​ ​for​ ​leading​ ​activities.​ ​These​ ​programs covered​ ​a​ ​wealth​ ​of​ ​topics​ ​including​ ​the​ ​carbon​ ​cycle,​ ​energy​ ​transfers,​ ​and​ ​photosynthesis.​ ​On top​ ​of​ ​those​ ​programs,​ ​the​ ​camp​ ​went​ ​to​ ​a​ ​local​ ​pool​ ​every​ ​Tuesday​ ​and​ ​Thursday,​ ​taught​ ​how to​ ​build​ ​fires,​ ​and​ ​went​ ​on​ ​field​ ​trips​ ​all​ ​around​ ​the​ ​area.​ ​All​ ​of​ ​this​ ​was​ ​done​ ​in​ ​the​ ​span​ ​of​ ​a​ ​4 week​ ​session,​ ​and​ ​when​ ​those​ ​4​ ​weeks​ ​came​ ​to​ ​an​ ​end​ ​I​ ​was​ ​truly​ ​sad​ ​to​ ​see​ ​the​ ​campers leave.

In​ ​the​ ​second​ ​half​ ​of​ ​the​ ​summer​ ​the​ ​nature​ ​of​ ​my​ ​work​ ​changed​ ​greatly.​ ​I​ ​worked​ ​with​ ​the campers​ ​on​ ​occasions​ ​as​ ​a​ ​substitute,​ ​but​ ​the​ ​bulk​ ​of​ ​my​ ​work​ ​became​ ​land​ ​management​ ​and building​ ​maintenance.​ ​I​ ​spent​ ​hours​ ​preparing​ ​firewood,​ ​laying​ ​down​ ​mulch,​ ​and​ ​repairing structures​ ​found​ ​around​ ​the​ ​nature​ ​center.​ ​The​ ​work​ ​was​ ​very​ ​hands-on​ ​and​ ​I​ ​feel​ ​much​ ​more comfortable​ ​using​ ​hand​ ​tools​ ​after​ ​completing​ ​my​ ​employment​ ​at​ ​Emily​ ​Oaks.​ ​And​ ​use​ ​of​ ​tools was​ ​only​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​many​ ​skills​ ​that​ ​I​ ​gained​ ​this​ ​summer.

Living​ ​independently​ ​this​ ​summer​ ​was​ ​a​ ​blast,​ ​but​ ​there​ ​were​ ​many​ ​people​ ​that​ ​helped​ ​me along​ ​the​ ​way​ ​to​ ​ensure​ ​it​ ​went​ ​as​ ​smooth​ ​as​ ​it​ ​did.​ ​I​ ​would​ ​like​ ​to​ ​thank​ ​my​ ​supervisors​ ​Jill Flaherty​ ​and​ ​Lee​ ​Hansen​ ​for​ ​being​ ​so​ ​willing​ ​to​ ​hire​ ​me​ ​and​ ​make​ ​accommodations.​ ​Second,​ ​I would​ ​like​ ​to​ ​thank​ ​all​ ​of​ ​my​ ​co-workers​ ​this​ ​summer,​ ​especially​ ​the​ ​cohort​ ​of​ ​camp​ ​program leaders​ ​that​ ​quickly​ ​became​ ​my​ ​friends​ ​that​ ​I​ ​would​ ​hang​ ​out​ ​with​ ​whenever​ ​I​ ​wasn’t​ ​at​ ​work. Lastly,​ ​I​ ​would​ ​like​ ​to​ ​thank​ ​my​ ​friend​ ​Natalia​ ​Duarte​ ​her​ ​mother​ ​Paula​ ​Freeman​ ​for​ ​allowing​ ​me to​ ​stay​ ​at​ ​their​ ​home​ ​for​ ​free​ ​and​ ​become​ ​a​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​family.​ ​Without​ ​any​ ​of​ ​these​ ​people​ ​the summer​ ​I​ ​described​ ​above​ ​would​ ​have​ ​been​ ​impossible​ ​and​ ​I​ ​can’t​ ​have​ ​enough​ ​gratitude​ ​for any​ ​one​ ​of​ ​them.