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.