Little Lessons, Big Impacts: SUST Senior Cassidy Avent Reflects on Her Summer 2015 Internship with SCARCE

This guest post is by RU senior Cassidy Avent, a SUST major who interned during the Summer 2015 semester at the non-profit organization, SCARCE (School & Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education), based in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.  Here, Cassidy reflects back on her work as an environmental educator to young people across the DuPage County area

SCARCE, located at 799 Roosevelt Rd in Glen Ellyn, IL

SCARCE, located at 799 Roosevelt Rd in Glen Ellyn, IL

Throughout the summer of 2015, I had the wonderful opportunity to work as an intern at SCARCE in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. SCARCE, or School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education, is a non-profit government organization with a mission to “inspire people, through education, to preserve and care for the Earth’s natural resources, while working to build sustainable communities.”

SCARCE provides many education programs for the schools and communities within and around DuPage County, and also runs many Rescue Projects that save materials from landfills in order to distribute these resources to teachers and people in need. Kay McKeen founded SCARCE 25 years ago, and during those years she has brought together and helped so many different people. This internship has furthered my knowledge on environmental issues, has enhanced my communication with schools and the DuPage County community, and most of all, has furthered my inspiration to help make people aware of environmental issues and solutions.

Me at the Greenhouse Open House

Me at the Greenhouse Open House

As an intern, my responsibilities throughout the summer varied with each task I was given. SCARCE employees, the other interns, and I would often go out to school and community events to give various educational presentations and demonstrations that we would share with students and families. My first community event while interning at SCARCE was at the Greenhouse Open House at Cantigny Park, where SCARCE employee Kelly Burda and I made recycled paper with community members.

We talked about the importance of recycling paper, and also how the process itself works. This activity is aimed to show younger children how one type of paper turns into a new type, but also that it will never go back to its original form. I learned that providing a hands-on activity for children and other members of the community made them more engaged in the conversation rather than if they were given a lecture or simply told how paper recycling works.

Another event where I helped give an educational demonstration was when employee Sally Jungblut, interns Seth Quam and Julie Skarha, and I presented the watershed model at Jackson Middle School in Villa Park. The watershed model is one of the best tools to use when explaining how our region’s water is connected. We talked about how important it is to think about the watershed, how pollutants enter our watershed, and what solutions can be done to prevent pollution.

Rose Naseef demonstrating the watershed model.

Rose Naseef demonstrating the watershed model.

It was inspiring to see students become engaged in what we were telling them. Jackson Middle School is actually the middle school I attended as an adolescent, so it really felt like I was directly helping my own community. After this presentation, I felt it easier to talk to groups of students about environmental issues and concerns, and looked forward to engaging students in such a way again.

One of my favorite educational demonstrations that I aided in over the summer was at St. Peter and Paul School in Naperville, where we explained the energy efficiency of certain kinds of lightbulbs through the use of an Energy Bike. The bike’s back wheel was hooked up to a generator that would power incandescent lightbulbs, CFL lightbulbs, and LED lightbulbs. We were able to show the students the different energy inputs and outputs for each type of lightbulb. Incandescent lightbulbs required the most energy — or peddling, in this case — while LED lightbulbs required the least amount of energy. The students were able to use the bike as an interactive tool to understand how different lightbulbs require different amounts of energy.

The various demonstrations that the SCARCE team presents at schools and events around the DuPage County community really appeal to a younger crowd, and I think that this is very important when it comes to spreading environmental awareness. These hands-on activities allow for children and adolescents to grasp an idea or concept about recycling, conservation, and energy usage that they may not normally understand through lecture or class work. SCARCE is not only teaching these kids about environmental issues, they are preparing them to help create the solutions.

Wall art inside SCARCE office.

Wall art inside SCARCE office.

 

Submitted 5 Feb 2016 by Cassidy Avent

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