Putting People In Touch With Nature - Interview With Maddie McAndrews
Maddie McAndrews spent summer of 2021 as one of Pringle Nature Center's Naturalist Educators. This internship allowed Maddie to share with others the fun of wildlife.
Growing up close to a nature center in Fox Valley, Illinois, Maddie had always kept the idea of volunteering at a nature center in the back of her head. As she move to Kenosha, Wisconsin after transferring from the College of Lake County, Maddie was informed by an instructor for the internship opportunity at the Pringle Nature Center. Maddie is a Junior with a major in Environmental Studies, with a minor in Biology. This summer internship was a perfect match for Maddie to gain beneficial experience first-hand.
"I've always wanted to work at a nature center my whole life"
Educating the community's youth on the various ecosystems in Southern Wisconsin, Maddie spent her summer guiding children through the grounds of Pringle Nature Center as a Naturalist Educator Intern. Located in Bristol, Wisconsin, Pringle Nature Center was founded in 1998 and has welcomed children, families, and adults of all ages to learn the importance of the environment and the distinct species that live within the area.
Working with a supportive group of staff and volunteers, Maddie went behind the scenes of implementing engaging field trip programs to influence children to experience nature firsthand. Some programs included fun arts & crafts, games, and nature walks. Children ages two through five learned how important and fascinating nature truly is. Not only were children a part of all the fun at the nature center. Adults were also invited to Pringle and view the meteor showers, cloudy or not.
"The [activities] were fun, but we would tie it back to involving [children] with the environment."
Discovering new and appealing ways to show children in their summer programs the fun of science, Maddie taught children the educational methods of water testing in their frog pond. With engaging activates, Maddie was able to strengthen crucial communication skills to keep the children's attention. Finding the perfect balance of being polite and strict was quite a challenge. People from all over the area can come to visit the nature center. With that, Maddie was able to learn how to use effective communication in order to create a welcoming environment for all.
"Since there was a lot of interaction with the public, you had to have really good customer service skills."
Maddie did not only engage with people, but wildlife as well. Pringle Nature Center is home to many animals. During her time at the nature center, Maddie assisted in caring for a 20-year-old corn snake that had been recovering form surgery. Administering medical injections and feedings, Maddie ensured all reptile and amphibians in the facility were well taken care of during her internship.
Through this experience, Maddie has been able to make connections with everyone over the three months of her internship. Incorporating her passion with others, this experience helped Maddie step out of her comfort zone and create teachable moments for all visitors. Maddie has since volunteered her time once more at the Pringle Nature Center. Creating fun programs and developing soft skills for her career, Maddie will remember this positive experience as she continues to pursue her education in Environmental Studies at UW-Parkside.