Rebecca Haynes, 2015, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
I spent the summer of 2012 working as a teaching assistant at the Conservation Clubs of seven schools in Northern Kenya. Most regions where these schools were located face severe desertification due to deforestation, overgrazing, drought, and mismanagement of resources. This summer I primarily worked educating students and their communities about ways to conserve valuable resources and to protect the ecosystem. With advisors and another Princeton student, I helped design lesson plans, games, and activities to teach children about different components of the ecosystem, from basic elements and the importance of trees to the unity and interdependence of species in a food web. Central to my goals was discussing the need for coexistence with wildlife, dispelling the notion that environmental reform undermines the livelihood of pastoral communities and instead increases the production and value of farming land. My internship showed me that environmental education is central to sustainability efforts. Although I plan to focus my studies more on ecological and biological research than on teaching in the future, my summer in Kenya confirmed my aspirations to pursue conservation and environmental reform as a career.