I spent the spring of 2011 as an intern in the education branch at Harpers Ferry. After completing a Student Conservation Association internship at Fort Sumter National Monument the previous fall, I was eager to broaden my NPS experience, and the education branch offered a unique opportunity that built nicely on my prior work in visitor services.
One of my favorite parts of the internship was working with the Jr. National Young Leaders Conference program; this is an opportunity for middle school students from around the country to spend a week in Washington, D.C. learning about leadership and studying historical leaders. During their day-long visit to Harpers Ferry, we explore John Brown's efforts to end slavery and give the students a chance to experience life during the Civil War. In addition to wearing period clothing and portraying nineteenth century citizens of Harpers Ferry, each Jr. NYLC day allowed me to discuss my favorite time period with motivated young people.
As the spring field trip season arrived, I also helped lead onsite and outreach programs for students from kindergarten through high school. From dancing the Virginia Reel to taking water samples from the Shenandoah River, each program was an opportunity not only to share what I know about history, but also to explore Harpers Ferry and learn about the wide range of resources the park offers. Besides leading student programs, I also worked on several projects over the sixteen weeks I was here. I wrote a grant, planted a garden, and researched state curriculum standards for our programs. Every day offered different opportunities and new challenges, which helped broaden my interpretation skills and improve my ability to think on my feet. It is this variety that makes working in the education branch so exciting!