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Ryn Flood: Falling Back in Love with Learning at NCMNS

If you had asked me ten years ago what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said something such as a teacher or a gardener. Little did nine-year-old me know that I would get to be everything I have ever wanted to be and more. This summer, I had the opportunity to be an intern at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, through the North Carolina Department of Administration. Every summer the North Carolina Department of Administration has a State of NC internship program where they offer a paid internship position through a variety of different government agencies to help you connect with others in fields you may be interested in and to gain experience. This program allows many college students to afford an internship without the need of a second job, as many internships for North Carolina government agencies are unpaid positions. Located in Raleigh, the Museum of Natural Sciences has goals of educating about the natural world and inspiring conservation through its exhibits, public interactions, and events. I worked as a Public Science Events Intern in the education department. My responsibilities at the museum involved assisting in the planning and execution of various public events, both big and small, to share knowledge with everyone, regardless of age or level of education. This position served as the perfect platform for me to explore my true potential as an environmental educator, which has been my career goal since I began my college education. Working on public programming and engaging with individuals of all ages through hosting small exhibits throughout the summer has honed my touch skills, taught me how to anticipate and resolve problems proactively, and boosted my confidence.

One of the highlights of my summer was spearheading the planning and implementation of a table for BugFest. BugFest, an annual event held on the third Saturday of September, is hosted by the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. It is one of the museum’s biggest events, centered around bugs, designed to educate and engage the public in the wonders of science. For my project, I created an interactive activity table specifically tailored for children. The objective was to teach them about food webs in a simplified manner. Alongside this activity, I devised an interactive game where participants took on the role of prey, navigating through a spider’s web to avoid getting caught and eaten by the spider, thus becoming a part of the food web. Throughout the creation and implementation of this table, I gained valuable insights into effective communication with children, learning how to convey complex scientific concepts in an easily understandable way. Furthermore, I had to adapt on the go, as I observed how participants interacted during the activity, ensuring a safe and enriching environment for everyone involved.

Museum Movie Night Featuring Men in Black. The last event of the internship and using all the skills and knowledge I had learned to educate guests on the Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches as seen in the movie.

This internship provided me with a valuable opportunity to go beyond my comfort zone and thrive in unfamiliar places. I was exposed to new experiences, such as handling animals, educating children and adults simultaneously, and creating connections. The knowledge I gained about the natural world was not the only thing that captivated me; I also discovered a newfound passion for reptiles, and I look forward to learning more about this subject in the future. Even amidst the busiest of days, filled with rowdy children and busy crowds, the joy I experienced from seeing others learn and being able to contribute to their educational journeys remains. There isn’t a single aspect of this internship that I regret or would change. Some of my previous weaknesses, such as adapting quickly to a changing environment, transformed into strengths throughout this summer. What was initially intended as a summer internship to earn college credit, evolved into a lifelong career goal. I have realized that educating individuals of all ages outside of a school setting is the path I want to pursue. As I move forward, my plans include continuing my education and ultimately embarking on a career in non-formal education. While I would love to become a permanent staff member at the NC Natural Sciences Museum, I am also interested in the prospect of working in zoos, aquariums, and other interactive, science-based educational places.

Featured on the third floor of the Nature Exploration Center at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is this replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex Skull.

This internship provided me with an invaluable opportunity to not only educate others but also to learn about myself and expand my knowledge of the natural world. Throughout this summer, my passion for science and love for learning has been rediscovered. The enthusiasm that had disappeared over the years because of endless tests based on memorization, has been revitalized through my experiences at the museum. This summer has been bigger than me as everything I did acted as a ripple effect and impacted everyone who walked through the front doors. I am incredibly grateful to everyone at the museum who contributed to my personal growth and guided the way. Although I have visited the museum hundreds of times, the excitement I feel every time I walk through the front doors is unparalleled. I can hardly comprehend how lucky I am to have had this experience and to fall in love with the natural world all over again. Looking ahead, I can not wait to continue visiting the museum and staying connected and involved. The impact of this internship will resonate with me throughout the rest of my educational journey and the rest of my life.