Like many high schoolers, I am required by my school to do a minimum of 50 hours of community service. Community service projects like school clean-ups can be awful and boring, but the summer of my junior year I found another way to volunteer. I heard that the San Diego Natural History Museum (theNAT) in Balboa Park, was looking for teenagers to help out with summer camp. At first I was reluctant. I didn’t have a lot of experience with kids and I wasn’t even into natural history. I wasn’t very confident, but I decided to submit an application and see what happened.
About a month later, theNAT got back to me: I was “in.” I attended an orientation with other volunteers my age where we learned how to handle kids, what to do in an emergency and how to take charge if the teacher needed to leave for a bit. We even did a scavenger hunt to familiarize ourselves with the museum. When everything was done, we were taken on a full tour of the museum. I don’t mean just exhibits. We got to venture into the confusing maze of offices and labs where real scientists were working on different animals, hidden from the public. Did you know below the museum there’s a huge room full of dead reptiles? Even though natural history wasn’t my thing, getting to see everything up close was fantastic.
A few weeks later, camp started. The two camps I worked were Science of Flight and Paleo FBI. I love physics, so getting to understand why things can fly was really enlightening. I learned a lot about carbon-dating while working at Paleo FBI camp. But more fulfilling than the academic learning was the opportunity to interact with kids. I worked with third through fifth graders and it was awesome. There were zero meltdowns and they were all so excited to learn. Teaching the kids and playing games with them was a great experience.
Although the camp was designed for kids, I had a lot of fun, too. Sometimes I had to be the adult and lead activities, but other times I got to play games with the kids or help them with arts and crafts. We made paper airplanes, ran through obstacle courses, simulated carbon-dating with bread and gummy fish, and made rockets with Alka-Seltzer and water. For Paleo FBI, I even applied my passion of creating film when I got to edit a “press release” we made for the parents of our campers.
TheNAT’s summer camp is a great example of education made fun and volunteering there showed me that I can work well with kids. The staff is super nice and they love volunteers (you even get free snacks). I recommend this experience to other high school kids looking for service hours and a great experience. You’ll learn a lot and it’s way better than picking up trash!
Want to be a camp aide? Apply now at www.sdnhm.org/support/volunteer/volunteer-application. Deadline: May 27. If the summer program doesn’t fit your schedule, theNAT also needs volunteers in the winter and spring.
Adam, a senior at San Diego High School, loves Shakespeare, Improv and fancy dark chocolate. He often writes on his computer as he waits for Steam to load.
Find more camp aide opportunities for teens here.
Published May 2016