VFA Virginia Forests Winter 2023

WINTER 2023 21 Virginia Forestry Educational Foundation’s (VFEF) Undergraduate Internship Program is a semesterlong course that aims to provide undergraduate students in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation with critical communication skills while sparking curiosity for the next generation of environmental conservationists. Participating forestry students design learning activities and presentations on a specific element of forest conservation to classrooms of grade school or high school students. “They start by deciding what subjects related to natural resources they want to teach,” said Alumni Distinguished Professor John Seiler, who started a similar program with Emeritus Professor Jeff Kirwan in 2001. “Then they consider how their subject fits with the Virginia Standards of Learning curriculum, and then we build from there.” The intention of the program is two-fold: to strengthen the communication skills of the undergraduate students who participate in the internship program, and to cultivate interest in forest and conservation fields that elementary and high school students might not otherwise gain exposure to. “This is a recruitment effort for the college,” said Seiler. “This semester, our interns presented at 30 different schools in Virginia, with 528 students seeing their work.” Paul Winistorfer, dean of the College of Natural Resources and Environment, said the internship program is just one of the ways the VFEF contributes to forestry education. “The VFEF is a long-standing provider of undergraduate scholarships for students studying forestry and forest products at Virginia Tech, and this program is one more way that they are helping to connect the learning that takes place here on campus with students across the Commonwealth,” said Winistorfer. Assistant Professor Patrick Corey Green, who teaches in the internship program with Seiler, said there is something special about high school students seeing someone closer to their age presenting on a subject. “It resonates differently, hearing from someone who is closer in age, closer to them in life,” said Green. “And the great strength of this program is that it puts our message into places we probably wouldn’t reach otherwise. I think it can help to bring in students who don’t find our majors through traditional routes.” “There are lots of real-world applications to this experience,” said Josh Long, who is from Floyd, Va. “I can take a lot of classes, but to go out there and teach something and try to impact people is a big skill, one that I can carry into a career in environmental education.” Reaching the Next Generation of Conservationists By David Fleming, Virginia Tech Participants in the VFEF internship program include (from left) Professor John Seiler, students Jillie Alexander, Arley Lausin, and Josh Long, and Assistant Professor Corey Green. (PHOTO BY DAVID FLEMING, VIRGINIA TECH) Read the full article online at https://vtx.vt.edu/articles/2023/01/cnre-vfef-internship-program.html