High school interns are park rangers for the summer at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The six week paid summer intern program teaches students on the job about real life ranger activities, including wildlife management, resource education, and field research.
“We have done so many things in six weeks – wildlife management, resource education, which is my favorite, trail crew and vegetation crew, fisheries, we studied dragonflies and salamanders, we worked in the ozone garden to see how bad the ozone is affecting the plants – we have done tons and tons of stuff,” said 16 year old Kyra Mehaffey.
There is also a Teachers in Parks program, which allows teachers to get similar hands on experiences before the start of school. The park is on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee.
“These programs are mutually beneficial,” said Susan Sachs, Education Coordinator for the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center.
“The students and teachers get an in-depth study of resource education techniques, scientific methods, and field research to enhance their skills and talents, and, in turn, the park creates advocates through better understanding of and appreciation for the Smokies. Teachers will bring the knowledge into their classrooms and the interns will share their education and experience with the local community through their friends and family.”