Madison’s Summer at the SBGC

We were so lucky to have Madison Suttman back for another summer. She has been working with Welty since 2018 in a variety of roles, but this year she reprised her position as an Educator for the Stateline Boys and Girls Club camp. This position was funded by a generous gift from longtime donors Dave and Jean Bradford, with field trips covered by the Stateline Community Foundation. Madison wrote about her summer, before heading back to Appalachian State for the final semester of her Master’s Program in Ecology.

This (Educator) position has encouraged me to think about my interests in a new light to share my passion with the children at SBGC. Consequently, I’ve developed a program on bats where I taught about ecology and common myths, and played games to learn about how efficiently bats can catch prey using echolocation. Additionally, I touched on aspects of disease ecology with an activity that uses a blacklight and a glowing powder to demonstrate how fungal spores associated with WNS can be transmitted among bat populations.

Campers dissected owl pellets and did fresh water studies with macroinvertebrates.

I’ve learned how to keep kids engaged, make learning fun…

Some other favorite activities of mine have been learning how to track and spot signs of wildlife, conducting water quality monitoring using aquatic insects and water chemistry, and creating plant art. These programs allow me to utilize hands-on, active learning techniques to engage students in a way that is fun, motivates them to spend time outdoors, and demonstrates the importance of respecting the environment. We also did activities on: Rocks & Geodes, Birds, Camouflage; Fireflies, Greenhouses, Wilderness Survival; and Pollinators, Fossils, Fire Building & S’mores, to name a few.

This summer I’ve been fortunate to have the support of an incredible intern, Jessica Green. Jessica is from Rockton, IL and is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at Bradley University in Peoria, IL. Together we were able to focus her interests in climate change to implement a new program where she taught about what plants need to survive and built miniature greenhouses to grow flowers.

…deal with conflicts, and what to do when things don’t go according to plan.

I’ve learned how to keep kids engaged, make learning fun, deal with conflicts, manage time, and what to do when things don’t go according to plan. It’s been exciting to see how Welty’s reach has expanded over the last few years and how efficient we have become at developing and implementing programs, giving us more time to focus on fun. I challenged myself to encourage the children to think critically to work through the topics we discussed, rather than just memorizing facts.

Overall, this has been an extremely rewarding experience and has provided me with opportunities to learn about the ins and outs of working at a nonprofit, and become more comfortable working with various actors. Additionally, this position has greatly expanded my teaching experience by working with multiple age groups, teaching in a variety of settings, and facilitating a wide range of audiences. I can’t wait to see how these skills and experiences will guide my future in academia.

Brenda Plakans
Executive Director, WEC