By: Melanie Glover, MFBG Youth and Outreach Intern
As a child I grew up wanting to be an equine veterinarian because I rode horses and I thought that was one of the only careers I could have in the equine industry. During my undergraduate and graduate degrees at Clemson University, I discovered my passion for education and learned about the wide variety of career opportunities there are in the agriculture industry. I knew that I wanted to take part in helping educate youth about agriculture and the various opportunities available in that field. I also wanted to educate youth about the world around them and their part in helping to preserve the planet. The world around us is so vast and exciting. and I think it is important to help foster an interest in learning and wonder at the magnificence of the world.
When I thought about my future career plans as a youth educator, I had a narrow window in my mind of where I wanted to be. I knew I wanted to work with a hands-on program where I was able to educate youth on a variety of topics, helping them explore and engage with the world around them. I knew that working with 4-H would provide those opportunities for me and that summer camps would hold outdoor fun and activities for children as well. The stepping stones to become a 4-H agent or camp director can be difficult to reach, as I have learned through applications and interviews after college, and I started to seek other avenues to help me reach my goals.
The position of education intern at Moore Farms Botanical Garden had all of the elements I was looking for, and then some. I was excited when Rebecca Turk, the Director of Education and Events, and Kelli Meeker, the Youth and Outreach Coordinator, were interested in a Skype interview. They were welcoming and informative and when they spoke to me about the garden (including the four farm dogs) and everything I might be doing and experiencing, I knew that this opportunity was the complete package. Rebecca called to offer me the internship and I wanted to blurt out “Yes!” before she had finished talking. The first day at Moore Farms I could feel the family dynamic that emanated from the relationships between the employees. I knew this was a place where each employee was cared for and challenged to grow into a stronger individual, both personally and professionally.
I am now almost three months in to my internship, and what I had felt during the interview and on my first few days, still holds true. Not only are the employees a joy to work with, the beauty of the garden speaks for itself on a level that I did not know existed in this pocket of South Carolina. It is a constantly changing environment that invites humans and insects alike into its world. Happy bees and other pollinators move from flower to flower while the ducks and turtles occupy the various ponds. The plants and flowers are more secret in their work but show off for us with new colors and foliage.
My role here as an education intern has been to assist and learn from the other employees in the education department, Kelli Meeker and Nina Franklin. I get to help with set-up and break-down of programs, guide youth through activities, and encourage them to explore the garden and hopefully translate that to their own home environment. At this point in my internship, I have been able to guide a few programs myself! I have been nervous but also excited to teach and interact with the kids from an educator perspective. I have been able to learn a lot about my own teaching style and the other educators have helped me to see the areas where I am proficient and provide constructive criticism and tops for how to improve in the future. It is easy to see the passion for education that both Nina and Kelli have, and it has been encouraging to see that in every youth education opportunity. The activities they provide play to all of the senses and work to develop cognitive skills and communication. It is a great program that I have the privilege of learning from.
Throughout this internship I have also gotten the opportunity to learn about the event planning and marketing aspects of Moore Farms. I have assisted the event planner, Leigh Collins, with a variety of projects and events and have met my step goal two to three times over when setting up an event with her. She is extremely personable and can keep track of about a million things at once. The social media coordinator, Haley Hughes, does an amazing job of spreading news and awareness about the garden on various platforms. She is consistently coming up with new ideas for how to showcase the garden, its programs, and the knowledge and expertise of the employees. The participation numbers for events this year have increased, so it is no secret that her efforts are paying off! There are many other staff, too many to name, but all have been kind and taken the time to teach me about plants and the garden in general. The horticulture, maintenance, and crew teams work tirelessly to make the garden the best that it can be. Through observing and speaking with them, I have been learning all that it takes to make an organization like this work. Each person is integral, and there is a level of support between them that I have not witnessed in a work environment before.
Even though Rebecca Turk’s office is across the garden, we see her on a daily basis, and I have had the opportunity to work with her on several occasions. The first being floral arrangements for Moore Farms Wine Stroll and since then youth education and other events. She is extremely knowledgeable about plants and the garden and you can see her passion for both while educating youth and adults or speaking with the public. I am thankful that she and Kelli took the time to interview me and have extended their arms to welcome me into the Moore Farms family. I know this is just the beginning of all that I will learn here and I am excited for what is to come.