I’m standing in front of three young girls, all giddy and enthusiastic. They’re decked out in typical summer wear: flip flops, shorts, and t-shirts.
I tell them that my name’s Caty and ask them theirs. I’m sitting in on a Storytelling with iMovie course for youth offered by the Parks Department. The class is small, only three girls in a spacious recreation center nestled right between Chinatown and the Lower East Side. They’re all excited to be in class and tell me the plot of the movie they’ll be filming with the help of their teacher.
“We’re all ballet dancers,” one of the girls says. “And we all want to win the dance contest that’s coming up, but Mariah cheats and gets me hurt. So then we have to prove to the judges that she’s a cheater.
This summer, I worked as a curriculum development intern with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Another intern and I took on the task of rewriting, revamping, and ultimately, updating the curriculum of two major afterschool programs the department runs in their computer resource centers. I focused on a technology education curriculum, a class that focused on introducing kids to using computers and being able to utilize the Internet to their benefit.
The Parks department offers technology classes for all ages. They have classes for children learning how to code, all the way to elderly participants learning Microsoft Word and Publisher. I got to see many of these courses in action, as a large portion of my job was to perform weekly site visits at the various computer resource centers in the city. I soon discovered this was my favorite part of my internship. Interacting with kids and being able to help them learn a valuable skill is rewarding and has reminded me of why exactly I want to work in education.
As I’m watching these girls work together and write a script, I’m inspired by their creativity and willingness to plan this all out. One girl offers to bring in crutches as a prop and another runs down the hall, flip flops slapping against tiles, to ask the recreation center manager if they can use a display trophy for their movie. I’ve seen so many creative and energetic kids this past summer, I’m a bit jealous of the enthusiasm they bring to everything they do. I begin to wonder what lessons I can learn from them and try to bring back to campus with me this fall.
I’m inspired by another group of girls, this time in the Bronx. They’re participating in SPARX, a program that teaches girls from the neighborhood the basics of engineering. This week, they’re answering a basic question and building -- quite literally -- off of it. One girl wonders why we don’t wear capes anymore and sets out to make a cape that’s snag proof. Another two wonder why Melania Trump copied Michelle Obama’s speech and eventually create a project about the all too often unappreciated accomplishments of black women.
Of course, my internship wasn’t all site visits. On Fridays, I was in office and focused on writing lesson plans and revamping educational materials. The Parks department operates on a very limited and small budget; it takes up less than one percent of New York City’s annual total budget. The work we interns do is important because it allows for fresh new perspectives to come in and share ideas with the department as a whole. I made several updates to the new curriculum (which will be implemented in computer resource centers citywide this fall!), but more than anything, I realized the importance of educational afterschool programs. The girls at SPARX walk away from the program with stronger math and science skills and the girls filming their own movie will learn the basics of film editing and improve their writing skills. All of these things, while taught in classrooms, are perfected outside of school and are priceless experiences that I was lucky enough to be able to visit, even if only for a short time.
-- Caty Seger