Stories from the Field

There is no I in TEEM

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TEEM students lead a science lesson

What happens when the student becomes the teacher? It has been said if one truly knows a subject, then one can teach it. That’s the concept behind the NatureBridge Teen Environmental Education Mentorship (TEEM) program. TEEM is a program comprised of Bay Area high school students who intern as educators at our campus in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. These bright young minds learn how to educate elementary and middle school children about our connection with the natural world and stewardship of the environment. The emphasis on cooperative learning has enhanced science education in a unique way for these students.

About TEEM #

Each teen intern is paired with an environmental educator as a mentor to support their growth as teachers. While observing TEEM at campus, it became clear that this program was not just an opportunity to teach, but an opportunity to build a strong community. At the core of the TEEM family is respect for each other and the earth. Due to the highly social curriculum, educators become devoted to the personal growth of their peers and themselves. As put by Marisa Ruiz, a TEEM intern, “To be a part of this program is an opportunity to learn about yourself while teaching the next generation and connecting with others at NatureBridge.”

On my most recent visit, the interns were preparing for a very important trip, their annual retreat on the Northern California coastline in Point Reyes. It is a two-day event at the midpoint of the program that has taken place the last six years on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend.The retreat is a time to bond with mentors and peers in a casual learning environment. The eighteen interns, six mentors, and their charismatic Program Director create an abundance of positive energy for the weekend. Together they review goals, talk about what they’ve learned, and what to expect in the second half of the year. It is a moment dedicated to reaffirming the values and strong connections that are developed in this unique program. The experience can best be described by a quote from first year senior intern Celeste Quintero, "The retreat was amazing! Every minute of it. I enjoyed everyone's company, especially getting to know those who I hadn't had the chance to talk with as much. Spending time with TEEM always brings happiness into my life, how we collaborate with everything we do."

The retreat ends with an appreciation circle, in which participants, mentors, and interns affirm one another and express gratitude for the program. The participants will tell you that TEEM is more than an internship, it is a family, and an experience that encourages compassion and collaboration skills--necessary traits for an environmental educator.

It's all about collaboration #

TEEM is a program that not only allows students to teach, but to collaborate in a way that enhances their understanding of and connection with nature. The group’s shared commitment to the work reinforces each member’s confidence in interacting with the natural world in ways that done alone would likely not be as enriching. The most effective way for students to absorb and subsequently teach environmental science education is through an emphasis on cooperative learning. According to the National Education Association (NEA) in Research Spotlight on Cooperative Learning, “The cooperative approach actively engages students in learning. Each student has an opportunity to contribute in a small group and is more apt to claim ownership of the material.” Cooperative learning lies at the core of the TEEM program, a unique opportunity NatureBridge has created for interns to learn, work, and grow together. After all, there is no I in TEEM.

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