#MyCarletonSummer: Kait Libbey ’19

How did Carls spend their summers? We chat with Kait Libbey, a senior biology major from San Francisco.

Sep. 19, 2018

Kait Libbey

What did you do this summer?

This summer I worked as a junior ranger educator. I worked for the summer camp program in the Crissy Field Center (CFC) in San Francisco, which is an environmental justice youth center that is funded by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. The Junior Ranger Summer Camp is an outdoor educational camp for 9 to 11-year-olds, focused on building the capacity of SF youth to visit and interact with National Parks on their own terms.

We would visit a new park each day, and even brought the participants camping at the end of each session. On the last day there we would have a swearing-in ceremony with a ranger, which was very sweet. Fifty percent or more of the students received scholarships, so the camp is accessible to students from a variety of backgrounds and the work was incredibly meaningful.

How did you decide to do this/how did this opportunity present itself?

I had participated in an internship with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy in high school, which inspired me to study ecology and pursue a career in the outdoors. After doing ecological research last summer, I decided to try a new route and figure out if outdoor education was something I could do after I graduate, and I knew that the GGNPC was a really cool organization.

Tell me about the position.

For the first part of the summer, I was one of two educators who worked on the Junior Ranger Summer Camp. We developed all of the curriculum and decided where we would go in the parks. We had support from the Crissy Field Center, but once the camp started we were pretty much on our own, which was actually really cool. I had a lot of power over what the program ended up looking like, which made it all the more meaningful.

For the second part of the summer, I worked to develop a brand new program at the center that was called Urban Backpackers, where we took middle schoolers backpacking through San Francisco and the many national and municipal parks that are within the city and the surrounding areas. I spent a lot of time thinking about safety and logistics.

Describe a day in the life!

I would arrive to work and have about 30 minutes to prepare for the day. There were a ton of programs running out of the CFC this summer so the mornings were always pretty hectic. The campers would arrive and we would start with a morning warm up game, go over the agenda, and get ourselves ready for a full day outside. We would then load into a big van and take the campers to a park in the area. Some parks that we visited included Muir Woods, Alcatraz, the Marin Headlands, the Presidio, Lands End, and Angel Island.

We would typically spend the morning hiking and reaching our final destination by lunch. After lunch we would do an educational game or activity that related to the theme of our day. Then we would hike back to our van and make the drive back to the Crissy Field Center. For the last part of the day, we would work on our projects. The campers created zines that answered the question, "how do we use parks?", so the last hour of the day was usually dedicated to that.

One of the things that I really liked about the camp was that it was very flexible, so we relied on the educational moments that presented themselves during a day of outdoor exploration. At the end of the day the campers would head into after-care with the kids from the other camps and my co-educator and I would plan and prepare for the next day. At the end of the day I was usually completely wiped.

What was your favorite thing about your job?

My favorite part of the job was getting to see the campers grow as a result of their time in the program. There were a few that did multiple sessions, so I had them with me for four weeks and it was super inspiring to see their leadership skills grow and flourish and to see them educating their peers about the local plants and animals. I was able to glimpse the impact that the camp was having and that was amazing. Also I was being paid to play games and hike around in my favorite parks!

How did Carleton make your summer possible?

Last summer I worked in Dan Hernandez's (associate professor of biology) lab, and once a week we would host middle schoolers and take them out into the prairie to do scientific projects. I found this element of the position to be incredibly rewarding and I decided to pursue outdoor education more seriously, so Carleton helped me realize that this sort of opportunity would be beneficial for me.

I also leaned heavily on the expertise of those in the Career Center when I was reformulating my resume for a different type of position and when I was writing my cover letter. Lastly, I was able to use both my current supervisor at Carleton and one of my professors as references, which was really helpful.

Kait Libbey