My name is Maya Epelbaum, and I have been an intern for the Natural Resource Education program here at Holiday Lake for a little over a month and it has been quite the journey. I moved into the Pods and quickly learned that without Wifi, cell service, and a town close by, I would live a very different life than I had been in New Jersey.
And I love it. I love being able to read in my hammock overlooking the lake. I love hiking on the trails and exploring the camp. I love how I feel like I have a family here. We eat meals together, hang out in and out of work, and genuinely care about each other.
I also love the work itself. Most days, we are either in school teaching about types of animals (mammals, reptiles, birds, etc.), or at Holiday Lake teaching a much larger variety of classes. For example, my second day here as an intern Kelsey says, “you don’t mind holding snakes do you?” Next thing I knew, I was handling snakes, passing them around to 5th and 6th graders. One of the students asked me, “Were you scared when you first started?” Little did she know that it was, indeed my first day, and yes, I was a little scared. Luckily, I made it through. It wasn’t until the third time I took the turtles and snakes around the classroom that one decided to poop on me!
My favorite part about school groups is seeing how much fun the children can have while also learning so much about nature. Sometimes I get jealous of some of the children we teach because I know our programs make a lasting difference and do not exist everywhere. Mostly I am grateful for the opportunity Holiday Lake has given me to share some of my favorite parts of nature and 4-H with other children.
When we are not working with school groups, its play time in the nature room. Levi and Kelsey give me a ton of freedom to do whatever I want to in order to improve the NRE program and the Nature room (and even write blog posts!). I have been able to write curricula for botany, arachnids, and my personal favorite, an environmental stewardship class. If there is information I would like to see taught, I can create a class about it. I was also really excited that they let me start up the composting program here again and hope to see it continue when I leave.
Between writing and teaching, I go through all the boxes in the nature room. Each box holds a new surprise, whether it be preserved spiders, mammalian skulls, or shiny minerals. Organizing and cleaning can sometimes get tedious, but Kelsey and Levi always help make it fun. Some of the more interesting things I have done since coming here include: 1) designing a turtle enclosure, which included transplanting a tree 2) finding worms to feed our turtles and compost, 3) thawing mice and feeding the snakes them to the snakes, 4) helping a snake shed, and 5) tripping while holding a paint can. And while sometimes I can’t believe that I’m doing these things as part of my job, I can’t imagine I’d rather be anywhere else.