Biology goes from the lab to the field with the SECU Public Fellow Internship program

You might miss entering a curve on a residential country road between Lenoir and Pitt counties. But, as you loop around and head down the gravel path, a white domed building – the only air-conditioned building – welcomes you to A Time for Science in Grifton.

Located in a wooded area along Contentnea Creek, it’s a great place for a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math)-focused summer camp and internship – especially when youreused for indoor lab or classroom.

A time for Science, through a partnership with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science, has two sites. Its main museum and learning center is on Dickinson Avenue in downtown Greenville. The Contentnea Creek site sits on 380 acres of Bray Hollow Conservancy land in southern Pitt County and includes a digital planetarium and public observatory, smaller exhibits featuring native wildlife and vegetation, kayaking opportunities, and a new obstacle course.

Martinez-Santoyo, a biology student, said his internship with A Time for Science was a huge change of pace from what he was used to doing in his biology labs. (Photo by Kim Tilghman)

Ivan Martinez-Santoyo, a Wilson biology major and rising senior at East Carolina University, worked as an intern at the center through ECU SECU Public Scholars Internship Program. Martinez-Santoyo says the internship was a huge change of pace from what he was used to, but he really benefited from the experience.

“I’ve never been in a workplace that’s 100% outdoors,” he says. “There aren’t many opportunities like this here, so I’m glad I got to be part of it.”

ECU’s SECU Public Internship Program offers paid summer internships in partnership with governmental, civic, educational, and nonprofit entities in Eastern North Carolina. These internships help ECU students develop skills in leadership, problem solving, communication and project management.

Martinez-Santoyo says he was encouraged by his lab director, Ariane Peralta, to apply for the position.

“I thought Ivan would be great in this position because of his genuine enthusiasm for science and relatability while sharing that enthusiasm with others,” Peralta said.

While at camp, Martinez-Santoyo helped instruct young students in educational sessions and guided them through outdoor activities such as kayaking, nature hikes, and obstacle course racing. A Time for Science welcomes approximately 24 students each week with age groups ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade. Weekly camp themes include outdoor adventure, ecology, robotics, engineering, space science exploration and more.

“I make sure the kids learn, I make sure they understand what’s going on, and I guide them in the right direction if they get lost. I also make sure they are safe and well hydrated. We are in nature and it is very hot here,” said Martinez-Santoyo.

As a former lifeguard, Martinez-Santoyo said the safety aspect of the job came naturally to him, but he says he initially found the idea of ​​working with children intimidating. He says he didn’t know how to talk to children, he could barely talk to his own younger cousins, and he didn’t think he was good at public speaking.

Martinez-Santoyo helps lead a hike for campers at A Time for Science.

Martinez-Santoyo helps lead a hike for campers at A Time for Science. (picture added)

“I had communication issues, but it definitely helped me in the right direction because a big part – especially in science – is being able to communicate with and work with a team,” he said. . “I found being here helped me work as a team and taught me how to transfer information from one age group to another. Being able to transpose this into my normal working environment has been very beneficial.

Martinez-Santoyo said his supervisors and campers helped him overcome his initial communication insecurities. “Their encouragement, support and guidance really got me through this and moving on. Seeing the kids learn too – I found that very rewarding,” Martinez-Santoyo said.

Camp director Madeline Ewen agrees that Martinez-Santoyo has improved significantly in verbal communication compared to when he arrived at camp.

“He grew in his confidence every day,” Ewen said.

“Ivan has had a positive influence on the campers. It is uplifting and connects with them. He definitely brought a new and fresh experience to camp. And, when he’s not there, they ask where he is.

As Martinez-Santoyo grew throughout the internship experience, he also provided a valuable service to the science center. This was the first year the organization had partnered with ECU as the site of the SECU Public Scholars Internship Program, and Ewen said the help of a reliable, knowledgeable and knowledgeable intern was essential to meet the centre’s summer staffing needs.

“Some of our challenges are funding and having enough manpower for the activities,” Ewen said.

Due to her success in the role, Ewen says she spoke to Martinez-Santoyo about a paid position at the center next summer.

“We like to make room for those who are interested and have a proven track record. I told Ivan that if he wanted a job next summer, we would love to have him,” he said. she declared.

As for future plans, the biology student says he always aspired to work for a pharmaceutical company. And, although the pharmaceutical industry is still the goal, this summer experience made him realize that he had other career goals.

“I want to continue learning in a work environment. I want to find a workplace that continues to teach me and that will help me develop my communication skills,” Martinez-Santoyo said.

The future projects of A time for science are also on the move. The main museum plans to move this fall to a new, larger location in downtown Greenville. In Grifton, visitors can experience the planetarium, observatory, exhibits, kayaking, and nature preserve at their Nature Saturday events, which are free and open to the public.

Ewen and Martinez-Santoyo hope more people will take advantage of the weekend’s free events.

“I wish more people came here, especially on Saturdays. It is a beautiful place,” Martinez-Santoyo said.




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