For some students, it’s not so easy to find a club that reflects their interests and passions. Environmental science, for example, is a nuanced field that doesn’t correlate to an abundance of obvious extracurriculars. If you’re looking for ways to show your commitment to environmental science through your extracurriculars, this post is for you. Here, we’ll outline five impressive green extracurricular options for the environmental scientists of tomorrow.
1. Including a service element like volunteering in your extracurricular involvement is always a good idea, and environmental science happens to be an area where volunteer opportunities abound. You can start by looking for established volunteer opportunities. These include things like recycling programs, conservation projects, neighborhood cleanups, community gardens, habitat restoration projects, park and beach cleanups, and wildlife rehabilitation centers. Try networking through friends, family, and teachers to get an idea of what already exists in your area. If you can’t find something that suits your interests and works for your schedule, start your own volunteer project or create an opportunity with a group of interested peers.
2. Research in high school typically can take on two forms: independent research, or research in a lab. The former requires self-discipline and accountability and the latter requires networking. Independent research is a great option for any student who is seriously considering a career in environmental research. To get started, think of the local issues and concerns that interest you. Try to find something that you truly care about or that’s locally relevant. Next, you’ll want to find a mentor, set a timeline, and publish a report. Independent research can cover a myriad of topics:
- Air—pollutants, lung health, carbon emissions, greenhouse gasses
- Water—acid rain, pollution, purification
- Food—GMOs, herbicides, pesticides, soil contamination
- Energy—oil industry, alternative power green energy
- Waste—recycling, food waste…and much more
If you hope to get involved with higher-caliber research at a young age, you will want to find your way into a reputable lab. The first step is networking with people you know in the field, reaching out to professors at your local community colleges, and attending lectures, talks, and conferences where you can meet professionals who are doing research. If someone decides to take a chance on you and let you help in their lab, you will be able to learn more about your future career path and get hands-on experience. The key is getting an industry professional to see your passion for the field and your work ethic, then give you a chance.
3. Clubs are the “obvious” choice when it comes to extracurricular activities, but environmental science clubs aren’t always readily available to students. This means that you might have to start your own club. Some ideas for environmental science clubs could include Green Club, School Garden, Environmental Science Club, Sustainability Club, Community Cleanup Club, National Green Schools Society, Sustainability Magazine/Bulletin, or Marine Sciences Club. If you want to start an environmental science club, talk to your teachers and mentors about your next steps at your school.
4. If you have time to pursue green extracurriculars during summer programs, you’ll find that you have even more opportunities available to you. Many programs offer summer environmental classes along with extensive labs and hands-on fieldwork. Here are a few options to consider:
- Sustainable Summer: This program offers travel and adventure learning trips geared specifically towards environmental science. Their courses range from ecology, conservation, and agriculture, to policy, sustainable design, and sustainable energy. Courses take place in exotic locales such as India, Ecuador, and the Galapagos, but their Environmental Leadership Academy is offered only at Dartmouth College.
- The National Student Leadership Conference’s Environmental Science and Sustainability Program: Here, students work with top research scientists and policy advocates to explore pressing environmental issues and the careers that address them. Classes take place at either Yale University or the University of Washington.
- The Brown Environmental Leadership Lab (BELL): Brown University offers high school students the chance to “study the interactions between natural and social systems with Brown-affiliated educators and place-based experts.” Courses also include leadership development with the mission of developing socially responsible leaders of tomorrow. The program is offered both in Alaska and along the Rhode Island coast.
- The Stanford School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Science: In this program, high school students work in actual research laboratories on existing projects, supervised by graduate students. Different areas of focus and varying time commitments are available.
5. A professional internship is a perfect way to get your feet wet in the field of environmental science. You will learn about the subject matter, while also learning about career paths and job responsibilities. Additionally, if you look hard enough, you might be able to find a paid opportunity. Popular environmental science internships include:
- Boston University – Research in Science & Engineering (RISE) Internship. Specialty: Various tracks, including environmental science. Location: Boston, MA. Duration: 6 weeks (July 2-August 11, 2023).
- Henry Hall Fellowship. Specialty: Urban conservation and environmental justice. Location: Baltimore, MD. Duration: Year round.
- Boyce Thompson Institute High School Internship. Specialty: Plant science and computational biology. Location: Ithaca, NY. Duration: 6 weeks (June through August).
- Plant Genome Research REU. Specialty: Sustainability and agriculture. Location: Ithaca, NY. Duration: 7 weeks (July 27-August 11, 2023).
- EnergyMag Internship. Specialty: Renewable energy. Location: Virtual. Duration: Either 2-8 weeks (20 hrs/wk) or 1-9 months (8 hrs/wk).
You can also check various national organizations such as NOAA, the National Park Service, the National Science Foundation, the EPA, and the USGS for paid internship opportunities. Though they don’t always have internships—and when they do, the application process is fairly selective—you never know when an opportunity might arise that’s just the right fit for you.
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