TeenNat – An Unforgettable Experience

Each summer at Pepperwood, two dozen teenagers rove our 3,200 acre preserve photographing plants and insects, recording measurements of redwoods, and—perhaps most importantly—deepening their connection to the natural world. Some are aspiring scientists, while others simply have a deep appreciation for nature and are only just learning about career possibilities in the sciences. Thanks to you, TeenNat provides a venue for these youth to gain new insights at a critical juncture in their lives. Now entering its sixth summer, TeenNat is creating new ways for its graduates to build on their Pepperwood experience, including offering paid TeenNat Assistant positions, and providing support in accessing local service opportunities and nationwide internships. Learn more about TeenNat through the eyes of one of last summer’s interns below.

TeenNat – An Unforgettable Experience

By Kayla Pearson, TeenNat Alumni

A year after my TeenNat experience, I find myself smiling at the memory of those five short weeks. Staff at Pepperwood offered a genuine atmosphere of encouragement and positivity from day one. Their support allowed us to immerse ourselves in learning and we were determined to soak up all we could.

TeenNat invigorated my love for conservation and biology and has inspired me to pursue a career in environmental science.

TeenNat took concepts out of my biology textbook and provided real world examples. I still reference knowledge gained from Pepperwood in my science classes and assignments. Field research was an aspect of TeenNat I especially loved. Each day as we hiked, we took photos of flora and fauna and recorded our observations on iNaturalist.org. This was an engaging way to learn about the surrounding wildlife and encouraged an analytical atmosphere of environmentalists. In addition, we collected research for Save the Redwoods League by measuring the size of sword ferns and assessing their fertility. Sword ferns are environmental indicators for the health of redwoods, so the data collected would inform researchers of the conditions of redwoods experiencing climate change. These opportunities were both relevant and beneficial.

It was the perfect way to gain hands-on experience and give insight as to what environmental scientists do every day.

Grasshopper photographed by Kayla during TeenNat.

Photography and art were also memorable features of TeenNat. One of the main aspects that drew me to TeenNat was its focus on both art and science. It is very rare to find a program that blends these two subjects together, as most of the time it’s either one or the other. As we took photos in the field with our cameras (generously given to us at the conclusion of the program) we evaluated their aesthetic value as well as their general composition. At the end of the internship, all of our favorites were included in a gallery to showcase our experiences throughout the summer. Seeing these snapshots of TeenNat after its conclusion was incredibly moving and made everyone nostalgic for the early days of the program.

The sense of community in TeenNat made my experience truly unforgettable.

The environmental educators were incredibly supportive and always available to have fun with us or engage in conversation. Motivating us to use our critical thinking skills, they replaced long lectures with engaging and interactive discussions. Additionally, the friends I made at Pepperwood supported the communal atmosphere. In no time, we all had inside jokes and worked together as a cohesive group. At the end of the internship, I was pleasantly surprised to realize how much I would miss everyone. Tears were definitely shed, and today I’m still in contact of many of my summer friends.

I highly recommend TeenNat to all aspiring young scientists.

I made memories with friends while gaining valuable field experience. I was surrounded by people with similar interests and educators that were invested in my success. In addition, I was able to spend my summer outdoors in a remarkable preserve. TeenNat bolstered my passion for the environment and conservation. I am so grateful I was able to be a member of this program. I will hold my experiences as a TeenNat intern for the rest of my life.

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