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Swensen engages in STEM externship through DNR

July 12, 2018
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

North Tama life sciences teacher Brady Swensen is taking advantage of a STEM externship with the DNR at George Wyth State Park to expand his knowledge and enjoy a fun opportunity over the summer.

Along with Rick Samuelson, Swensen is participating in the STEM Teacher Externships program, which provides educators first-hand experience they can take back to their classroom later this fall to answer the common student question: "When will we ever use this in real-life?"

Swensen's externship at George Wyth State Park in Waterloo has two parts. First, he is learning about what the DNR does every day to maintain the park and what they do in their community. He is also learning about the park's history and writing a Interpretive Plan to help the park staff plan for future projects. Second, Swensen is spending time with a summer camp called "School of the Wild" that involves kids doing outdoor activities and familiarizing them with "the joys and relaxation of nature."

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"I have a project that I am working on that involves maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services," Swensen said. "This can include any of the ways that the staff is working to improve the experience of visitors to George Wyth while maintaining the natural habitat and beauty of the park. That can prove difficult at times due to the lack of knowledge that the general public has about natural habitats."

Swensen's role is to help develop signage about the birds and the plants in the area and their important to the habitat, so people walking through the park can be better understand.

"The most enjoyable party of this experience has been the relaxed outdoor atmosphere while helping to better the experience of others who enjoy the state park," Swensen said. "The work that I have done this summer not only helps the rangers free up some of their time for things that need to get done but will benefit visitors who want to learn about what they are seeing while they are outdoors."

When he returns to the classroom this fall, Swensen hopes to use his new connections from his externship to plan more outdoor learning for his classes as it fits into his curriculum.

"I would recommend this program for teachers to get a real world view of what employers want and expect young adults to be able to do," Swensen said.



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