By Lance Cutrer, Museum of Discovery and Science
South Florida is at the forefront of climate resilience efforts, thanks to dedicated industry experts tirelessly working to create more sustainable and resilient communities. Among these trailblazers are individuals like Dr. Jennifer Jurado, chief resilience officer of Broward County; Dr. Nancy Gassman, assistant public works director in the Sustainability Division of the city of Fort Lauderdale; and other professionals from universities, nonprofits, environmental consulting firms, corporations and municipalities.
This cutting-edge work is creating hundreds of new jobs to mitigate climate change in South Florida. The key to sustaining this momentum lies in nurturing a climate-savvy workforce, particularly by engaging and preparing youth for careers in sustainability. The Museum of Discovery and Science (MODS) is tackling this challenge head-on with its innovative Everglades EcoExplorers internship program, aimed at building a robust workforce capable of addressing South Florida’s most pressing resilience issues.
The EcoExplorers internship is a unique, paid opportunity offered through MODS’ STEM Center for Education and Career Development. Tailored for environmentally curious and passionate 10th, 11th and 12th grade students, this program spans a full year, encompassing both a summer immersion program and a school-year workforce readiness component. The overarching goal is to cultivate Environmental Ambassadors who can effectively convey the importance of environmental sustainability and resilience issues to the broader community and pursue college and careers in the sustainability field.
During the summer immersion phase, EcoExplorers engage in hands-on learning experiences with MODS’ environmental exhibits and embark on field excursions to South Florida’s iconic locations, including the Everglades. These excursions allow interns to immerse themselves in the region’s environmental challenges, literally getting their feet wet while gaining valuable insights. The school-year segment focuses on honing both hard and soft workforce readiness skills, such as public speaking, teambuilding and professionalism by empowering EcoExplorers to educate museum guests confidently.
A key component of the internship involves EcoExplorers participating in the Museum’s Hub for Resilience Education. This hub facilitates career talks led by industry professionals and thought leaders in policymaking, education, green building, politics and more. By interacting with these experts, EcoExplorers can ask detailed questions about pursuing a career in sustainability, gaining inspiration from the current generation actively contributing to this field.
Over the course of the school year, an EcoExplorer dedicates approximately 300 hours to learning, training and becoming stewards of South Florida’s environment. This invaluable experience not only equips them with the knowledge and skills needed to address environmental challenges but also instills a sense of responsibility towards their community. The overarching goal is to cultivate Environmental Ambassadors who can effectively convey the importance of environmental sustainability and resilience issues to the broader community and pursue college and careers in the sustainability field.
The EcoExplorers internship is fueled through generous support from the Children’s Services Council of Broward County, Community Foundation of Broward and the Jerry Taylor & Nancy Bryant Foundation, in partnership with Broward County Public Schools. Additionally, the internship relies on the support of the Hub for Resilience Education and industry professionals who generously contribute their time and insights to shape the next generation of environmental stewards. By actively engaging with industry professionals through the museum’s Hub for Resilience Education, EcoExplorers not only gain insights and inspiration but also enhance their potential as future environmental leaders.
When visiting MODS, keep an eye out for EcoExplorer interns — they might enlighten you on the intricacies of the Biscayne Aquifer, share insights on animal adaptations in the Everglades or discuss the future of sustainable public transportation. These passionate individuals bring not only a wealth of knowledge but also enthusiasm to their roles, making museum experiences informative and engaging. Whether you’re a curious visitor or someone looking to deepen your understanding of environmental and resilience issues, EcoExplorer interns are poised to inspire and educate, fostering environmental stewardship beyond the confines of the museum walls.
Lance Cutrer is the director of environmental sustainability at the Museum of Discovery and Science. He is an education and sustainability professional with expertise in ecology, wildlife and fisheries management and primary/secondary education.